Lawsuit Claims Judges Biased Against Disabled Applicants

According to the New York Times, a lawsuit has been filed for eight plaintiffs who were denied Social Security Disability benefits by a Queens office. The suit says that many New Yorkers were left in an inhospitable place to seek benefits and applicants were reduced to tears by harsh questioning the Queens administrative law judges. Disability lawyers had advised their clients to rent apartments or move elsewhere in order to seek appeals in different regions.

The Queens office had the 10th-highest rejection rate among 166 offices across the country. Federal judges have rejected many of the Queens rulings in recent years, citing legal errors, combative hearings and a brusque court tone.

The class action lawsuit filed in Federal District Court in Brooklyn says that eight Queen judges are not just difficult, but also biased against poor and immigrant applicants, and have systematically denied benefits to the disabled by making both legal and factual errors. The judges are being accused of being heavy handed to some of the most vulnerable individuals. One Guyanese plaintiff says he has seizures and a muscular disease, while a 55-year-old woman with a long history of mental illness has never held a job, yet they have both been denied SSDI benefits. The five Queens judges named in the disability lawsuit are David Nisnewitz, Michael Cofresi, Seymour Fier, Marilyn Hoppenfeld and Hazel Strauss. Together, they have rejected 63% of cases heard in the fiscal year, compared to the national average of 36 percent.


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