Community Legal Aid SoCal Successfully Advocates for Lift of Federal Stay in Social Security Administration Cases

Santa Ana, CA (April 23, 2021)—The order to stay cases against the Social Security Administration (SSA) was lifted by the Central District of California after successful advocacy by Community Legal Aid SoCal’s (CLA SoCal) attorneys.

Due to COVID-19 pandemic-related office closures that delayed its production of administrative records, SSA requested and received an order from the Central District of California to stay cases brought against the Social Security Commissioner of that (1) were filed on or after April 17, 2020, or (2) were filed earlier, but where the SSA had not served the administrative record.  Under the order, SSA alone could lift the stay by producing the record; there was no provision allowing for input or participation by the Court or the plaintiff.  Concerned about the long duration and disparate impact of the stay, which was the broadest measure in the country to be put in place to address the delays, CLA SoCal sent a letter to the Central District’s presiding judge discussing the importance of access to the courts and the harm the continuance of the stay could have on vulnerable populations.  The letter, which was joined by Western Center for Law and Poverty, Disability Rights California, Inner City Law Center, Public Interest Law Project, California Coalition of Welfare Rights Organizations, the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives and Drake & Drake, P.C, requested a lift of the stay.

After sending the letter, CLA SoCal engaged in advocacy with the court and SSA, which ultimately resulted in an order lifting the stay effective April 15, 2021.  Newly filed cases will be handled under pre-pandemic processes and judges have discretion to shorten the timeline in an individual case, including upon a showing of good cause by the plaintiff.

“Access to the court is essential for the vulnerable individuals who rely on social security benefits, especially given the additional complications and hardships created by the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Erica Embree, Staff Attorney in the Complex Litigation Unit.