United States District Court, D. Maryland
Andalman, Esq. has filed a motion for attorney's fees
pursuant to the Social Security Act (“Act”), 42
U.S.C. § 406(b), in conjunction with his representation
of Jazzlyn Flores before this Court. [ECF No. 24]. In
response, the Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) asked this Court to consider whether Mr.
Andalman's requested amount constitutes a reasonable fee.
[ECF No. 25]. I have considered those filings. No hearing is
necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the
reasons set forth below, Mr. Andalman's motion for
attorney's fees is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.
September 23, 2013, this Court awarded Mr. Andalman $5,
494.21 for 36.60 hours worked on Ms. Flores's case in
federal court. [ECF No. 23]. Ms. Flores subsequently received
a revised Award Notice, in which she was awarded $237, 212.00
in past due benefits. [ECF No. 24-3]. The SSA withheld
twenty-five percent of Ms. Flores's past-due benefits,
amounting to $59, 303.00. See Id. On March 6, 2018,
Mr. Andalman filed a Motion for Attorney's Fees, seeking
$59, 303.00 in attorney's fees, less $6, 000.00 already
paid for work at the administrative level, or $53, 303.00.
[ECF No. 24]. Mr. Andalman has agreed to deduct $5, 494.21 in
fees previously received from the amount to be collected.
Id.; see Gisbrecht v. Barnhart, 535 U.S.
789, 796 (2002); Stephens ex rel. R.E. v. Astrue,
565 F.3d 131, 135 (4th Cir. 2009).
authorizes a reasonable fee for successful representation
before this Court, not to exceed twenty-five percent of a
claimant's total past-due benefits. 42 U.S.C. §
406(b). Although contingent fee agreements are the
“primary means by which fees are set” in Social
Security cases, a court must nevertheless perform an
“independent check, to assure that they yield
reasonable results in particular cases.”
Gisbrecht, 535 U.S. at 807. In determining whether a
request for attorney's fees under section 406(b) is
reasonable, the Supreme Court has explained that a reviewing
court may properly consider the “character of the
representation and the results the representative
received.” Id. Importantly, the Supreme Court
acknowledged that a contingent fee agreement would not result
in a reasonable fee if the fee constituted a
“windfall” to the attorney. Id. at 808.
Mr. Andalman and Ms. Flores entered into a contingent fee
agreement, by which Ms. Flores agreed to pay Mr. Andalman
twenty-five percent of all retroactive benefits to which she
might become entitled. [ECF No. 24-1]. In his previous motion
for attorney's fees pursuant to the Equal Access to
Justice Act (“EAJA”), Mr. Andalman submitted an
itemized report documenting the 36.60 hours he expended
before this Court in Ms. Flores's case. [ECF No. 19-2].
Notably, the 36.60 hours worked included time spent on
clerical and administrative tasks, totaling 8.6 hours.
See Id. (itemizing clerical tasks, such as drafting
and/or filing cover letters, a civil cover sheet, a
three-page form complaint, summons, a consent to proceed
before a magistrate form, and a consent motion for
extension). As an initial matter, “[t]asks of a
clerical nature are not compensable as attorney's
fees.” Gates v. Barnhart, 325 F.Supp.2d 1342,
1348 (M.D. Fla. 2002) (quoting Mobley v. Apfel, 104
F.Supp.2d 1357, 1360 (M.D. Fla. 2000)) (denying compensation
for mailing a complaint and summons); see also Magwood v.
