Brett Stuff
Judging the Judges
Term Year: 2018


Richard Allen Culbertson, Petitioner
Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security

We have a metal plate, brass, likely from a door lock, on a black line of tar, in the middle of the road, well, it is a close up, so who knows where on the grey aging asphalt it is, probably kicked to the side, anyhow, it looks sort of mannish

Summary Analysis

DATE: 2019-01-08
DOCKET: 17-773
NAME: Richard Allen Culbertson, Petitioner v. Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security

   AUTHOR: Thomas
   JOINING: Roberts, Ginsburg, Breyer, Alito, Sotomayor, Kagan, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh
   GOOD: No

Case Commentary

If a person is denied Social Security Benefits, they may file an Administrative Appeal.

If the Administrative Appeal is unsuccessful, a Lawsuit may be filed.

There is no guarantee any Lawsuit will be successful.

Previously, it was understood that the fees a Lawyer could charge for Both the Appeal and Lawsuit (together) were capped at 25%.

The Supreme Court has now held that Legal Fees should be capped at 25% Each, which translates as 50% for Both.

As The Court was unanimous in its decision and the Social Security Administration put up no defence (or so I assume, as the case was argued amicus curiae, which basically means by court appointed representation), I can only assume the underlying legalities were obvious and quite mundane.

Still, I do not find the decision to be a Good one.

Shall I rant about Lawyers? No. Why bother? Instead, let it simply be understood that much like any other Managerial Structure or Political Institution, Lawyers are waste. They are not part of the Output of Society or The Moral Good. Rather, they are part of what makes it possible for a Society to have Output and for me to spend my time talking about The Moral Good. They are a necessary Evil.

But Evil, nonetheless.

And this decision increases the power of Evil, so I am against it.

After all, from this day forward, rather than charging 25% for Both, any Competent Lawyer (or is this an oxymoron) will now charge 25% for Each; which in the end, means effected Beneficiaries will receive a smaller percentage of any Benefit.

Though, ironically, as much as I hate The System. The System is. And one can argue how increasing the fee structure (or changing its interpretation, if one wants to get technical about it) will encourage more Lawyers to work on more edge cases; and as such, more Social Security Benefits will be distributed to a greater number of worthy individuals, who would not otherwise be served.

Got it?

It is quite possible the Social Security Administration denies benefits too quickly, which they then uphold on Administrative Appeal... as why would they not? I mean, they are the ones who decided to deny (or grant) any Benefit in the first place. But faced with Lawyers who are now more motivated to go to court, the Social Security Administration may be more inclined to rethink its position during Administrative Appeal, lest they incur needless court expenses (for their lawyers, if the case goes to trial), as well.

{Note: any petitioner must pay their own lawyers. So, it's not like the Social Security Administration suffers Double Legal-Fee Jeopardy.}

In the Real World, this might be efficient and effective. But it really just goes to show the limitations of the Real World.

I mean, that there needs to be a Law, which regulates the fees a Lawyer may charge and that the Social Security Administration may (or must, I could not tell you which) withhold from payments to Beneficiaries whenever a Social Security Administration decision is contested is a travesty (yeah, I think that's the right word) of justice.
'We could fix it?'
'No. You're thinking like a first year Senatorial Newbie.'
'I am.'
'Yep. We'll leave The System as broken as ever. But incentivize lawyers to work the change for us.'
'Is incentivize even a word.'
'You're not going to get re-elected, are you?'

Now, one could take The Supreme Court's side in all this... something that it seems I am blessed unlikely to do, as where is the fun in that? Or one can wonder why, out of all the cases Petitioning for Review, the Supreme Court chose this case?

Now, I don't know.

But I do know it is a weenie case.

And I know (or at least, am willing to guess) that if one (meaning The Supreme Court) wanted to send the Social Security Administration a message (and/or a Decisional Warning Shot Across the Bow), there are better cases out there to review. So, like, The Supreme Court hand-picks its cases. So, it could have selected (and overturned) a different class of Denied Benefits Claims... one that the Social Security Administration actually cares about. Because in this particular instance, the Social Security Administration is not effected in the least by The Supreme Court's decision.
            before   after
Claimant       25%     50%
Lawyer         75%     50%
Cost to SS    100%    100%
So, it would have been easy (or at least, possible) to chose a case in which some plaintiff was requesting Punitive Damages against the Social Security Administration for abusive practices and then slamming the Social Security Administration... Hard!

Therefore, although The Supreme Court may well be right in principle (as to the Legal Principles involved, that is) its decision here falls short of the ideal, as it does not move Society in the direction of The Moral Good... whatever in blazes that might mean.

Thus, is this case Worthy of The Court's time?

Clearly, No!

And is this a good decision that moves Society forward?

Also, a No!

Judging the Judges

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End of Discussion.

End of Debate.

© copyright 2019 Brett Paufler
A Personal Opinion/Editorial