Parrish v. Commissioner SSA

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Attorney Fees
  • Date Filed: 11-05-2012
  • Case #: 11-35332
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Opinion by Circuit Judge Ikuta; Circuit Judges Tashima and Tallman.
  • Full Text Opinion

For the purposes of the Equal Access to Justice Act savings provision (“EAJA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2412, a court properly offsets all EAJA attorney's fee awards, against all Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 406(b) awards, because an attorney who represents, at all stages, a claimant for past-due Social Security benefits has “receive[d] fees for the same work.”

At the conclusion of Sherry Parish’s (“Parrish”) second appeal, the district court found the ALJ erred and remanded to the agency to calculate and award Parrish past-due Social Security benefits. Pursuant to the Equal Access to Justice Act (“EAJA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2412, the court granted Parrish $5000 in fee awards for the first appeal and $6,575 for the second appeal. Parrish’s attorney, Tim Wilborn (“Attorney”), the real party of interest here, filed for fees under the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 406(b), totaling $2,484.89 ($9,059.89 (25 percent of past-due benefits) minus the second EAJA award). The district court declined to award any further fees, citing Kopulos v. Barnhart, because the EAJA awards ($11,575) exceeded the § 460(b) awards ($9,059.89). Attorney appealed, arguing the fee awards were not for the “same work.” The Ninth Circuit explained that an attorney can recover fees in a Social Security case in two ways: (1) §406(b) provides the court may grant the attorney reasonable amounts (up to 25 percent of a past-due benefits award) for all work leading to the favorable result, including work on prior appeals; (2) EAJA requires that unless the government’s position was “substantially justified,” the government must pay the attorney of a prevailing party, fees based on time and hourly rate, and, if that award overlaps with a § 406(b) award for the “same work,” the attorney must refund the smaller of the two to the claimant. The Ninth Circuit held that because all of Attorney’s awards under EAJA and § 460(b) were for work on the same claim, the district court did not err by including the first EAJA award in offsetting Attorney’s § 460(b) award. AFFIRMED.

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