This case addresses a basic issue—who in the government is authorized to hear constitutional challenges?
The Constitution divides the government into three branches—Legislative, Executive, and Judicial—and only the Judicial Branch is allowed to decide questions of constitutional law. The matter can become somewhat complicated, since Executive Branch agencies such as the Social Security Administration (SSA) may resolve disputes over government benefits, and disappointed beneficiaries may appeal the SSA’s decision in federal court. So, what happens when an individual disputing an award of benefits also claims that the Executive Branch official overseeing the dispute—in this case, an administrative law judge (ALJ) in the SSA—is acting unconstitutionally?
The ALJ himself cannot resolve that question. Therefore, does a challenger still have to raise the issue to the ALJ in the first instance, or may a challenger wait until the matter goes to federal court? Courts have often held that, if someone does not raise an issue during an ALJ proceeding—even a constitutional issue that the ALJ is powerless to consider—he cannot later raise that argument in court. This is known as an “exhaustion” requirement: parties may be required to “exhaust” all issues during the administrative process before raising them in court.
In our friend-of-the-court brief, PLF argues that the Supreme Court should allow parties to bring up constitutional issues in court, even if they did not raise those issues to the ALJ.
PLF regularly participates as amicus curiae, or friend of the court, in cases brought by others. This supplements our direct representation cases by providing judges with unique, strategic, and helpful arguments to consider when crafting their opinions.
PLF regularly participates as amicus curiae, or friend of the court, in cases brought by others. This supplements our direct representation cases by providing judges with unique, strategic, and helpful arguments to consider when crafting their opinions in related cases