Dexter v. Colvin

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Administrative Law
  • Date Filed: 09-30-2013
  • Case #: 12-35074
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Nguyen for the Court; Circuit Judges Hawkins and Thomas
  • Full Text Opinion

An applicant has a "colorable constitutional claim" of a violation of due process if an administrative law judge does not address all of the applicant's reasons for good cause when denying the applicant's request for a hearing about the untimely filing of a social security benefits application.

Karen Dexter filed “for social security disability insurance benefits” and was denied initially and on reconsideration. In her reconsideration letter, the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) informed her that she could appeal by requesting, within 60 days, a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). Fourteen months later, Dexter filed a request. She explained that she had filed untimely because she was unaware of the time limitation, she had been ill, and her mother had died of cancer. The ALJ dismissed her request for failure to show good cause for untimely filing. The ALJ noted that Dexter had been informed about the 60-day deadline. The ALJ did not discuss Dexter’s illness or her mother’s death. Dexter filed for a review of the SSA’s decision in district court. The court declined to review because Dexter “had not exhausted her administrative remedies.” The court acknowledged that administrative remedies did not have to be exhausted if there was a colorable constitutional claim, but it found that Dexter’s claim was not such a claim. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit noted that cases involving the SSA’s decision in regards to whether or not good cause has been shown in the denial of an untimely hearing request are not reviewable because such decisions are discretionary and not final. However, there is an exception if an applicant can make a “colorable constitutional claim of [a] due process violation.” The panel found that Dexter had such a claim because the ALJ had only addressed one of the three reasons for Dexter’s untimely filing. The panel found that Dexter’s other reasons were examples of “circumstances [that] may constitute good cause.” Reasoning that due process requires the ALJ to address Dexter’s other reasons, the panel held that Dexter had stated “a colorable due process claim.” REVERSED and REMANDED.

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