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.

Parish v. Commissioner of, Social Security

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

July 20, 2017

GRANT E. PARISH, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF, SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          David R. Grand, United States Magistrate Judge

          OPINION AND ORDER (1) REJECTING PLAINTIFF'S OBJECTIONS TO MAGISTRATE JUDGE GRAND'S MARCH 13, 2017 REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION (ECF NO. 36), (2), ADOPTING THE MARCH 13, 2017 REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION (ECF NO. 35) AND (3) GRANTING IN PART THE PETITION FOR ATTORNEY FEES (ECF NO. 28)

          PAUL D. BORMAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On March 13, 2017, Magistrate Judge David R. Grand issued a Report and Recommendation (ECF No. 35) to grant in part Plaintiff's counsel's petition for attorney fees pursuant 42 U.S.C. § 206(b)(1) (ECF No. 28). Petitioner filed an Objection to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation (ECF No. 36).[1] F o r the reasons that follow, the Court REJECTS Petitioner's Objection, and ADOPTS the Report and Recommendation.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Petitioner achieved a favorable result for Plaintiff in this social security case, expending approximately sixteen and a half hours of attorney time resulting in a stipulated remand and an award of past due benefits to the Plaintiff in the amount of $69, 808.00. Petitioner now seeks to recover from that award $17, 452.00, which represents the 25% contingent fee amount to which the Plaintiff agreed when Petitioner undertook his representation in this case. The requested fee award results in an effective hourly rate of approximately $1, 017.00 for the work that Petitioner, a fourth year associate in her law firm at the time she filed this action, performed on her client's behalf. The Magistrate Judge concluded, after a very thorough analysis of all of the relevant factors, that while the contingent fee arrangement between Petitioner and the Plaintiff was not inherently unfair, a downward adjustment from the parties' contractual agreement was required to ensure reasonableness under 42 U.S.C. § 406(b). This Court agrees.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Where a party has objected to portions of a Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation, the Court conducts a de novo review of those portions. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b); Lyons v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 351 F.Supp.2d 659, 661 (E.D. Mich.

         2004). Only those objections that are specific are entitled to a de novo review under the statute. Mira v. Marshall, 806 F.2d 636, 637 (6th Cir. 1986). “The parties have the duty to pinpoint those portions of the magistrate's report that the district court must specially consider.” Id. (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). A nonspecific objection, or one that merely reiterates arguments previously presented, does not adequately identify alleged errors on the part of the magistrate judge and results in a duplication of effort on the part of the district court: “A general objection to the entirety of the magistrate's report has the same effects as would a failure to object. The district court's attention is not focused on any specific issues for review, thereby making the initial reference to the magistrate useless.” Howard v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 932 F.2d 505, 509 (6th Cir. 1991). Specific objections enable the Court to focus on the particular issues in contention. An “objection” that does nothing more than disagree with a magistrate judge's determination, “without explaining the source of the error, ” is not considered a valid objection. Id. Without specific objections, “[t]he functions of the district court are effectively duplicated as both the magistrate and the district court perform identical tasks. This duplication of time and effort wastes judicial resources rather than saving them, and runs contrary to the purposes of the Magistrates Act.” Id.

         III. ANALYSIS

         Plaintiff objects that the Magistrate Judge “singularly focused” on the “effective hourly rate” and “the lodestar method that Gisbrecht [v. Barnhart, 535 U.S. 789 (2002)] specifically rejected.” (ECF No. 36, Objection 5, PgID 1073.) The Court disagrees and concludes that the Magistrate Judge's analysis was faithful to Gisbrecht. It is true that Gisbrecht rejected sole reliance on the lodestar method for determining the reasonableness of contingent fee awards in social security cases, and acknowledged that the lodestar method (historically applied in the context of provisions shifting fees to the losing party) was not the perfect fit for determining the reasonableness of an award of fees payable from a successful party's recovery under § 406(b). The Court in Gisbrecht stressed the importance of respecting the parties' statutory right to contractually arrange for a fee up to 25% of past due benefits, concluding:

Most plausibly read, we conclude, § 406(b) does not displace contingent-fee arrangements as the primary means by which fees are set for successfully representing Social Security benefits claimants in court. Rather, § 406(b) calls for court review of such arrangements as an independent check, to assure that they yield reasonable results in particular cases. . . . Within the 25% boundary . . . the attorney for the successful claimant must show that the fee sought is reasonable for the services rendered.

535 U.S. at 807 (ellipsis added). The Court cautioned against allowing “windfalls” resulting from unnecessary delay or substandard representation, and also instructed that a large benefit award achieved with comparatively little attorney time may also constitute a windfall, and may support a “downward adjustment, ” in certain cases:

If the benefits are large in comparison to the amount of time counsel spent on the case, a downward adjustment is similarly in order. In this regard, 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 the ...

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.