Friday, April 22, 2011

Evidence of Hoppenfeld Bias

Recent blog entries have discussed the class action lawsuit that was filed earlier this month that accuses Administrative Law Judges (“ALJs”) Marilyn P. Hoppenfeld, David Nisnewtz, Michael D. Cofresi, Seymour Fier, and Hazel C. Strauss (the “Queens Five”) of bias against disability claimants. The New York Times first reported news of the class action. In the Resources section of my website,, a copy of the New York Times article can be viewed, and a copy of the class action complaint that was filed in federal court can be downloaded.

A common tactic the Queens Five use to deny disability claims is using “medical experts” to testify at hearings. These doctors only review the records of claimants; they never examine the claimants. The Queens Five deny disability claims by accepting the medical experts’ opinions, who testify claimants can work, in favor of the treating doctors’ opinions, who conclude the claimants cannot work.

When I attend hearings at the neighboring hearing offices in Jericho and Brooklyn, it is the exception if the ALJs use medical experts. The opposite is true when I appear in Queens. In fact, I had one case recently where ALJ Nisnewitz required three medical experts as well as a vocational expert to testify. However, ALJ Hoppenfeld just provided an even more interesting example of how medical experts are misused.

During a hearing a couple of months ago, a claimant asked for an adjournment so that she could retain an attorney. Hoppenfeld had scheduled the original hearing without any type of expert. However, without any explanation, after learning that the claimant retained me, Hoppenfeld suddenly saw a need for, not one, but two medical experts. Additionally, Hoppenfeld also suddenly found a need for a vocational expert to testify. Nothing changed after the claimant’s hearing. The only thing that is different is that Hoppenfeld now knows that I am representing the claimant.

When Hoppenfeld was holding a hearing with a pro se claimant, she apparently was not worried about denying the claim even though the evidence would not support that decision. However, now that Hoppenfeld knows an attorney will be present, it seems that she recognizes that she has to concoct evidence through medical and vocational expert testimony to deny the claimant’s application.

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