United States District Court, D. Maryland
Commissioner, Social Security Administration;
K. Murahari, 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 Plaintiff before this Court. ECF 25. In response, the
Social Security Administration (“SSA”) asked this
Court to consider whether Mr. Murahari's requested amount
constitutes a reasonable fee. ECF 26. No. hearing is
necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For the
reasons set forth below, Mr. Murahari's motion for
attorney's fees is GRANTED.
November 22, 2016, this Court awarded Mr. Murahari $5, 104.06
for 28.25 hours worked on Plaintiff's case in federal
court, pursuant to the Equal Access to Justice Act
(“EAJA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2412. ECF 22, 24.
Plaintiff subsequently received an Award Notice, in which he
was awarded $55, 376.00 in past due benefits. ECF 25-3. On
January 16, 2019, Mr. Murahari filed a Line in this Court,
seeking $7, 844.00 in attorney's fees. ECF 25. Mr.
Murahari has agreed to reimburse Plaintiff in the amount of
fees previously received. ECF 22, 25; 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
achieved.” Id. at 808. 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. (quoting
Rodriquez v. Bowen, 865 F.2d 739, 746-47 (6th Cir.
1989). Courts may require the attorney to provide a record of
hours spent working on the case and the attorney's
typical hourly billing charge. Id.
Mr. Murahari and Plaintiff entered into a contingent fee
agreement, by which Plaintiff agreed to pay Mr. Murahari
twenty-five percent of all retroactive benefits to which he
might become entitled. ECF 22-3. In his previous motion for
attorney's fees pursuant to the EAJA, Mr. Murahari
submitted an itemized report documenting the 28.25 chargeable
hours he expended before this Court in Plaintiff's case.
ECF 22-7 (listing a total of 29.10 hours, 0.85 of which were
spent on clerical and administrative tasks marked “NO
CHARGE”). If Mr. Murahari receives the full amount of
fees he requests, his fee for representation before this
Court will effectively total $277.66 per hour. Mr. Murahari
must therefore show that an effective rate of $277.66 per
hour is reasonable for the services he rendered. See
Gisbrecht, 535 U.S. at 807.
Mr. Murahari's requested fee is less than his typical
hourly billing rate of $300, ECF 22-6, which, coincidentally,
is also 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. Courts in the Fourth Circuit have approved
contingency fee agreements that produce much higher hourly
rates 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, 043.92);
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. Comm'r, Soc. Sec.
Admin., Civil No. SAG-10-2160 (D. Md. July 7, 2016)
(unpublished) (approving contingency fee agreement with
hourly rate of $1, 028.14). Thus, the requested fee in this
case is reasonable and should be approved.
reasons set forth herein, this Court GRANTS Mr.
Murahari's Line seeking attorney's fees, ECF 25. This
Court will award Mr. Murahari attorney's fees totaling
$7, 844.00. Mr. Murahari is directed to reimburse to
Plaintiff the 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
 Although they do not govern Social
Security cases, the Local Rules prescribe guidelines for
determining attorney's fees in certain cases, which are
instructive in evaluating the reasonableness of the effective
hourly rate in this case. See Loc. R. App. B (D. Md.
2018). Currently, Mr. Murahari has seven (7) years of
experience, ECF 22-6, and the presumptively reasonable hourly
rate for attorneys admitted to the bar ...