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Barry v. Bowen

825 F.2d 1324 (1987)

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Barry v. Bowen

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

825 F.2d 1324 (1987)

Facts

In 1981, The Social Security Administration (SSA) implemented the Bellmon Review Program for reviewing decisions rendered by administrative-law judges (ALJ) following hearings. The program was created by internal rule, without the notice and comment before adoption required by the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), in response to Congress’s directive for the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Otis Bowen (plaintiff), to implement such a program. The program sought to review a prescribed percentage of disability cases using the secretary’s own motion review to review cases falling in one of four categories: a national random sample of cases; allowance decisions of new ALJs; decisions referred by the SSA’s Office of Disability Operations; and decisions of ALJs having high allowance rates. When the program began, the administration targeted ALJs with allowance rates of 66.66 percent or higher; it later expanded its target to include ALJs on the basis of their reversal rates. George Barry (defendant) was awarded supplemental security income benefits following a hearing, and his decision was targeted, among others, because of his ALJ’s allowance rate. The appeals council reviewed Barry’s case on its own motion and reversed the ALJ’s decision, making it the final decision of the secretary. Barry sought judicial review of the appeal council’s decision, claiming that the review program denied him due process. A United States district court ruled in favor of Barry, finding that the review program put pressure on ALJs to reduce their allowance rates, thus depriving claimants of impartial judges. Barry was also awarded attorney’s fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) because the secretary’s position was not substantially justified. The secretary appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Schroeder, J.)

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