Case tried by Brad Frizzell, TLC 2010

I have a client who has had one fusion and needs three more because he fell when the truck step of his rig broke. He has 8 kids and worked around the clock to provide for his family. In addition to the third party action, I told him he may want to think about applying social security. He did and was denied. Of, course. I know social security hearings are not always the Atticus Finch scene that our other trials are, but this one is TLC worthy.

We went to his hearing last Wednesday. The Judge starts off with tearing into me that my exhibits were late. I offered to have my paralegal fax the confirmation sheet that showed they were submitted beyond timely. He said no and I would probably have her lie for me anyway. He starting interrogating me about the status of my law license and all kind of crap. (He wanted to know every court I was admitted in and so on.) He then starts giving me an oral lawschool exam that I would probably fail if it was open book. For these hearings you submit a brief, but the hearing officer (Judge) does not submit an opposition. (God help you if you are pro se). After 30 minutes of belittling me and interrogating me, he moves onto my client. He spends what seems like forever asking my client about what church he goes to and what passages of the bible he is studying. Mind you my client is in there with a TENS unit because of a fusion, has records to show that the doctor wants to do another cervical fusion and a lumbar fusion, both of multiple levels. At this point, a younger me would have stood up announced my outrage and disgust with this circus.

However, as a member of the TLC staff once told me “How would that help your client?” For those who do not do social security cases, the judge is the judge, jury, and prosecutor. So instead of having a meltdown, I focused on the things this judge was forgetting to ask in his interrogation. I have never done this with a social security case, but prior, I had my client reenact to me some of the events in which his numbness in his hands really scared him. So after the Judge was done asking my client questions about the book of Mathews, it was my turn. The judge never even ask my guy about numbness in his hands. I had my client reenact the scene where he picked up a hot BBQ lid and did not realize until sometimes later he had burnt his hand to the point of blistering. I had my guy talk about cutting a tomato in his kitchen for the family and realize that when he got to the table, he was about to serve them a bloody tomatoes as he did not feel the cut in his hands. When my guy is talking I am nodding my head yes as many listeners do. The judge even put my nodding on the record and instructed me to stop. Then I finally asked my client which hand is the worst, and which is his dominant hand? Answer to both questions is right. By the way the judge is objecting to my questions such as, what happened the last time you tried to lift a gallon of milk (judge’s obj: assumes a fact not in evidence and leading, response: Client, you have 8 kids, have you ever lifted a gallon of milk before) As far as the leading, I was about to show him what leading is, TLC style.

Who’s flipping pages like crazy now? Not me, its everybody else. Judge gives vocational expert a hypothetical which is all jacked up. I choose not to object. Really, who the hell objects at a social security hearing? First job, a telemarketer type. Long story short, I asked (actually told TLC style by following up with an “ isn’t that right”) the voc guy if he is recommending a job for man recovering from a cervical fusion, about to have another, with no computer experience, that consist solely of being on the phone and using a computer? The Oxycodone alone would make this a farce. He flipped paper and said maybe. The security guard position was next, you can about imagine this playing out. Hint: I had the JUDGE’S vocational expert set the scene and reenact the job. So the judge sees where this is going and how the vocational expert is working with me, admits none of these jobs are suitable, but then starts naming every freaking job under the book. Then, the JUDGE’s vocational expert is doing a great job of finding reasons that my guy cannot work these jobs.

Then judge says -alright, enough of this charade, I find in favor of the claimant. It is not going to be enough legal fees to pay the light bill, but a 49 year old man working his whole life with 8 kids got justice that day. And a judge looking for a fight, was defeated without a single punch thrown.