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| | |-+  Lost in federal court- what to do??
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Topic: Lost in federal court- what to do??  (Read 1845 times)
onemoretime26
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« on: March 20, 2017, 02:16:55 AM »

Hi everyone,

I've lurked around for a long time but never posted before. I really need some help or advice and I don't know where to turn. A little background on my case. I was denied by the ALJ (of course I got stuck with the one who has the lowest approval rating in my area). After I was denied, my lawyer dropped the case stating that he doesn't do Appeals Council issues. I looked and looked for a new lawyer, but none would take a case at that stage that they hadn't originally started. So I ended up writing my appeal myself. Miracle of all miracles, the AP remanded the case back to the same ALJ. I managed to find another lawyer to represent me at the hearing which was a disaster. Of course this ALJ denied me again. I really think that it was out of spite. I mean he literally did the OPPOSITE of several of the AP recommendations. But that's neither here nor there at this point. Anyway, the new lawyer did exactly the same thing to me as the first lawyer. I figured it wasn't that big of a deal since I'd written an appeal before and went ahead and did the same thing. This time the Appeals Council chose not to even review my case. The next step was to file in Federal.

Again, I searched and searched for a lawyer to take a case at that stage and could not find one even willing to look at my case. Most would say that they don't do cases at that level. The rest would say that they do, but only cases that they originated. I had to file the initial paperwork myself in order to preserve the date. And I also filed the paperwork to get the fees waived. Well, one day when trying to figure out the next step, I posted a question on AVVO. One of the attorney's who responded to my question indicated that she might be able to help with my case. She was like a God send! This was the day before something was due in court and I had no idea how to do it or what I was doing. I was literally on the phone with her at 11 o clock at night trying to get things together. She was at the courthouse for me the very next day filing a notice of appearance to act as council and she also asked for an extension so that she could familiarize herself with the case. It was like a ton of bricks had been lifted from my shoulders.

Fast forward to the beginning of this month. The initial brief was due. I got an email from her saying to call her. I did but couldn't get a hold of her. Finally about a week later, I get an email from her stating that she's been in the hospital having grand mal seizures (never had them before) the doctors don't know what's wrong and she is unable to work. She had already filed to be removed from the case. Within another day or so I got notice from the court that I have until 3/27 to either find new counsel or declare that I am representing myself and until 4/26 to file the brief. It also says that no further extensions will be granted. Since then I have been contacting every lawyer I can find - at this point I've called or emailed (or both) over 25 lawyers. Most don't even have to courtesy to respond. The few that have all say they don't do federal court. I'm devastated and lost at this point. I have NO IDEA how to work my way through the federal court system. I have no clue what this brief is even supposed to say or is supposed to look like. I feel terrible for my lawyer and for all of the problems that she's having right now, but I also feel a bit upset that I was left high and dry with nowhere to turn. I asked her for some recommendations and she came up with a few- but all people that I had already contacted. Does anyone have any idea where I can get any information on how to navigate filing for federal? Something that might show examples of briefs or what the process is? A book, a website? ANYTHING? At this point I'm ready to give up but at the same time I know I felt like that when I filed my appeal to the appeals council and I won (the first time). I'm not ready to just walk away from what would now be a six figure back payment. I do have another case for SSI since my date of last insured was up several years ago. That SSI would only be about half of what I would get from SSD. I'm just so lost and confused at this point. The lawyer doing my SSI case has told me that she could try and help me if I have questions about the federal filing etc. but she is out of state and whenever I have a question she always says "sorry I don't know the federal court rules for that".
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onemoretime26
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« Reply #1 on: March 20, 2017, 02:24:55 AM »

I think my title is misleading after reading it but I can't figure out how to edit....I haven't LOST in federal court....I meant to say that I'm feeling lost in federal court as in I don't know what to do! ;-)
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Helper
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« Reply #2 on: March 20, 2017, 06:13:12 AM »

Unfortunately, Federal cases are complex & difficult & are near impossible (particularly for someone who has disabilities of a severity that they are unable to work) for a non-lawyer to file all the appropriate motions on their own.  The win rate of SSA cases in Federal court even with a lawyer is not great either.

Have you tried looking up other SSA cases in the Federal Court case search & viewing their case documents  to use as a guide.

