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Wilson v. Saul

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville

December 11, 2019

KIMBERLY B. WILSON, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL, [1] Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

         This case is before the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b), the Rules of this Court, and the consent of the parties [Doc. 16]. Now before the Court is the Plaintiff's Motion for Attorney Fees Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 406(b) [Doc. 28]. Plaintiff requests that the Court enter an Order awarding $14, 609.50 in attorney's fees under 42 U.S.C. § 406(b).

         I. BACKGROUND

         On June 21, 2016, the Plaintiff filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings and Memorandum in Support [Docs. 17 & 18], and on July 28, 2016, the Commissioner filed a competing Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum in Support [Docs. 19 & 20]. The Court entered a Memorandum Opinion [Doc. 21] on June 27, 2017, granting in part the Plaintiff's motion and denying the Commissioner's motion. Specifically, the Court ordered that the case be remanded to the Administrative Law Judge to reconsider certain medical opinions pursuant to 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c).

         On July 5, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Attorney's Fees Under the Equal Access to Justice Act (“EAJA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d) [Doc. 23]. After the Commissioner responded that she did not oppose Plaintiff's motion [Doc. 26], the Court entered an Order on July 25, 2017, granting Plaintiff $1, 812.50 in attorney's fees and $20.88 in expenses pursuant to the EAJA, 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d) [Doc. 27]. The instant motion before the Court seeks an additional award of attorney's fees pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 406(b). [Doc. 28].

         II. POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES

         Plaintiff's counsel requests approval to charge attorney's fees pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 406(b) based on his contingency fee agreement with the Plaintiff. [Doc. 28]. Counsel asserts that Plaintiff was awarded past-due benefits, of which $24, 609.50 was withheld for payment of fees associated with the award, and that Plaintiff contracted with counsel to pay twenty-five percent of the remainder of past-due benefits, which equals $14, 609.50 in attorney's fees. [Doc. 30 p. 3-4]. Counsel further explains that Plaintiff was previously awarded an attorney's fee of $1, 812.50 under the EAJA, and if the Court awarded an attorney's fee under 42 U.S.C. § 406(b), then the EAJA fee would be refunded to Plaintiff. [Doc. 28 p. 1-2]. Counsel submits that this amount is reasonable and should be upheld pursuant to Gisbrecht v. Barhhart, 535 U.S. 789 (2002). [Doc. 30 p. 2].

         The Commissioner subsequently filed a Response [Doc. 33] stating that he does not oppose payment of an attorney's fee in the amount of $10, 875.00 and that Plaintiff's counsel has agreed to accept this amount as full compensation.

         III. ANALYSIS

         Section 406(b) permits courts to award “a reasonable [attorneys'] fee . . . not in excess of 25 percent, ” payable “out of . . . [the claimant's] past-due benefits” when a claimant secures a favorable judgment. 42 U.S.C. § 406(b)(1)(A). Accordingly, three conditions must be met before 406(b) fees will be awarded:

1. The Court must have rendered a judgment favorable to the Plaintiff;
2. The Plaintiff must have been represented by counsel; and
3. The Court must find that the fee is reasonable and not in excess of twenty-five (25) percent of the total past-due benefits to which Plaintiff is entitled.

See Id. The Court will address each condition in turn.

         A. ...


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