United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Northern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
KATHERINE P. NELSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
action is before the Court on the motion for fees under 42
U.S.C. § 406(b) (Doc. 24) filed by William T. Coplin,
Jr., Esq., counsel of record for Plaintiff Shirley
Madison. The Defendant Commissioner of Social
Security (“the Commissioner”) has filed a
response to the motion stating that the Commissioner
“neither supports nor opposes Plaintiff's
counsel's motion” but is providing an
“informational” response “to assist the
Court.” (See Doc. 26). Upon consideration, the
Court finds that Coplin's § 406(b) motion (Doc. 24)
is due to be GRANTED.
at all times represented by Coplin, commenced this action
under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) for
judicial review of an unfavorable final decision of the
Commissioner denying her applications for a period of
disability and disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security
Act, 42 U.S.C. § 401, et seq., and supplemental
security income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1381, et seq.
In accordance with the Court's scheduling order (Doc. 5),
the Commissioner filed her answer (Doc. 11) to the complaint
and the record of the administrative proceedings (Doc. 12),
and Madison filed her fact sheet and brief identifying
alleged errors in the Commissioner's final decision
(Docs. 13, 14).
than file a brief responding to Madison's claims of
error, the Commissioner filed an unopposed motion to remand
Madison's case under sentence four of § 405(g)
(applicable to SSI claims under § 1383(c)(3)) for
further administrative proceedings (Doc. 16), which the Court
granted by order and judgment entered September 29, 2016
(Docs. 18, 19). Madison subsequently filed a motion for
attorney's fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act
(“EAJA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d) (Doc. 20), which
the Court granted, awarding $1, 754.88 in EAJA fees.
(See Doc. 23).
remand to the Social Security Administration
(“SSA”), on April 5, 2018, an Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”) issued a decision in favor of
Madison on her applications for benefits. (See Doc.
24-2). A notice of award of benefits was issued May 14, 2018,
noting, inter alia, that Madison was entitled to
$50, 988.00 in past-due benefits, and that $12, 747.00 of
that amount was being withheld to pay Madison's
representative. (See Doc. 24-3). Coplin filed the
present § 406(b) motion on August 10, 2018.
[U]nder 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).
Jackson 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).
Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d)(2), which “applies to a
§ 406(b) attorney's fee claim[, ]”
id., 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.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(d)(2). In
ordering remand in this action, the Court granted
“Madison's attorney an extension of time in which
to file a petition for authorization of attorney's fees
under 42 U.S.C. § 406(b) until thirty days after receipt
of a notice of award of benefits from the Social Security
Administration.” (Doc. 18 at 3).
the notice of award itself is dated May 14, 2018
(see Doc. 24-3 at 2), a fax coversheet from the SSA
that Coplin has included with the notice indicates that
Coplin did not receive the notice until the SSA faxed it to
him on August 10, 2018 (see Id. at 1). Coplin's
§ 406(b) motion was filed the same day, and the
Commissioner has not argued that the motion is due to be
denied as untimely. Accordingly, the Court finds that
Coplin's § 406(b) 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 ...