United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
CANDY S. RIDER, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
HONORABLE LAURIE J. MICHELSON, JUDGE
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON MOTION FOR ATTORNEY FEES
PURSUANT TO 42 U.S.C. § 406(B) 
R. Grand Magistrate Judge
September 15, 2016, Plaintiff Candy Rider
(“Rider”) filed suit against the Commissioner of
Social Security, challenging the Commissioner's final
decision denying her application for Supplemental Security
Income. (Doc. #1). On August 23, 2017, this Court issued a
Report and Recommendation (“R&R”),
recommending that the case be remanded to the ALJ for further
evaluation. (Doc. #22). The R&R was accepted by the
Honorable Laurie J. Michelson on September 7, 2017, and a
judgment was entered that same day remanding the case for
further consideration by the ALJ. (Docs. #23, #24).
subsequently prevailed on remand, and the Social Security
Administration issued a Notice of Award, dated December 6,
2018, awarding her $43, 116.13 in past-due benefits. (Doc.
#25-2). On December 18, 2018, Rider's attorney, Matthew
Taylor of the Fried, Gallagher Law Firm, filed the instant
motion indicating that, pursuant to the terms of both 42
U.S.C. § 406(b) and the applicable fee agreement, he is
entitled to attorney fees in the amount of 25% of Rider's
past-due benefits ($10, 779.00). (Doc. #25 at ¶ 6).
Because an additional fee petition was being submitted to the
Administrative Law Judge in the amount of $5, 779.00 for
services rendered during the administrative proceedings,
however, Mr. Taylor indicated that he is seeking only $5,
000.00 in § 406(b) fees ($10, 779.00 less the $5, 779.00
being sought through the administrative process).
(Id.). Neither the Commissioner nor Rider filed an
objection or other response to Mr. Taylor's request.
U.S.C. § 406(b) authorizes the Court to award attorney
fees following the successful disposition of Social Security
disability appeals. Section 206(b)(1) of the Social Security
Act permits courts to award attorneys up to 25% of the
past-due benefits to which a claimant is entitled after a
favorable decision. Attorney fees are subject to the
condition that they be reasonable for the services rendered.
See Gisbrecht v. Barnhart, 535 U.S. 789, 807 (2002).
Taylor is requesting $5, 000.00 in attorney fees, which
represents 25% of the past due benefits awarded to Rider
($10, 779.00) less the $5, 779.00 being sought from the
Administrative Law Judge in this matter. Mr. Taylor has
submitted a fee agreement, signed by both himself and his
client, in which Rider specifically acknowledges that an
attorney who successfully represented her in court may be
awarded a reasonable fee, not in excess of 25% of her past
due benefits. (Doc. #25-4).
fee arrangements are allowed under the Social Security Act.
In fact, an “agreement for a 25% fee, the maximum
permitted under § 206(b) of the Social Security Act, 42
U.S.C. § 406(b), is presumed reasonable, ” even if
amounts called for by the 25% contingency agreements compute
to comparatively high hourly rates. Hayes v. Sec'y of
Health & Human Servs., 923 F.2d 418, 421 (6th Cir.
1990) (citing Rodriquez v. Bowen, 865 F.2d 739, 746
(6th Cir. 1989) and Royzer v. Sec'y of Health &
Human Servs., 900 F.2d 981, 982 (6th Cir. 1990)). The
Sixth Circuit has recognized that “[c]ontingent fees
generally overcompensate in some cases and undercompensate in
others.” Id. (quoting Royzer, 900
F.2d at 982).
Social Security cases, the 25% contingent fee “is not
to be viewed as per se reasonable, ” but generally,
“if the agreement states that the attorney will be paid
twenty-five percent of the benefits awarded, it should be
given the weight ordinarily accorded a rebuttable
presumption.” Rodriquez, 865 F.2d at 746. Fees
may be reduced below the 25% limit for improper conduct,
ineffectiveness of counsel, and “situations in which
counsel would otherwise enjoy a windfall because of either an
inordinately large benefit award or from minimal effort
case, there is no suggestion that Mr. Taylor behaved
improperly or was ineffective. On the contrary, Mr. Taylor
achieved a successful result for Rider. Nor does it appear
that awarding the total fee requested herein would amount to
a windfall. Mr. Taylor has submitted a full log of the
activities he undertook before this Court on Rider's
behalf, which shows a total of 28 hours spent on her case.
(Doc. #25-3). Given that the amount requested from this Court
is $5, 000.00, the effective hourly rate for Mr. Taylor would
be approximately $179.00. Awards using higher rates than this
have been deemed reasonable by courts in the past. See,
e.g., Hamilton v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., No. 09-11553,
2011 WL 10620498, at *5-6 (E.D. Mich. Aug. 15, 2011)
(approving a contingency rate of $625 per hour for
§406(b) fees); Karadsheh v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., No. 08-cv-988, 2011 WL 5041366, at *3 (W.D. Mich.
Sept. 26, 2011) (approving a contingency rate of $360 per
hour for §406(b) fees).
in assessing a fee determination, courts have found it
useful, although not necessary, to consider the
defendant's position as to the reasonableness of the
requested fee award. See, e.g., Lewis v. Sec'y of
Health & Human Servs., 707 F.2d 246, 248 (6th Cir.
1983). In this case, the Commissioner has not objected to the
requested fee award or challenged it in any respect, and thus
presumably does not believe fee requested to be unreasonable.