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Age at Application: 26 age of onset (but I did not apply until 28)
Date Applied: August 2011
First Approval/Denial Date: November 2011
Additional Info: I was fortunate to be approved on my initial application due to extensive medical records (12+ doctors) & documentation of unsuccessful work attempts even with significant accommodations
chucky123
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« Reply #3 on: March 20, 2017, 07:52:20 AM »

Call a hundred lawyers if you have to. You have all day. Don't give up.
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Lit Love
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« Reply #4 on: March 20, 2017, 08:51:48 AM »

Also, you don't need to find a local attorney.  You may want to try and find an attorney that specializes in your type of disability, a former ALJ, or one that is active in the applicable court district (in CA that would be the 9th district for example). But, any attorney, nationwide, that performs federal SSDI cases would be better than none at this point.  Even a routine internet search will give you countless options.  Your local ODAR should be able to provide you with a list for those local attorneys, perhaps even statewide, that will represent claimants at the federal level.



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Leon Howard
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« Reply #5 on: March 23, 2017, 10:31:55 AM »

Sent Pm witha name and my short version of my story with 3 representatives .
But I won in December after 7 yrs and get first check in April.
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Location: Delaware
Disability: Adult onset Stills Disease, Mitochondrial dysfuntion
Date Applied: 2/2010
ALJ Approval/Denial Date: 12/2016 Approved
Date Award Letter Received: waiting still
Additional Info: remanded from Federal court to ALJ
onemoretime26
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« Reply #6 on: April 25, 2017, 02:02:07 AM »

Thanks for the responses. I for some reason thought that I'd get an email when someone responded, so when I didn't I just assumed that no one had and then didn't come back and re-visit my post. I swear I must have called or emailed every social security attorney in Google searches, AVVO, NOSSCR - I even tried Legal Aid and got no where. A couple were willing to look at the case- they would only look at the denial letter and nothing more, the rest either wouldn't even respond (return phone calls, emails etc.) Heck, I even had one lawyer flat out tell me that he didn't get paid enough to do those cases. Many were reluctant simply because of the fact that it's very short notice and the judge already said that there would be NO further extensions granted. SO I have no clue what I'm doing. The brief is due Weds the 26th and I'm just going to turn in what I can turn in. There's nothing else I can do. I'm sure I've lost and it's over now. 7+ years of waiting and nothing. I've lost everything and now have no way of getting anything back.

On a side note, if you don't mind me venting for a second. The lawyer who had my case that got sick.....I felt really bad for her at first. But now I'm feeling so angry and resentful!  In the withdrawal letter to the judge she says that she started having seizures on  Feb 9th and the brief was due Feb 15th- and she was in the hospital at this time. She sent the entire file back and NOTHING has been done. What she sent back was just basically what I had sent her with a letter attached apologizing and saying that she was "honored" that I trusted her with the case and that if she got better she would contact me to see about taking the case again. Don't you think that she should have had the brief almost done at that point- or at least partially done? And if she did, why wouldn't she send it? I mean that's the least she could have done IF she had in fact done anything which I don't think she did. Then last week I sent her an email asking if she could provide any sort of direction- recommend a website, a book, somewhere where I could see an example brief- ANYTHING to follow so I could have some sort of idea on what to do. I mean I practically begged for some sort of assistance. She didn't even respond- not even with a "sorry I can't help".

So I looked at her FB page (her law office page) and she's been actively posting on there since about 2 weeks after the withdrawal. And get this- even soliciting business! Like saying "call me if you need help with your legal matters" and that type of stuff. And it for sure is her. She's a one woman show- she doesn't have a big office or even an assistant. I doubt that she's using a social media manager or anything like that- plus she shares stuff on there from her personal page (which I had a look at as well and can see pictures posted of her out on the town (in a bar) just a couple weeks after allegedly being so sick. Um if you're so sick that you had to drop cases then why are you soliciting NEW BUSINESS on your FB page? I looked at her AVVO profile too and it no longer says Social Security under the list of things she deals with. What I think happened is yeah, maybe she got sick, and maybe did have a problem with her son. But I don't think it was as bad as she said. I think that this was the first ss case she'd taken and she didn't realize what a pain in the behind they are or how involved they are and used the illness as an excuse to get out of doing it. I'm so upset at how phony she was and how she basically delayed this case 5+ months by asking for multiple extensions for herself to "get oriented with the case" and did absolutely no work on it during that time. Since she asked for more than one extension, that I'm sure is why the judge won't grant anymore and I'm scrambling now to figure out what to submit on Wednesday.
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Lit Love
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« Reply #7 on: April 25, 2017, 05:22:37 AM »

http://www.nysd.uscourts.gov/file/forms/how-to-appeal-a-social-security-ssi-disability-case

You might be able to find a guide specific to your region or circuit, but this is a start.  Google is your friend.  I searched using: federal court pro se SSDI.  

