United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Northern Division
ROBERT D. THOMAS, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
W. MILLING, JR. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
action is before the Court on the Motion for Attorney Fees
Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 406(b) (Doc. 30) filed by
William T. Coplin, Jr., Esq., counsel for Plaintiff Robert D.
Thomas (“Plaintiff”). Upon consideration, the
Court finds that the § 406(b) motion is due to be
April 20, 2015, Plaintiff, at all times represented by
Coplin, commenced this action for judicial review of an
unfavorable final decision of the Commissioner under 42
U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3). (Doc. 1). In
accordance with the Court's scheduling order (Doc. 5),
the Commissioner filed her answer to the complaint (Doc. 10)
and the record of the administrative proceedings (Doc. 11),
and Plaintiff filed his brief identifying errors in the
Commissioner's final decision (Docs. 12, 13). In response
to Plaintiff's brief, the Commissioner filed her brief in
support of the final decision (Doc. 18). The undersigned, by
Memorandum Opinion and Order, reversed the decision of the
Commissioner and remanded this action for further proceedings
(Doc. 24) and Judgment was entered accordingly on February
17, 2016. (Doc. 25).
subsequently filed a motion for attorney's fees under the
Equal Access to Justice Act (“EAJA”), 28 U.S.C.
§ 2412(d) (Doc. 26), and the Commissioner filed a
Response objecting to the request (Doc. 27). After
consideration, the Court denied the Motion, finding that the
Commissioner's position in this action was substantially
justified. (Docs. 28, 29).
remand to the Social Security Administration (SSA), an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) issued a
favorable decision for the Plaintiff on March 2, 2018. (Doc.
30-2). A notice of award of past-due benefits was issued May
16, 2018, which also advised that $23, 912.75, representing
25% of the total past due benefits, was being withheld to pay
an approved representative's fee. (Doc. 30-3). Coplin
filed the present § 406(b) motion on May 21, 2018,
requesting that the Court award him a fee in the amount of
$17, 912.75. (Doc. 30).
42 U.S.C. § 406(b), a court entering judgment in favor
of a Social Security benefits claimant who was represented by
an attorney “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). Assuming that
the requested fee is within the 25 percent limit, the court
must then determine whether “the fee sought is
reasonable for the services rendered.” Gisbrecht v.
Barnhart, 535 U.S. 789, 807, 122 S.Ct. 1817, 1828, 152
L.Ed.2d 996 (2002). For example, courts may reduce the
requested fee if the representation has been substandard, if
the attorney has been responsible for delay, or if the
benefits are large in comparison to the amount of time the
attorney spent on the case. Id. at 808, 122 S.Ct. at
1828. A § 406(b) fee is paid by the claimant out of the
past-due benefits awarded. 42 U.S.C. § 406(b)(1)(A).
v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 601 F.3d 1268, 1271 (11th
Cir. 2010). “42 U.S.C. § 406(b) authorizes
an award of attorney's fees where[, as here, ] the
district court remands the case to the Commissioner of Social
Security for further proceedings, and the Commissioner on
remand awards the claimant past-due benefits.”
Bergen v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 454 F.3d 1273,
1277 (11th Cir. 2006) (per curiam).
R. Civ. P. 54(d)(2) applies to a § 406(b) attorney's
fee claim.” Id. Rule 54(d)(2)(B)(i) provides
that, “[u]nless a statute or a court order provides
otherwise, [a] motion [for attorney's fees] must be filed
no later than 14 days after the entry of judgment.”
Because Coplin's § 406(b) motion was filed within 14
days of the date of the Plaintiff's notice of award, the
motion is timely.
In Gisbrecht v. Barnhart, the Supreme Court
considered 42 U.S.C. § 406(b) and clarified its impact
on the district court's role in awarding a reasonable fee
following a favorable claim for Social Security benefits.
See535 U.S. 789, 807, 122 S.Ct. 1817, 1828, 152
L.Ed.2d 996 (2002). Although § 406(b)(1)(A) gives
district courts the power to “determine and allow as
part of its judgment a reasonable fee” following a
favorable claim for Social Security benefits, 42 U.S.C.
§ 406(b)(1)(A), it does not empower them to ignore the
fee agreements entered into by parties when determining what
a reasonable fee would be, see Gisbrecht, 535 U.S.
at 807, 122 S.Ct. at 1828 (concluding that “ §
406(b) does not displace contingent-fee agreements as the
primary means by which fees are set”). Instead, courts
must look to the ...