Justices reject issue-exhaustion requirement for Social Security claimants

Justices decisively reject imposing issue exhaustion on Social Security claimants

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From Ronald Mann

at 11:04 am

The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday against the federal government and in favor of individuals applying for social security benefits on a procedural issue relating to administrative “exhaustion requirements”. Carr v Saul examined whether social security applicants not only need to go through the administrative process before seeking relief in court, but also whether they need to raise any issues they will raise in court with the agency. The court ruled 9-0 that applicants do not need to address all of their specific questions to the agency. Judge Sonia Sotomayor wrote the opinion for the court. Judges Clarence Thomas and Stephen Breyer submitted concurring opinions.

The case is notable because the particular problem that the applicants failed to raise before the agency was the argument that the agency’s judges were appointed in violation of the constitutional appointment clause – an argument that everyone agrees with is correct. Refusal to admit this argument would therefore not have given the applicants an appeal for the admittedly unconstitutional appointment of administrative judges who had denied their social security claims.

Sotomayor’s opinion explains that rules of exhaustion like the one the government was pursuing here are typically “creatures of law or regulation.” In the absence of any applicable law or regulation in this case, the question of whether the court should impose a court-created requirement was and the court declined, stating that in a proceeding that is “inquisitorial” those requirements were relative Make little sense – when the administrative judge has a responsibility to help the claimant determine the relief to which the claimant is entitled. In the end, “the inquisitorial characteristics of [Social Security Administration administrative law judge] The procedure, the constitutional nature of the petitioners’ claims and the unavailability of legal remedies make it clear that “a requirement to exhaust the problem is inappropriate,” wrote Sotomayor.

Check back soon for an in-depth analysis of the opinion.

Posted in Featured, Merits Cases

Recommended citation:
Ronald Mann, Judges Oppose Exhaustion Problems Requirement for Social Security Applicants,
SCOTUSblog (April 22, 2021, 11:04 a.m.), https://www.scotusblog.com/2021/04/justices-reject-issue-exhaustion-requirement-for-social-security-claimants/