A U.S. District Court judge awarded the Appellate Litigation Clinic and Community Legal Services $17,400 in legal fees for representing a man who was wrongly denied Social Security disability benefits.
The ruling, handed down on Nov. 20, provided the clinic and CLS with about three times the fees typically awarded in successful disability appeals.
The battle over legal fees came on the heels of the appeal that ’14 graduates Irene Lehne and Joseph McGinley had waged through the clinic, in cooperation with CLS, on behalf of a disabled man who had been denied disability benefits by an administrative law judge. In February of 2015, their arguments that the judge had failed to consider evidence of the man’s disabilities bore fruit, when a federal judge overturned the decision to deny benefits.
The February decision put the plaintiff on a collision course with the government over legal fees associated with the appeal, said Professor Richard Frankel, who directs the clinic. Frankel said Professor David DeMatteo and graduate students in the Department of Psychology provided important research that helped back up the clinic’s arguments on behalf of the plaintiff.
In his order, U.S. District Court Judge Felipe Restrepo noted that the “plaintiff’s briefing reflected high-quality work from his counsel – including thorough research, command of the administrative record, and reasoned analysis and advocacy – and ultimately resulted in a favorable disposition from this court.”
The ruling represents a positive affirmation, Frankel said.
“A good attorneys’ fees ruling helps all claimants by increasing the likelihood that needy individuals will be able to obtain legal representation,” Frankel said.