Civil rights group files joint brief in Social Security case

  • Civil rights group files joint brief in Social Security case

WASHINGTON – A non-profit civil rights group and a nonpartisan think tank have filed a joint brief in a Social Security case with the U.S. Supreme Court.

The New Civil Liberties Alliance and the Cato Institute filed the brief in the consolidated cases of Willie Earl Carr, et al. v. Andrew M. Saul, Commissioner of Social Security and John J. Davis, et al. v. Andrew M. Saul, Commissioner of Social Security, the NCLA said in a news release.

The case centers on whether people who are seeking Social Security disability benefits must exhaust constitutional challenges to their benefits determinations before an administrative law judge at the Social Security Administration, in order to obtain judicial review on that issue in an appeal to federal court.

The petitioners did not challenge the constitutionality of their administrative law judges’ appointments during their administrative hearings, but they each raised a constitutional challenge on appeal in district court, according to the news release. The Eighth and Tenth U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals rejected those challenges, ruling that “issue exhaustion” forbids a challenge that was not first raised before the administrative judge.

Federal law does not bar Social Security claimants from raising a claim in federal court that they did not first raise before a Social Security judge, the NCLA said. Nonetheless, the Social Security Administration is asking the Supreme Court to adopt a rule forfeiting claimants’ constitutional rights for “prudential” reasons.

“Like other prudential rules, judge-made exhaustion is supposed to promote judicial efficiency, provide courts and litigants the benefits of an agency’s expertise, and compile a record for judicial review,” the NCLA said. “But the lower courts’ refusal to consider the petitioners’ Appointments Clause claims did not advance any of those purposes.”

The NCLA and the CATO Institute asked the Supreme Court to reverse the appellate courts and return the cases to the lower courts for consideration.