Federal Courts Law Review

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FEDERAL COURTS LAW REVIEW -- 2007 Fed. Cts. L. Rev. 3

SUBSTANTIAL EVIDENCE REVIEW IN SOCIAL SECURITY CASES AS AN ISSUE OF FACT

By Morton Denlow

Abstract

A person denied disability benefits by the Social Security Administration may bring a district court case seeking review of the administrative decision. A party unhappy with that result may appeal to the courts of appeals, where a de novo review of the administrative record is performed. This needless duplication is inefficient and unnecessary.

De novo review by courts of appeals has been justified on the premise that only questions of law are presented. In this article, Judge Morton Denlow discusses the origins of this belief and concludes that it is founded on a false understanding of the disability review process and lacks critical analysis. Judge Denlow argues that this process should be treated as an issue of fact subject to a clearly erroneous standard of review in the courts of appeals.

The article also reflects the results of a survey answered by nearly half of the United States Magistrate Judges. Based on the survey results and his own experience, Judge Denlow offers several practical suggestions for processing these important cases.

Download this article in PDF format.