United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division
WILL R. HOSKINS, JR. PLAINTIFF
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION DEFENDANT
P. JORDAN III, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
S. Ratliff, counsel for Plaintiff Will R. Hoskins, Jr., asks
the Court to award her $19, 505.50 in attorney's fees
under 42 U.S.C. § 406(b)(1)(A). Mot. . The
Commissioner responded, “tak[ing] no legal position as
to the appropriateness or reasonableness of counsel's
request” but observing that “the requested fee
does not appear to be unreasonable.” Def.'s Resp.
 at 1. Because the Court finds the fee request
reasonable, Ratliff's motion is granted.
Facts and Procedural History
retained Ratliff's firm “to represent him in a
claim for Social Security Disability [b]enefits . . . and
Supplemental Security Income benefits.” Mem.  at 1.
Pursuant to a series of employment agreements, Hoskins agreed
that if he prevailed “at any step after [his] case has
been to the Appeals Council for the first time, ” then
he would pay his attorney “25% of the past-due benefits
due [him] and [his] family resulting from [his]
claim(s).” Agreements [20-3] at 2 (CM/ECF pagination).
first filed for disability benefits on June 11, 2009. The
application was denied initially and on reconsideration, and
Hoskins sought a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”). Following a June 2010 hearing, the ALJ
issued an unfavorable decision, which Hoskins appealed to the
Appeals Council. The Appeals Council denied Hoskins's
request for review, and Hoskins filed his first lawsuit
against the Commissioner in this Court on August 30, 2011. On
May 11, 2012, the Court entered an Agreed Order of Remand,
sending the case back to the Commissioner for further
remand, the Appeals Council remanded the case to the ALJ, who
held a second hearing in January 2013. The ALJ issued another
unfavorable decision, and Hoskins appealed. In February 2014,
the Appeals Council again remanded the case, which was
reassigned to a new ALJ, who held a third hearing in June
2014. That ALJ issued a partially favorable decision in
January 2015, and Hoskins filed this lawsuit on March 30,
2015. On August 9, 2016, the Court remanded the case to the
Commissioner for further proceedings. Having successfully
prevailed in this Court, Hoskins sought  and was awarded
 $4, 124.50 in fees and expenses under the Equal Access
to Justice Act (“EAJA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2412.
remand to the Commissioner, a new ALJ held a fourth hearing
in February 2017 and “issued a fully favorable decision
dated February 27, 2017, finding . . . Hoskins disabled . . .
since October 22, 2010, the amended alleged onset date of
disability.” Mem.  at 3. Ratliff now seeks fees of
$19, 505.50, representing 25% of Hoskins's past-due
benefits less $6, 000.00 that has already been remitted to
her directly from the Social Security Administration.
seeks an award of fees under 42 U.S.C. § 406(b)(1)(A),
Whenever a court renders a judgment favorable to a claimant
under this subchapter who was represented before the court by
an attorney, the court may determine and allow as part of its
judgment a reasonable fee for such representation, not in
excess of 25 percent of the total of the past-due benefits to
which the claimant is entitled by reason of such judgment,
and the Commissioner of Social Security may . . . certify the
amount of such fee for payment to such attorney out of, and
not in addition to, the amount of such past-due benefits. In
case of any such judgment, no other fee may be payable or
certified for payment for such representation except as
provided in this paragraph.
Supreme Court has explained that § 406(b) is not meant
to “displace contingent-fee arrangements as the primary
means by which fees are set for successfully representing
Social Security benefits claimants.” Gisbrecht v.
Barnhart, 535 U.S. 789, 807 (2002). Instead,
“§ 406(b) calls for court review of such
arrangements as an independent check, to assure that they
yield reasonable results in particular cases.”
assessing the reasonableness of a § 406(b) award, the
Court may consider “additional factors not explicitly
proffered in Gisbrecht [such as] risk of loss in the
representation, experience of the attorney, percentage of the
past-due benefits the fee constitutes, value of the case to
[the] claimant, degree of difficulty, and whether the client
consents to the requested fee.” Brannen v.
Barnhart, No. 1:99-CV-325, 2004 WL 1737443, at *5 (E.D.
Tex. July 22, 2004), quoted in Jeter v. Astrue, 622
F.3d 371, 382 (5th Cir. 2010). Finally, in cases such as this
one, where fees are sought under this section and the EAJA,
“[f]ee awards may be made under both prescriptions, but
the claimant's attorney must ‘refun[d] to the
claimant the amount of the smaller fee.'”
Gisbrecht, 535 U.S. at 796 (quoting Act of Aug. 5,
1985, Pub. L. 99-80, §3, 99 Stat. 186).
can be no doubt that Ratliff obtained a favorable result for
Hoskins under § 406(b). See Jackson v. Astrue,
705 F.3d 527, 530 (5th Cir. 2013) (concluding “that
§ 406(b) fees are authorized in cases where an attorney
obtains a favorable decision on remand”). And Ratliff
and Hoskins agreed to a fee award of 25% of past-due benefits
in the event of a favorable outcome. So the question is
whether the award that agreement yields is reasonable.
Applying the factors articulated in Brannen, the
Court concludes that it is.
with the risk of loss, “the Fifth Circuit and district
courts in this Circuit have acknowledged the high risk of
loss inherent in Social Security appeals.” Keel v.
Berryhill, No. 3:15-CV-183, 2018 WL 5839676, at *2 (N.D.
Miss. Nov. 7, 2018) (citing Jeter, 622 F.3d at 379
& n.9). In her memorandum, Ratliff shows that she is an
experienced Social Security attorney who dedicated
significant time and effort to Hoskins's case. Mem. 
at 10-11. The requested fee does not exceed the statutory cap
of 25% of past-due benefits-a rate to which Hoskins agreed.
As to the value of the case to Hoskins, Ratliff's work
resulted in a past-due award of over $100, 000, and monthly
benefits of $1, 309 beginning in January 2018. The value of
the case to Hoskins-following denial of his claim at three