Hopkins v. Cohen

LOCATION: South Boston Court

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1967-1969)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

CITATION: 390 US 530 (1968)
ARGUED: Mar 11, 1968 / Mar 12, 1968
DECIDED: Apr 02, 1968

Facts of the case


Media for Hopkins v. Cohen

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 12, 1968 in Hopkins v. Cohen

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 11, 1968 in Hopkins v. Cohen

Earl Warren:

Number 276, Raymond Hopkins, petitioner, versus, John W. Gardner, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare.

Mr. Sharp.

Allen Sharp:

May it please the Court.

This is a Social Security disability case involving the question of the maximum fee to be awarded in a United States District Court, under the Social Security Act, to attorneys under the amendments to the Social Security Act of 1965.

The factual background of the case in its very simplest form is that in January of 1961, the petitioner Raymond Hopkins and his wife and his two minor children, he on their behalf, filed an application for disability benefits under the Social Security Act and was awarded disability benefits commencing in March of 1961.

The award of the disability benefits was on one piece of paper, a form -- standard form of the Social Security Administration.

The applications were on three different pieces of paper for the wife, for Raymond Hopkins, and for his minor children.

By action of the Social Security Administration in 1962, late in the year in December, the disability benefits to Mr. Hopkins and the benefits of his wife and to his two minor children were terminated upon the contention by the Social Security Administration that he was no longer disabled.

On his own and without the benefit of counsel, in July -- on July 30, 1963, Mr. Hopkins filed a request for a rehearing, which rehearing was held October 9, 1963 in Danville, Illinois, and, the examiner's decision was announced on November 27, 1963.

Mr. Hopkins and his wife attended this hearing without counsel and had, at this point, not conferred with counsel.

The decision was adverse to Mr. Hopkins and, the -- at that point, the examiner affirmed the decision of the Secretary to discontinue benefits, and this was appealed by me as counsel for Mr. Hopkins.

Appeals counsel of the Department-- of the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, Department of Social Security Administration, affirmed the decision of the hearing examiner and this case was first filed in the United States District Court in Lafayette, Indiana on July 2, 1964.

On September 30, 1964 -- 1965, I'm sorry, the United States district judge in this case reversed the decision of the Social Security Administration and awarded benefits retroactive to January 1, 1963.

The principal issue involved is an interpretation of one sentence of the Social Security Act, an amendment of the Social Security Act of 1965.

I might say, parenthetically, that this amendment is a very small part.

It's one sentence of the massive amendments that were added to the Social Security Act by the Congress in 1965.

It's been suggested in an opinion -- in several opinions, including one by the Fourth Circuit that the legislative history is somewhat scant.

As a matter of fact, they illustrate that there are some-350 pages of legislative history about the amendments.

There are only two or three paragraphs about this particular sentence, but the sentence is 206 (b) (1) and the crucial part of it is that whenever a Court renders a judgment favorable to a claimant, under this sub-chapter, who is represented before the Court by an attorney, the Court may determine and allow, as a part of its judgment, a reasonable fee for such representations, not in excess of 25% of the total of the past-due benefits to which the claimant is entitled by a reason of such judgment.

Now, the United --

Earl Warren:

Now, what are the two or three paragraphs of that --

Allen Sharp:

Of legislative history?

Earl Warren:

Legislative history show is the reason for this.

Allen Sharp:

Thank you, Your Honor.

May I -- the Solicitor General has placed in his brief two of the paragraphs.

I believe it's at page 8 of his brief.

There are two other legislative references of the history that have come to my attention since the briefs were filed, and I'd like to cite them to the Court because I think they are very relevant.

The first one is in the Senate Report No. 404.

It's cited by the Solicitor General.

His citation is at page 122 and that's quoted in his brief.