United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Eastern Division
SCOTT C. KRIENER, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
R. READE, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.
matter before the court is Plaintiff Scott C. Kriener's
“Motion for Attorneys Fees Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
406(b)” (“Motion”) (docket no. 23), which
he filed on January 23, 2018.
RELEVANT PROCEDURAL HISTORY
11, 2016, Plaintiff filed his Complaint (docket no. 3)
regarding Defendant Commissioner of Social Security's
(“Commissioner”) denial of disability benefits.
The matter was briefed and, on March 1, 2017, the court
reversed the Commissioner's decision and remanded the
matter for further consideration. See March 1, 2017
Order (docket no. 16) at 9. On May 25, 2017, the court
awarded Plaintiff $4, 592.82 in attorney fees pursuant to the
Equal Access to Justice Act (“EAJA”), 28 U.S.C.
§ 2412. See May 25, 2017 Order (docket no. 20)
at 4. On December 16, 2017, the Commissioner sent Plaintiff a
“Notice of Award, ” stating that he was entitled
to disability benefits, including $60, 055.00 in back
benefits. See Exhibits in Support of Motion (docket
no. 23-1) at 3-8. The Notice of Award also notified Plaintiff
that the Commissioner was withholding $15, 013.75 in
potential attorney fees from Plaintiff's back benefits
payment. See id. at 4.
Motion, Plaintiff's counsel requests payment of $9,
013.75 in attorney fees pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 406(b).
See Motion at 1. On February 2, 2018, the
Commissioner filed a Response (docket no. 24) stating that
she does not object to the fees requested. See
Response at 1. The Commissioner further notes that, if fees
are awarded under both the EAJA and § 406(b),
Plaintiff's counsel “must refund the amount of the
smaller fee received to” Plaintiff. See id. at
5. Plaintiff did not file a reply, and the time for doing so
has passed. The matter is fully submitted and ready for
to § 406(b), Plaintiff's counsel seek attorney fees
established by a contingent-fee agreement entered into with
Plaintiff. See Exhibits in Support of Motion at 1-2.
“Whenever a court renders a judgment favorable to a
claimant . . . the court may determine and allow as part of
its judgment a reasonable fee for such representation, not in
excess of 25[%] 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)(1)(A). The Supreme Court
has held that this provision allows for the payment of
“contingent-fee agreements within the [25%] statutory
ceiling.” See Gisbrecht v. Barnhart, 535 U.S.
789, 807-809 (2002). In this decision, however, the Supreme
Court stated that § 406(b) requires that courts awarding
fees independently review the contingency-fee agreements
“to assure that they yield reasonable results in
particular cases.” Id. at 807. “In this
regard, the court may require the claimant's attorney to
submit, not as a basis for satellite litigation, but as an
aid to the court's assessment of the reasonableness of
the fee yielded by the fee agreement, a record of the hours
spent representing the claimant . . . .” Id.
at 808. Fees awarded by the court may be paid directly to the
claimant's attorney. See Astrue v. Ratliff, 560
U.S. 586, 594-95 (2010) (citing 42 U.S.C. §
406(b)(1)(A)) (“It is true that the SSA makes fees
awards under [§ 406(b)] payable directly to the
prevailing claimant's attorney.”). Finally,
pursuant to the Social Security Act, “where the
claimant's attorney receives fees for the same work under
both [§ 406(b)] and [the EAJA], the claimant's
attorney [must refund] to the claimant the amount of the
smaller fee.” Pub. L. No. 99-80, § 3, Aug. 5,
1985, 99 Stat. 186.
to Gisbrecht, the court has conducted an independent
review of the contingent-fee arrangement in this matter.
Plaintiff was awarded $60, 055.00 in back benefits in this
case. See Exhibits in Support of Motion at 4.
Plaintiff's counsel seeks an award of $9, 013.75 in
attorney's fees. See Motion at 1. The requested
amount is approximately 15% of Plaintiff's back benefits,
well below the 25% cap contemplated by § 406(b). This
award is also consistent with the Attorney Fee Agreement
entered into by Plaintiff and his counsel. See
Exhibits in Support of Motion at 1-2. Finally, the court
notes that the Commissioner “withheld $15, 013.75 from
[Plaintiff's] past-due benefits to pay” attorney
fees, id. at 4, and has no objection to the award
requested, see Response at 4 (noting that the
requested award “is approximately 15% of
[P]laintiff's past due benefits”). Accordingly, the
court finds that Plaintiff's counsel has established that
the requested attorney fees are reasonable and non-excessive.
Plaintiff's counsel must refund to Plaintiff the $4,
592.82 fee previously collected under the EAJA.
light of the foregoing, IT IS ORDERED:
(1) The Motion (docket no. 23) is GRA ...