Skoch v. Commissioner Social Security Administration

Filing 27

ORDER: Granting Motion for Attorney Fees 25 . Signed on 4/20/2017 by Judge Malcolm F. Marsh. (ma2)

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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF OREGON Case No. 3:14-cv-00725-MA LISABETH SKOCH Plaintiff, ORDER ON ATTORNEY FEES v. COMMISSIONER SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION Defendant. MARSH, Judge Plaintiff Lisabeth Skoch brought this action seeking review of the Commissioner's decision to deny her application for supplemental security income disability benefits. In a March 17, 2015 Order, I reversed the Commissioner's decision and remanded the case for fmiher administrative proceedings. Order Remand, ECF No. 21. Following Plaintiffs unopposed application for Attorney Fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), 28 U.S.C. § 2412, I entered an order awarding Plaintiff$5,763.61 in fees in this matter. Order EAJA Fees, ECF No. 24. Additionally, Plaintiffs counsel received $5,909.00 in administrative fees from the Commissioner. Unopposed Appl. Att'y Fees, Ex. A, ECF No. 25-2. 1 - ORDER ON ATTORNEY FEES On remand, Plaintiff was awarded retroactive benefits. Plaintiffs attorney, George J. Wall, now seeks an award of fees pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 406(b) in the amount of $24,280.00, less the amounts already received. Defendant has no objection to the request. Unopposed Appl. Att'y Fees at 5, ECF No. 25. For the reasons that follow, Plaintiffs motion is granted. STANDARD After entering a judgment in favor of a Social Security claimant who was represented by counsel, a court "may determine and allow as part of its judgment a reasonable fee for such representation, not in excess of twenty-five percent of the total of the past-due benefits to which the claimant is entitled by reason of such judgment." 42 U.S.C. § 406(b)(l)(A). An award offees under § 406(b) is paid from claimant's past due benefits, and an attorney receiving such an award may not seek any other compensation from the claimant. Gisbrecht v. Barnhart, 535 U.S. 789, 796-807 (2002). Accordingly, when a court approves both an EAJA fee and a § 406(b) fee payment, the claimant's attorney must refund to the claimant the amount of the smaller of the two payments. Id. Under Gisbrecht, the comt must first examine the contingency fee agreement to dete1mine whether it is within the statutmy 25 percent cap. Id. at 800. The cou1t also must '"review for reasonableness fees yielded by [contingency fee] agreements."' Crawford v. Astrue, 586 F.3d 1142, 1152 (9th Cir. 2009) (en bane) (quoting Gisbrecht, 535 U.S. at 808)). As set fmih in Crmiford, the comt must apply the following factors: (1) the character of the representation, (2) the results achieved, (3) any delay attributable to the attorney requesting the fee, (4) whether the benefits of the representation were out of propo1tion with the time spent on the case, and (5) the risk assumed by connsel in accepting the case. Id. at 1151-52. 2 - ORDER ON ATTORNEY FEES DISCUSSION Here, the te1ms of the contingent-fee agreement between Plaintiff and Attorney Wall are within the statutmy limits of§ 406(b). The $24,280.00 in attorney fees Wall seeks amounts to 25 percent of the past due benefits awarded to Plaintiff. See Unopposed Appl. Attn'y Fees at 2 & Ex. B, ECF No. 25. I have reviewed the record in the case, the motion, and the supporting materials including the award ofbenefits, the fee agreement with counsel, and the recitation of counsel's hours and services. Applying the standards set by Crmiford, I find the requested fees reasonable. There is no indication that Attorney Wall was either ineffective or dilatory, and he achieved a favorable result for Plaintiff. Furthe1more, the amount of fees requested is not out of proportion to the work perfo1med by Wall, and the benefits are not so large in comparison to the amount of time counsel spent that a reduction of the fees requested is justified. In sho1t, after applying the Gisbrecht factors, as interpreted by Crawford, I find that Plaintiffs counsel has demonstrated that a 25 percent fee is reasonable for this case. Attorney Wall represents that he has received $5,763.61 in fees previously awarded under EAJA. Additionally, Wall represents that he has received $5,909.00 in administrative fees. Accordingly, the requested fees of $24,280.00 under § 406(b) must be reduced by the EAJA and administrative fees. Therefore, the Commissioner is directed to send Plaintiffs attorney $12,697 .3 9 less any applicable processing fees as allowed by statute. Ill/ Ill/ Ill! 3 - ORDER ON ATTORNEY FEES CONCLUSION For these reasons, Plaintiff's Unopposed Application for Attorney Fees (ECF No. 25) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 406(b) in the amount of$12,697.39 is GRANTED. IT IS SO ORDERED. DATED this ;2.0 day of APRIL, 2017. ?Pt~+k~ Malcolm F. Marsh United States District Judge 4 - ORDER ON ATTORNEY FEES

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