A class action lawsuit was filed on April 12, 2011 alleging bias against disability applicants. The Complaint was filed against the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) in Queens, New York. The plaintiffs’ claims are based on infringement of their right to a complete and fair hearing in front of an unbiased judge, violating the Social Security Act, the Administrative Procedure Act, and the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution.
The complaint identifies the Chief administrative law judge (ALJ) for the Queens office along with four other ALJs. The class of plaintiffs includes Social Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability (SSD) claimants who received unfavorable decisions from the identified ALJs and claimants that will be assigned to the ALJs. The claims are based on reviews of opinions issued by the five judges. The Complaint alleges that the judges have a high rate of denial, fail to comply with the law and develop the record, and made incorrect determinations of credibility. The Complaint describes the lawsuit as a final resort after the Commissioner of Social Security failed to take action.
Additionally, the Complaint notes the fact that ALJs have insufficient accountability to the public. Each Office’s Chief ALJ, along with the Regional Chief ALJ, takes part in investigations of claims of misconduct. In the present case, the Queens Office’s Chief ALJ is one of the accused ALJs, meaning he would take part in an investigation of his own misconduct. The plaintiffs claim that Court intervention is necessary to prevent this conflict of interest and provide a remedy for plaintiffs harmed by biased ALJs.
Class Action Alleges Bias of Five ALJs, 33 NOSSCR Social Security Forum 3 (April 2011).