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.

Lafond v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division

March 24, 2017

PAULA MARIE LAFOND, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          ORDER

          THOMAS B. SMITH United States Magistrate Judge.

         Pending before the Court are the following motions filed by “Plaintiff's representative, Jeffrey W. Hensley:”

1) Unopposed Motion for Attorney Fees Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §406(b) (Doc. 26); and
2) Unopposed Motion to Reopen Case to Process Plaintiff Attorney's Unopposed Motion for Attorney Fees Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §406(b) (Doc. 27).

         Upon consideration, the Motion for Attorney Fees is denied, without prejudice, and the Motion to Reopen the case is denied, as unnecessary.

         I. Background

         On June 25, 2014, Plaintiff, through counsel Kimberly I. Daniels, filed this action pursuant to the Social Security Act, Title 42 United States Code Section 405(g), to obtain judicial review of a final decision of the Defendant, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the “Commissioner”) denying her claim for Disability Insurance Benefits (Doc. 1). The Commissioner answered and the parties consented to the jurisdiction of the United States Magistrate Judge (Docs. 10, 11). Plaintiff moved for an extension of time (Doc. 17), and, on December 3, 2014, she filed a twenty one page brief in support of her Complaint (Doc. 19). The Commissioner filed a response brief (Doc. 20) and, on July 2, 2015, the Court reversed the Commissioner's administrative decision and remanded the matter pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. §405(g) (Doc. 21). A judgment in Plaintiff's favor was entered on July 6, 2015 (Doc. 22), and the case was closed. The docket reflects that at all times up through judgment, the only attorney appearing on Plaintiff's behalf was Kimberly I. Daniels, Esq.

         On March 17, 2017, Plaintiff, “by her attorney, Jeffrey W. Hensley, ” moved the court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to enter final judgment for Plaintiff “as a prerequisite to filing a motion for award of attorney fees pursuant to the Equal Access to Justice Act.” (Doc. 23). Observing that final judgment under Section 405(g) was already entered in Plaintiff's favor, the Court denied the motion, noting procedural irregularities and finding that counsel did not establish that Plaintiff was entitled to another judgment, nor that the Court had jurisdiction to grant it (Doc. 25). The instant motions filed shortly thereafter.

         In separate motions, Mr. Hensley moves to reopen the case in order to award him $12, 495.00 in attorney fees, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §406(b), “for work before the Court.” (Doc. 26 at 1, and Doc. 26-1). He attaches to the motion “a copy of the attorney's time records” (Doc. 26-1) and represents:

Plaintiff, by her attorney, Jeffrey W. Hensley, filed a Complaint seeking judicial review of an unfavorable decision. The Court reversed the Commissioner's decision and remanded the case for further proceedings. Upon remand, the Commissioner entered a favorable decision on February 16, 2017. The Notice of Award (NOA) was issued on March 7, 2017. See Exhibit “A” attached hereto. The claimant was awarded the sum of $79, 688.00 in past due benefits of which the sum of $19, 922.00 has been withheld in anticipation of direct payment of attorney Fees. The undersigned is requesting that the Court issue an order awarding him attorney fees to be paid by the claimant of $12, 495.00. The undersigned will petition the Commissioner, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 406(a) for attorney fees of $7427.00 to be paid by the claimant from the remainder of the funds being withheld.

         (Doc. 27 at 1-emphasis added). Mr. Hensley notes that the total attorney fee being sought does not exceed 25% of the past due benefits and represents that no other attorney fees have been or will be paid. The motions purport to be unopposed by the Office of General Counsel.

         II. The Applicable Law

         There are three statutory provisions under which attorneys representing claimants in Social Security Disability cases may be compensated: 42 U.S.C. §§ 406(a) and 406(b), and 28 U.S.C. § 2142(d). Section 406(a) provides the exclusive avenue for attorneys seeking fees for work done before the Commissioner at the administrative level. The fees awarded under §406(a) are paid out of the claimant's past-due benefits awarded. 42 U.S.C. § 406(a)(2)(A) and (B). Section 406(a) caps the fees that may be awarded at twenty-five percent of past-due benefits awarded or a lesser fixed amount. 42 U.S.C. § 406(a)(2)(A)(ii)(I)-(II).

         For fees incurred representing claimants in federal court, claimants and their attorneys may seek fees under two statutory provisions, 42 U.S.C. § 406(b) and the Equal Access to Justice Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2142(d) (“EAJA”). Under Section 406(b), upon entry of judgment in favor of a claimant, the Court may award a reasonable fee for work performed before the Court, which is paid out of the claimant's past-due benefits awarded. 42 U.S.C. § 406(b)(1)(A). Section 406(b) imposes a cap on the total amount of fees that may be awarded. 42 U.S.C. § 406(b)(1)(A). Section 406(b) provides that a ...


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.