PIKEVILLE – Conn clients will have to continue through the system to secure their SSA benefits following the dismissal of a lawsuit in United States District Court on Monday.
U.S. District Judge Amal R. Thapar ruled against the former clients of Eric C. Conn, and granted a motion to dismiss which had been filed by the Social Security Administration.
Prestonsburg attorney Ned Pillersdorf who represents several former clients of Conn, filed the motion in July of this year. Pillersdorf, along with others, is aiding in the legal defense of the nearly 1500 persons who saw their benefits temporarily suspended due to a federal investigation against Conn.
“Very disappointed,” said Pillersdorf. “We’re hopefully today or tomorrow going to be filing an emergency appeal to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.”
Pillersdorf says that the judge did no address many of the arguments made, and ignored references to an “identical” case in California. “We alerted the court to the opinion and they just ignored it.”
According to Pillersdorf the judges opinion is that these 1800 people can easily navigate through the SSA administrative review then come back to the courts with their claims. “The vast majority of these people are not going to be represented. Most will basically default, not show up at their hearings.”
“This will be catastrophic around here for the economy,” said Pillersdorf. “This is a true humanitarian crisis. If we don’t get something done, Floyd county will turn into Owsley county.” Owsley county is the poorest county in the nation, which as of 2013 had 37 percent of its population living under the poverty line.
According to the court records, in the matter of Cheryl Martin and Robert Martin and others v. Carolyn W. Colvin (Acting Commissioner of Social Security), Judge Thapar stated the plaintiffs could not seek redress from the courts until after the Social Security Administration (SSA) had conducted their reviews.
“The plaintiffs cannot prematurely obtain judicial review of the SSA’s decision to reopen their cases. They have not exhausted their administrative remedies and they do not qualify for any exceptions,” stated Thapar in the brief.
Thapar states that in order for the courts to intercede, there must first be a review by the Social Security Administration. He adds that this process can be harmful to the individual, however, “it is a necessary cost of “massive, complex” health and safety programs like Social Security”
Thapar granted the SSA’s motion to dismiss, and rendered all pending motions as moot.
The motion filed earlier July to stop hearings planned by the SSA was in response to that administration’s plans to hold hearings in September to review the cases of former Conn clients due to the ongoing federal fraud investigation against the Floyd County attorney.
Those hearings have begun, and some have already concluded.
Reach Jackson Latta at (606) 886-8506