Astrue, 594 F.Supp.2d 557, 563 (E.D. Pa. 2009) (finding
that clerical tasks should be excluded from the total fee
under the EAJA); Chapman v. Astrue, 2:08CV00040,
2009 WL 3764009, at *1 (W.D. Va. Nov. 9, 2009) (finding
“purely clerical tasks are ordinarily a part of a law
office's overhead and should not be compensated for at
all.”). Social Security plaintiffs in this district
have access to a form complaint, with just four blank spaces
requiring insertion of (1) the place plaintiff resides, (2)
the plaintiff's name, (3) the type of benefits that were
denied, and (4) the date of the final administrative
decision. Although Mr. Andalman seems to have retyped the
form complaint instead of simply filling in the blanks, the
complaint in the instant case includes limited factual
information, no legal analysis, and could be completed by an
administrative employee in a matter of minutes. [ECF No. 1];
see Watkins v. Comm'r, Soc. Sec. Admin., Civil
No. SAG-16-602, 2017 WL 1185190, at *1 (D. Md. Mar. 28,
2017). Similarly, the Plaintiff's General Consent to
Proceed Before a United States Magistrate Judge and Consent
Motion for Extension of Time and Amendment of Scheduling
Order are simple, routine court filings that consist of
generic language with no factual or legal analysis. [ECF Nos.
5, 12]; see King v. Colvin, Civil Case No.
SAG-08-2382, 2014 WL 4388381, at *3 (discounting time entries
related to receiving and reviewing consent motions for
extensions of time). In total, then, Mr. Andalman's firm
expended 28 hours of attorney time on Ms. Flores's case
before this Court. If Mr. Andalman receives the full amount
of fees he requests, his fee for representation before this
Court will effectively total $2, 117.00 per hour. Mr.
Andalman must therefore show that an effective rate of $2,
117.00 per hour is reasonable for the services he rendered.
See Gisbrecht, 535 U.S. at 807.
Mr. Andalman's requested fee is over four times the top
hourly rate that is presumptively reasonable for attorneys of
his experience level, pursuant to the fee guidelines appended
to the Local Rules of this Court. Although it is customary in
Social Security cases for courts to approve significantly
higher rates, Mr. Andalman's requested rate far exceeds
the typical rate awarded by courts in the Fourth Circuit for
attorney's fees in successful Social Security appeals.
See, e.g., Melvin v. Colvin, No.
5:10-CV-160-FL, 2013 WL 3340490 (E.D. N.C. July 2, 2013)
(approving contingency fee agreement with hourly rate of $1,
043.70); Claypool v. Barnhart, 294 F.Supp.2d 829,
833 (S.D. W.Va. 2003) (approving contingency fee agreement
with hourly rate of $1, 433.12); Lehman v. Colvin,
Civil No. SAG-12-2160 (D. Md. July 7, 2016) (unpublished)
(approving contingency fee agreement with hourly rate of $1,
028.14). While this Court notes Mr. Andalman's effective
performance and the substantial past-due benefit award to his
client, Mr. Andalman's request for $59, 303.00 for 28
hours in this case would result in a windfall. Instead, this
Court finds that an award of $39, 900.00, amounting to an
hourly rate of $1, 425.00, or triple the hourly rate under
the fee guidelines for an attorney of like experience, would
adequately compensate Mr. Andalman for the time that he spent
on this case in this Court.
reasons set forth herein, this Court GRANTS in part and
DENIES in part Mr. Andalman's motion for attorney's
fees, [ECF No. 24]. This Court will award Mr. Andalman
attorney's fees totaling $39, 900.00. Mr. Andalman is
directed to reimburse to Ms. Flores the $5, 494.21 in fees he
received pursuant to the EAJA.
the informal nature of this letter, it should be flagged as
an opinion. An implementing order follows.
Stephanie A. Gallagher United States Magistrate Judge.
 Currently, the position of
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration is vacant,
and most duties are fulfilled by Nancy A. Berryhill, Deputy
Commissioner for Operations, performing the duties and
functions not reserved to the Commissioner of Social
 In his motion, Mr. Andalman attached a
“detailed, contemporaneous record of the time spent by
claimant's counsel on behalf of” Ms. Flores, which
shows 150.20 hours worked by Mr. Andalman, fellow attorneys,
and paralegals at the administrative level. [ECF No. 24-4
¶ 1]. This Court, however, is “without
jurisdiction to decree compensation for professional
representation at the administrative level, because the
[Agency] alone is empowered to make awards for services
rendered in agency proceedings.” Mudd v.
Barnhart, 418 F.3d 424, 427 (4th Cir. 2005) (internal
quotation marks and citations omitted). Thus, this Court is
limited to determining a ...