Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Floyd v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division

June 21, 2019

WANDA MARIE FLOYD, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO GRANT ATTORNEY'S FEES

          TU M. PHAM, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Before the court is plaintiff Wanda Marie Floyd's Motion to Grant Attorney's Fees, filed on May 30, 2019. (ECF No. 23.) Defendant Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security[1] (“Commissioner”), responded on June 13, 2019 (ECF No. 25), and Floyd replied on June 18, 2019 (ECF No. 26).[2] For the following reasons, Floyd's motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On May 2, 2012, Floyd applied for supplemental security income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. (ECF No. 21 at 1.) An Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) issued a decision denying Floyd's request for benefits on June 12, 2014. (Id. at 2.) On July 10, 2015, the Appeals Council denied Floyd's request for review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (Id.) Floyd subsequently appealed the ALJ's decision. (ECF No. 1.) This court reviewed that decision and remanded the case. (ECF Nos. 21; 22.)

         On remand, the ALJ awarded Floyd past due benefits in the amount of $59, 538.00. (ECF No. 25 at 1.) The Social Security Administration (“SSA”) withheld $14, 839.50 of Floyd's past due benefits to cover fees associated with this case. (Id.) The SSA has paid Floyd's attorney $4, 601.75 but is withholding $10, 237.75 until the court rules on the present motion. (ECF Nos. 23 at 2-3, ¶ 9; 26-1.) Presently before the court is Floyd's motion for attorney's fees. (ECF No. 23.) Floyd and her attorney entered into a contingency fee agreement. Under the agreement, Floyd's attorney would receive 25% of Floyd's past due benefits if the case was appealed to this court and Floyd ultimately received a favorable decision at the administrative level. Although it is unclear from the motion, it appears that Floyd's attorney is seeking additional fees in the amount of $10, 237.75 (the withheld amount). Thus, if successful, Floyd's attorney would receive a total fee award of $14, 839.50, which equals 25% of Floyd's past due benefits.

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Overview - Section 406 and Equal Access to Justice Act

         “In Social Security cases, attorney's fees may be awarded under Section 406(b)(1)(A) of the Social Security Act” and the Equal Access to Justice Act (“EAJA”). Frazier v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., No. 16-11363, 2018 WL 4905367, at *1 (E.D. Mich. Aug. 29, 2018), adopted by, 2018 WL 4901217 (E.D. Mich. Oct. 9, 2018). “A significant difference between Section 406(b) and EAJA attorney fees is their source: ‘while fees awarded under 42 U.S.C. § 406(b) are deducted from a claimant's award of past-due Social Security benefits, the United States must pay fees awarded under the EAJA out of government funds.'” Id. (quoting Minor v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 826 F.3d 878, 881 (6th Cir. 2016)). “The EAJA generally increases a successful Social Security claimant's portion of past-due benefits because ‘[f]ee awards may be made under both prescriptions, but the claimant's attorney must ‘refun[d] to the claimant the amount of the smaller fee.'” Id. (quoting Gisbrecht v. Barnhart, 535 U.S. 789, 796 (2002)); see also Horton v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., No. 2:14-cv-83, 2018 WL 4701588, at *1 (M.D. Tenn. Oct. 1, 2018) (“An attorney who receives fees under both the EAJA and § 406(b) shall refund the lower award to the plaintiff.”).

         “Generally, after a plaintiff wins a sentence four remand, he becomes a prevailing party and may move for attorney's fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act (“EAJA”).” Horton, 2018 WL 4701588, at *1. 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(B) specifies the procedure for obtaining EAJA funds:

A party seeking an award of fees and other expenses shall, within thirty days of final judgment in the action, submit to the court an application for fees and other expenses which shows that the party is a prevailing party and is eligible to receive an award under this subsection, and the amount sought, including an itemized statement from any attorney or expert witness representing or appearing in behalf of the party stating the actual time expended and the rate at which fees and other expenses were computed. The party shall also allege that the position of the United States was not substantially justified. Whether or not the position of the United States was substantially justified shall be determined on the basis of the record (including the record with respect to the action or failure to act by the agency upon which the civil action is based) which is made in the civil action for which fees and other expenses are sought.

(emphasis added). “EAJA fees are awarded in excess of the benefits due, as opposed to being deducted from the claimant's benefits award.” Turner v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 680 F.3d 721, 723 (6th Cir. 2012). “EAJA fees are paid to the plaintiff, who often assigns the award to his attorney.” Horton, 2018 WL 4701588, at *1.

         By contrast, “[a]n attorney fee award is appropriate under § 406(b)(1)(A) when a court remands a case to the Commissioner for further proceedings and the Commissioner subsequently awards the claimant past-due benefits.” Sindell v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., No. 1:16-cv-854, 2019 WL 2029549, at *3 (W.D. Mich. Apr. 23, 2019), adopted by, 2019 WL 2024850 (W.D. Mich. May 8, 2019). “Unlike fees obtained under the EAJA, the fees awarded under § 406 are charged against the claimant, not the government.” Hughes v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., No. 1:16-cv-23, 2019 WL 2408035, at *1 (N.D. Ind. May 30, 2019). Procedurally, under Section 406, “[t]he Commissioner withholds 25% of the plaintiff's past-due benefits and [directly] pays the attorney ‘out of, and not in addition to, the amount of such past-due benefits.'” Horton, 2018 WL 4701588, at *1.

         B. Application - Attorney's Fees Under Section 406

         “Whenever a court renders a judgment favorable to a claimant under this subchapter who was represented before the court by an attorney, the court may determine and allow as part of its judgment a reasonable fee for such representation, not in excess of 25 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)(1)(A). “Within the 25 percent boundary . . . the attorney for the successful claimant must show that the fee sought is reasonable for the services rendered.” Gisbrecht, 535 U.S. at 807. In determining an award of attorney's fees under the SSA, courts should look first at the ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.