before the Secretary. Identical language in another Title of the Act has been held to authorize the Secretary to prescribe maximum fees for services in the administrative process and "not [to] authorize the Secretary to exercise any function with respect to fees for services in the courts." Reid v. Heckler, 735 F.2d at 762.
The Sixth Circuit approach of one tribunal awarding fees furthers several policies: simplicity and clarity in application, assurance that the aggregate fee does not exceed the statutory maximum, and elimination of redundancy. However, the language of the statute suggests that Congress intended to fulfill another policy: that each forum is in the best position to assess the value of counsel's services to the client as it observed those services in the proceedings before it.
For the foregoing reason this Court concludes that it is without authorization to award fees for services before the Social Security Administration and can consider only the services before it.
The Social Security Act authorizes the court to award a reasonable fee for services before the court, not to exceed twenty-five percent (25%) of the past-due benefits. 42 U.S.C. § 406(b)(1). Routine approval of the statutory maximum should be avoided in all cases. Redden v. Celebrezze, 370 F.2d 373, 376 (4th Cir. 1966).
In general, the reasonableness of court-awarded attorney's fees is determined under the criteria set forth in Lindy Bros. Bldrs., Inc. v. American Radiator & Standard Sanitary Corp., 487 F.2d 161 (3d Cir. 1973) and its progeny. Lindy requires consideration of the number of hours that should reasonably have been devoted to the case, a reasonable hourly rate, the contingent nature of the case and the quality of services. See In re: Fine Paper Antitrust Litigation, 751 F.2d 603 (3d Cir. 1984). See also 20 C.F.R. § 404.1725(b) for factors considered by the Secretary when evaluating a request for approval of a fee for services before her.
The fee petition must accurately itemize the hours spent on specific activities. Lewis v. Secretary HHS, 707 F.2d 246 (6th Cir. 1983); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 11. ("The signature of an attorney . . . constitutes a certificate by him that he has read the . . . motion, . . .; that to the best of his knowledge, information, and belief formed after reasonable inquiry it is well grounded in fact . . ."). The time spent preparing the fee petition does not benefit the claimant and cannot be compensated. Whitt v. Califano, 601 F.2d 160, 161 n.2 (4th Cir. 1979). Hourly billing rates for different services and information from which a contingency factor can be determined must also be provided.
Because the fee petitions submitted do not provide a basis for the required Lindy determination, they will be denied without prejudice and counsel may file amended fee petitions.
It may be that counsel representing successful claimants in social security disability cases should be awarded a straight twenty-five (25%) of the past-due benefits for services before the agency and the court. That decision, however, must come from Congress and not this Court.
Appropriate orders will be entered.