United States District Court, D. Maryland
Commissioner, Social Security Administration
Lawrence P. Demuth, Esq. Mignini, Raab & Demuth, LLP
Theodore A. Melanson, Esq. Mignini, Raab & Demuth, LLP
Rigney, Esq. Social Security Administration
P. GESNER CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
pending is Lawrence P. Demuth's Amended Motion for
Attorney's Fees (“Motion”) pursuant to the
Social Security Act (“Act”), 42 U.S.C. §
406(b), which seeks fees for counsel's representation of
plaintiff before this court. (ECF No. 36). In response,
defendant takes no position on plaintiff's Motion, but
requests that the court consider whether Mr. Demuth's
requested amount constitutes a reasonable fee. (ECF No. 37).
I have reviewed the pleadings and the record in this case and
find that no hearing is necessary. Loc. R. 105.6. For the
reasons noted below, Mr. Demuth's Motion is GRANTED.
March 19, 2018, this court awarded Mr. Demuth $5, 148.80 for
26.00 hours worked on plaintiff's case in federal court,
pursuant to the Equal Access to Justice Act
(“EAJA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2412. (ECF Nos. 32-1,
34). Plaintiff was subsequently awarded $28, 962.00 in
past-due benefits. (ECF No. 36). The Social Security
Administration (“SSA”) withheld twenty-five
percent of plaintiff's past-due benefits, amounting to
$7, 240.50. Id. On February 26, 2019, Mr. Demuth
filed an Amended Motion for Attorney's Fees, seeking
attorney's fees in the amount of $7, 240.50, less $5,
905.00 already paid in administrative fees, for a total of
$1, 335.50. Id. As the $5, 148.80 EAJA award was
garnished from plaintiff and not collected by Mr. Demuth, any
award of attorney's fees need not be reduced by the EAJA
amount. (ECF No. 36); 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).
SSA authorizes a reasonable fee for successful representation
before this court, not to exceed twenty-five percent of a
claimant's total past-due benefits.” Dewain S.
v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., Civil No. SAG-17-716,
2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5281 at *2 (D. Md. June 28, 2017
(citing 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.'”
Id. (quoting 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.
(quoting Gisbrecht, 535 U.S. 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
Mr. Demuth and plaintiff entered into a contingent fee
arrangement and plaintiff agreed that, if his claim was
allowed, “the fee for services rendered in this case
will be Twenty-Five Percent (25%) of all retroactive
benefits” to which plaintiff may become entitled. (ECF
No. 32-5). In his previous Motion for Attorney's Fees
Pursuant to the EJEA (ECF No. 32), Mr. Demuth submitted an
itemized report documenting the 26.00 billed
hours he expended before this court in
plaintiff's case. (ECF No. 32-7). If the court awards Mr.
Demuth the full amount of fees requested, his fee for
representation before this court will effectively total
$278.48 per hour. Accordingly, Mr. Demuth must establish that
an effective rate of $278.48 per hour is reasonable for the
services he rendered. See Gisbrecht, 535 U.S. at
effective rate is less than Mr. Demuth's typical hourly
billing rate of $350. (ECF No. 32-6 at 2). It is also
squarely within the range of hourly rates that are
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.”
Terri H. v. Comm'r, Soc. Sec. Admin, Civil No.
SAG-16-3106, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17095 at *3-4 (D. Md. Feb.
4, 2019) (collecting cases). Notably, in Terri H.,
the court found that an effective rate of $277.66 per hour
was reasonable when the fee was less than the typical hourly
billing rate of $300 and within the range of presumptively
reasonable hourly rates. Id. at *3. Similarly, here,
after consideration of factors such as “the overall
complexity of the case, the lawyering skills necessary to
handle it effectively, the risks involved, and the
significance of the result achieved in district court,
” (ECF No. 37 at 2 (citing Mudd v. Barnhart,
418 F.3d 424, 428 (4th Cir. 2005)), I find that the requested
fee is reasonable and should be approved.
reasons noted above, Mr. Demuth's Motion (ECF No. 36) is
GRANTED and Mr. Demuth is awarded attorney's fees
totaling $1, 335.50.
the informal nature of this letter, it will constitute an
Order of the court and will be docketed accordingly. An
implementing order follows.