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Court Order Remand to Different ALJ

April 28, 2017

Attorney Ruth Alexrod, of Axelrod & Gottlieb in New York City, convinced U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Davison that Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Seth Goldman’s conduct warranted remand to a different ALJ. DeMota v. Berryhill, 2017 WL 1134771 (S.D.N.Y. March 24, 2017).

The Commissioner had argued for remand, acknowledging the ALJ had improperly evaluated the medical source evidence of record. In fact, the ALJ had refused to accord weight to most medical sources, stating (and underlining) “because I find the claimant to be not credible, I also do not credit the opinions of the experts who relied, at least in part, on her presentation and testimony.”  Although Ruth had argued for a remand for calculation of benefits, the Magistrate found the ALJ’s failure to apply the treating physician rule warranted remand.  Magistrate Davison agreed, however, the ALJ’s conduct warranted remand to a new ALJ.

The Magistrate found the ALJ’s hostility toward the claimant apparent from the record, noting the ALJ’s degree of frustration was surprising given the claimant’s mental impairments, which included hallucinations and early onset dementia. The ALJ made comments suggesting he relied on stereotypes about people in the Bronx instead of conducting a detached evaluation. The Magistrate also criticized the ALJ’s “medical expertise.” When counsel at the hearing suggested another consultative examination was not necessary since there were already three psychiatric reports confirming hallucinations, the ALJ stated “there’s only one opinion that counts at the end of the day – and that’s mine.” The court also found the ALJ attempted to manipulate the testimony of the medical expert.

Kudos to Ruth, who argued a remand to ALJ Goldman would make a “mockery of due process.”


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