United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Jacksonville Division
ORDER GRANTING UNOPPOSED PETITION
Patricia D. Barksdale, United States Magistrate Judge
Karpf's attorney, Chantal Harrington, Esquire, has filed
a petition under 42 U.S.C. § 406(b) and 20 C.F.R. §
404.1728(b) asking for authorization to charge him $6163.23
for her successful representation of him. Doc. 25.
The Acting Commissioner of Social Security does not oppose
the request. Doc. 25 at 16-17. Karpf's position is
age 32, alleged disability based on amputation of his leg
below the knee, fragment soft-tissue wounds, compartment
syndrome, and anxiety. Doc. 20 at 1; Tr. 45. In
2012, he applied for disability-insurance benefits. Tr. 217.
The Social Security Administration (“SSA”) denied
his application and reconsideration request, an
Administrative Law Judge found he was not disabled, and the
Appeals Council denied his review request. Tr. 1-7, 15-21,
23-40, 101-09, 111-22. Jessica Dumas, Esquire, represented
him at the administrative hearing. Tr. 41.
brought this case to challenge the SSA's denial of
benefits. Doc. 1. He and Harrington entered into a
standard contingent-fee agreement under which she agreed to
represent him in this case, and he agreed to pay her 25
percent of any past- due benefits minus any attorney's
fees paid under the Equal Access to Justice Act
(“EAJA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d). Doc. 25-2.
proceeded to represent Karpf in this case. She filed a
standard 3-page complaint, Doc. 1, followed by a
25-page brief arguing why the Acting Commissioner was wrong,
Doc. 16, and the Acting Commissioner filed a 13-page
brief arguing why she was right, Doc. 19. Based on
those briefs, the Court reversed the SSA's denial of
benefits and remanded the case for further agency
proceedings. Docs. 20, 21. The Court later
granted Karpf's request for $4686.52 in EAJA fees based
on 24.8 hours at $188.60 an hour for work performed in 2014,
$188.83 an hour for work performed in 2015, and $191.39 an
hour for work performed in 2016. Docs. 22,
remand, the SSA determined Karpf was entitled to $67, 399 in
past-due benefits. Doc. 25-3 at 3. The SSA set aside
25 percent of the award ($16, 849.75) for attorney's
fees. Doc. 25-3 at 3. Thus the current motion.
provisions governing attorney's fees apply: 42 U.S.C.
§§ 406(a) and (b) and the EAJA.
representation during administrative proceedings, §
406(a) provides that an attorney may petition for fees,
and the SSA must allow them if the claimant had been
successful. In setting those fees, the SSA considers various
factors. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1725(b). Alternatively, an
attorney may file a contingent-fee agreement before the
benefits ruling. 42 U.S.C. § 406(a)(2). If the ruling
favors the claimant, the SSA generally will approve the
agreement subject to the limitation that fees may not exceed
25 percent of past-due benefits or $6000, whichever is less.
42 U.S.C. § 406(a)(2)(A)(ii), (iii); 74 Fed. Reg. 6080
(Feb. 4, 2009).
representation during court proceedings, § 406(b)
provides that an attorney who succeeds in obtaining remand
may petition for fees, and the court, as part of its
judgment, may allow reasonable fees that do not exceed 25
percent of past- due benefits. Bergen v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 454 F.3d 1273, 1275-77 (11th Cir. 2006). The
fees are from-not in addition to-the past-due benefits. 42
U.S.C. § 406(b)(1)(A). The combined fees under
§§ 406(a) and 406(b) may not exceed 25 percent of
past-due benefits. Dawson v. Finch, 425 F.2d 1192,
1195 (5th Cir. 1970).
the EAJA, a court must order the United States to pay fees to
a party who prevails against the United States, including in
a social-security case, unless the United States'
position was substantially justified or special circumstances
make an award unjust. 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(A). The
fees are based on the attorney's hours and rate, capped
at $125 per hour (unless a special circumstance justifies
more). 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(2)(A). An attorney may obtain
fees under both § 406(b) and the EAJA but must refund
the lesser fees to the claimant, and may do so by deducting
the EAJA fees from his § 406(b) petition. Jackson v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 601 F.3d 1268, 1274 (11th Cir.
must follow the framework in Gisbrecht v. Barnhart,
535 U.S. 789 (2002), when evaluating an attorney's
request for authorization to charge § 406(b) fees based
on a contingent-fee arrangement. In Gisbrecht, the Supreme
Court endorsed the use of contingent-fee arrangements in
social-security cases but cautioned that § 406(b)
“calls for court review of such arrangements as an
independent check, to assure that they yield reasonable
results in particular cases.” 535 U.S. at 807. The
Court explained, “Courts that approach fee
determinations by looking first to the contingent-fee
agreement, then testing it for reasonableness, have
appropriately reduced the attorney's recovery based on
the character of the representation and the results the
representative achieved.” Id. at 808. A
downward adjustment “is in order, ” the Court
continued, if the representation was substandard, the
attorney was responsible for delay that increased past-due
benefits, or the “benefits are large in comparison to
the amount of time counsel spent on the case, ” thereby
creating a windfall to the attorney. Id.
Court in Gisbrechtheld that the claimant's attorney has
the burden of showing that the requested fee “is
reasonable for the services rendered.” Id. at
807. And in assessing reasonableness, “the court may
require the claimant's attorney to submit, not as a basis
for satellite litigation, but as an aid to the court's
assessment of the reasonableness of the fee yielded by the
fee agreement, a record of the hours spent representing ...