United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Central Division
ALICIA M. KING, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
R. Reade, Judge United States District judge
matter before the court is Plaintiff Alicia M. King's
"Motion for Attorney [ ] Fees Pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 406(b)" ("Motion") (docket no. 27),
which was filed on August 13, 2019.
RELEVANT PROCEDURAL HISTORY
November 13, 2017, Plaintiff Benjamin J. King filed the
Complaint (docket no. 3) regarding Defendant Commissioner of
Social Security's ("Commissioner") denial of
disability benefits. On May 17, 2018, the Commissioner filed a
Motion to Remand (docket no. 15), pursuant to sentence four
of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). On May 21, 2018, the court
reversed the Commissioner's decision and remanded the
matter for further administrative proceedings. See
May 21, 2018 Order (docket no. 17) at 1. On August 27, 2018,
the court awarded $7, 549.56 in attorney fees pursuant to the
Equal Access to Justice Act ("EAJA"), 28 U.S.C.
§ 2412. See August 27, 2018 Order (docket no.
23) at 4. On July 6, 2019, the Commissioner sent Plaintiff
Alicia M. King a "Notice of Award," stating that
Benjamin J. King had been entitled to disability benefits,
including back benefits. See Exhibit B in Support of
Motion (docket no. 27-2) at 1. The Notice of Award also
stated that the Commissioner was withholding $28, 477.00 in
potential attorney fees from the back benefits payment.
Motion, Plaintiffs counsel requests payment of $22, 477.00 in
attorney fees pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 406(b).
See Motion at 2. On August 13, 2019, the
Commissioner filed a Response (docket no. 28) stating that he
does not object to the fees requested. See Response
at 1-2. The Commissioner further notes that, if fees are
awarded under both the EAJA and § 406(b), Plaintiffs
counsel "must refund the amount of the smaller fee
received to the Plaintiff." Id. at 2.
to § 406(b), Plaintiffs counsel seeks attorney fees
established by a contingent-fee agreement entered into with
Plaintiff. See Exhibit A in Support of Motion
(docket no. 27-1) at 1-5. "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 approximately $113, 908.00 in back
benefits in this case. See Exhibit B in Support of
Motion at 1. Plaintiffs counsel seeks an award of $22, 477.00
in attorney fees. See Motion at 2. The requested
amount is approximately 20% of the back benefits, which is
below the 25% cap contemplated by § 406(b). This award
is also consistent with the Attorney Fee Agreement entered
into between Plaintiff and counsel. See Exhibit A in
Support of Motion at 1-5. Finally, the court notes that the
Commissioner has no objection to the award requested.
See Response at 1-2. The court has also reviewed the
record of hours spent litigating this matter, which was
submitted by Plaintiffs counsel and finds that it also
supports an award of attorney fees. See Exhibit C in
Support of Motion (docket no. 27-3) at 1-2. Accordingly, the
court finds that Plaintiffs counsel has established that the
requested attorney fees are reasonable and non-excessive.
Plaintiff's counsel must refund to Plaintiff the $7,
549.56 fee previously collected under the EAJA.
light of the foregoing, IT IS ORDERED:
Motion (docket ...