United States District Court, W.D. New York
DECISION AND ORDER
HONORABLE MICHAEL A. TELESCA, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Yolanda March(“plaintiff”) commenced this action
following the Commissioner of Social Security's
(“defendant” or the “Commissioner”)
denial of her applications for disability insurance benefits
and supplemental security income pursuant to the Social
Security Act (the “SSA”). Plaintiff's
attorney, Peter A. Gorton, Esq. has filed a motion pursuant
to Section 206(b) of the SSA, 42 U.S.C. § 406(b),
requesting attorney's fees in the amount of $10, 924.50,
which represents the balance of 25% of plaintiff's past
due benefits ($10, 924.50), less the amount of $6, 000.00
received by plaintiff's attorney as a fee for services
performed at the administrative level.
applications for disability insurance benefits were initially
denied. Following the denial of benefits, plaintiff was
granted a hearing before an administrative law judge
(“ALJ”), who later issued a written decision
denying benefits. The ALJ's decision became final when
the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for
review. Plaintiff filed the present action seeking judicial
review of the ALJ's final decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g), which resulted in the Court entering a
Stipulation and Order remanding the case for further
administrative proceedings on November 14, 2015. By
Stipulation and Order dated August 28, 2015, the Court
awarded the plaintiff attorney's fees in the amount of
$4, 717.55 pursuant to the Equal Access to Justice Act, 28
U.S.C. § 2412(d) (the “EAJA”). However,
plaintiff's attorney did not receive this fee payment,
because it was applied to payment of a federal debt owed by
plaintiff. See Docket No. 15-4 at 1.
remand, the Commissioner determined that plaintiff had been
disabled, as defined in the SSA, since November 30, 2011. The
Social Security Administration subsequently determined that
plaintiff was entitled to $67, 698.00 in past-due benefits.
entered into a fee arrangement pursuant to which she agreed
to pay her attorney the greater of (1) 25% of the past due
benefits to which she became entitled because of a favorable
determination on her claim or (2) the full amount of any
attorney's fees awarded under the EAJA. Plaintiff's
attorney now requests that the Court award him fees in the
amount of $10, 924.50, which represents the balance of 25% of
plaintiff's past due benefits ($16, 924.50), less the
amount of $6, 000.00 received by plaintiff's attorney as
his fee for services performed at the administrative level.
The Commissioner has filed a response stating that she has no
objection to plaintiff's counsel's fee request. For
the reasons set forth below, the Court grants plaintiff's
relevant provision of the SSA provides that:
Whenever a court renders a judgment favorable to a claimant
under this title 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 such judgment.
42 U.S.C. § 406(b)(1). In considering a request for
attorney's fees, the Court must determine whether the
requested fee amount is reasonable, giving “due
deference” to the intent of the parties as evidenced by
their fee arrangement. Wells v. Sullivan, 907 F.2d
367, 372 (2d Cir. 1990). The Court must consider (1) whether
the contingency percentage is within the 25% cap, (2) whether
there has been fraud or overreaching in the agreement, and
(3) whether the requested amount is so large as to be a
windfall to the attorney. Id.
case, the contingency percentage is within the 25% cap and
there is no evidence of any fraud or overreaching in the
agreement. The requested fee also is not so large as to
represent a windfall to plaintiff's counsel.
Although there is no clear set of criteria for determining
when an award would result in a windfall, it is clear that
there are certain factors which should be considered. These
factors include 1) whether the attorney's efforts were
particularly successful for the plaintiff, 2) whether there
is evidence of the effort expended by the attorney
demonstrated through pleadings which were not boilerplate and
through arguments which involved both real issues of material
fact and required legal research, and finally, 3) whether the
case was handled efficiently due to the attorney's
experience in handling social security cases.
Joslyn v. Barnhart, 389 F.Supp.2d 454, 456-57
(W.D.N.Y. 2005). The Court may also “take into account
the amount of time and effort the attorney expended at the
administrative level.” Id. at 457. Here,
plaintiff's attorney advocated successfully for his
client and submitted pleadings that were thoroughly
researched and involved real issues of material fact.
Plaintiff's attorney is experienced in handling social
security cases, and frequently appears before this Court in
such matters. Plaintiff's attorney has further submitted
documentation showing that he expended 24.2 hours of time in
connection with this matter. Under these circumstances, the
Court finds the requested attorney's fees reasonable.
See Id. at 457 (finding fees of $38, ...