Clark v. Astrue: Nationwide Class Certified


A court in New York has certified a nationwide class in a successful challenge to the Social Security Administration’s policy of suspending or denying Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits whenever someone had an outstanding warrant for an alleged violation of probation or parole.  Clark v. Astrue, No. 06-cv-15521 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 18, 2011).   The merits of the case had already been decided in plaintiffs’ favor a year ago by the U. S. Court of Appeals.  Clark v. Astrue, 602 F.3d 140 (2nd Cir. 2010).  Thus all that remains is for the court to spell out the relief to be awarded to the members of the plaintiff class.

Since the plaintiff class includes everyone whose Social Security or SSI benefits were suspended or denied on or after October 29, 2006, the class will easily number many tens of thousands of people who have been deprived of hundreds of millions of dollars of needed benefits.  Many members of the class are destitute and have been without benefits for over four years.  While the court ruled that individuals who suffered a suspension of benefits and did not protest or seek reinstatement failed to meet the presentment requirement for jurisdiction under the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405 (g), it decided that it did have jurisdiction over those individuals under the Mandamus Act and thus included them in the plaintiff class.

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