Some large cities even offer free drop in assistance for pro se litigants like in SoCal: http://court.cacd.uscourts.gov/cacd/ProSe.nsf/

Your best bet for a book at this late date would be a law library.  Some counties offer free access or perhaps a college with a law program.  A book like Carolyn Kubitschek's "Social Security Disability: Law and Procedure in Federal Court, 2014 edition might help, but it's expensive at over $300.
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« Last Edit: April 25, 2017, 05:26:35 AM by Lit Love »
onemoretime26
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« Reply #8 on: April 25, 2017, 05:03:08 PM »

Thank you Lit Love. Much appreciated!
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grove800
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« Reply #9 on: April 26, 2017, 12:02:19 AM »

That story sounds somewhat fishy to me.  The problem with giving your documents out is there is much personal information involved.  I don't want to alarm you but just monitor your credit reports if possible.  Sorry this happened to you.
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😊
Name: Vicki
Location: IL
Age at Application: 59. Age now 62
Disability: Hypogammagobulimannenia , aggressive arthritis spine, 4 level cervical fusion, chronic pain, DDD,COPD,
Date Applied: 7/2013
First Approval/Denial Date: 11/2013
Reconsideration Approval/Denial Date: 5/2014
Date OTR requested: 6/2014
Hearing Date: January 19, 2016
Date Award Letter Received: February 3, 2016. per benefit letter on my SS website
Date Back Pay Received: February 4, 2016 direct deposit
Additional Info: fully favorable letter by mail Feb 6, 2016. Medicare started Dec 2015
Lit Love
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« Reply #10 on: April 26, 2017, 03:56:15 AM »

That story sounds somewhat fishy to me.  The problem with giving your documents out is there is much personal information involved.  I don't want to alarm you but just monitor your credit reports if possible.  Sorry this happened to you.

Attorney's dropping clients at the last minute in SSDI cases is an unfortunate reality.
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onemoretime26
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« Reply #11 on: April 28, 2017, 05:43:37 AM »

I don't think that she was "fishy" in that sense. My guess is this- she specializes in federal court filings- appeals, criminal defense etc. and I think she wanted to venture into Social Security appeals. I think that my case was her first one. Once she got all of the files and everything and realized what a pain this stuff is, I think she just didn't want to do it. I don't think that she was lying about being sick, but I don't think that it was as bad as she claimed. I think she just decided to use it as an "out". She is a legit lawyer. I saw her office and everything. She has great reviews on AVVO and actually teaches a couple of lower level law courses at the local law school here. She just royally screwed me at the last minute. Oh, and to top things off, get this- So she took my case in November got multiple extensions on it before dropping it in March. Well, at the end of November she came to my house to pick up the disc with all of my records on it. I was going to be at a doctors appointment during the time that she was going to stop by so I put the disc in an envelope and left it under my doormat. I had taped it a certain way and I wrote her name on it. When she sent back my file, that disc was still in the same envelope, still taped up, never opened or touched. She never even STARTED work on my case! In FIVE months!

Oh well, what's done is done. I can't dwell on it. I wrote up the brief as best as I could and picked out as many errors of law that I could apply to my case as I could find. Please wish me luck. I turned it in to the court on Wednesday.
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Lit Love
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« Reply #12 on: April 28, 2017, 06:56:55 AM »

If your DLI hasn't expired you can file a new claim and pursue the federal court case simultaneously.
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onemoretime26
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« Reply #13 on: April 28, 2017, 05:16:52 PM »

Thank you Lit Love. I do have another lawyer working on that. She's very nice and on top of things. Wish I'd had her in the beginning for my original case- and I wish she did Federal cases!
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Lit Love
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« Reply #14 on: April 28, 2017, 06:07:40 PM »

I'm not sure you needed an attorney to file a new application...  Don't stick your head in the sand this time and be proactive. 
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