Sullivan v. Finkelstein

RESPONDENT: Finkelstein
LOCATION: Cuyahoga County Courthouse

DOCKET NO.: 89-504
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

CITATION: 496 US 617 (1990)
ARGUED: Apr 24, 1990
DECIDED: Jun 18, 1990

David L. Shapiro - on behalf of the Petitioner
Kenneth V. Handal - on behalf of the Respondent

Facts of the case


Media for Sullivan v. Finkelstein

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 24, 1990 in Sullivan v. Finkelstein

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument now in Number 89-504, Louis W. Sullivan, Secretary of Health and Human Services v. Marilyn Finkelstein.

Mr. Shapiro.

David L. Shapiro:

Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

This case raises an important question of the appealability of the district court decisions.

It is a question of importance not only in the administration of the Social Security Act, but over a wide range of administrative, rule making and adjudicatory activity.

Although this Court has never addressed this question in an administrative setting before, the question has been considered in that setting for some four decades by every court of appeals, and the vast majority of the court of appeals' decisions support appealability in the context that it is presented in this case.

In addition, in very analogous situations this Court has addressed the question of appealability in the exercise of its own jurisdiction.

And in those contexts, appealability has been upheld explicitly in the review of state court decisions under Section 1257 and implicitly in the review of court of appeals' decisions under the Hobbs Administrative Review Act, Section 2350, as in the famous Vermont Yankee decision.

William H. Rehnquist:

Does that section require a final judgment?

David L. Shapiro:

Yes, it does, Your Honor, with the exception of decisions granting or denying preliminary injunctive relief.

William H. Rehnquist:

Well, the... the regular section providing for appeal... certiorari to this Court from the Federal courts of appeals does not require a final--

David L. Shapiro:

That's correct, Your Honor.

The respondent argues in answer to our argument that the court under the Hobbs Administrative Review Act not only has jurisdiction to review final judgments under 2350 but also has general jurisdiction under 1254.

We believe that's clearly not so from the structure and language of 2350.

2350 indeed specifically adds to this Court's jurisdiction the ability to review a certified question under 1254.

We do not believe that 2350 contemplates a general authority to this Court to review a judgment of a court of appeals before or after judgment.

What it does is it puts this Court in a relationship to the court of appeals, which is the entry court of the Federal system in a situation that is very analogous to the ordinary relationship between a court of appeals and a district court.

Indeed, for this Court to grant certiorari before judgment we believe would be an exercise of original jurisdiction in violation of Article 3.

This particular case that arises before this Court involves a claim for survivor's disability benefits by the respondent.

When that claim was finally denied at the administrative level, the respondent sought judiciary review in a Federal district court.

The Federal district court held that the Secretary has made an error of law in relying solely on the listing of the impairments in the Secretary's regulations.

The district court then decided that since there had been no individualized determination of Respondent's residual functional capacity to do gainful work, the matter had to go back to the administrative agency for further proceedings.

At that point, the Secretary sought review in the court of appeals, and the court of appeals dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

After rehearing en banc had been denied by the court of appeals over three dissents, the case was brought here for a review.

The sole question before this Court on certiorari is the appealability of the district court's decision.

We submit, in accordance with those courts... on the majority of those courts that have reviewed on the problem below, that this decision is appealable, and we believe its appealability may be upheld on either of two alternative grounds.

John Paul Stevens:

--May... may I interrupt you before you go into your legal argument?

Do I correctly understand that under the direction of the district court, the administrative law judge could have made the findings that were demand... ordered by the district court and nevertheless said that the... that under the Secretary's rule, the failure to meet the... one of the listing requirements makes me deny relief, and therefore, made the findings and still ruled against the claimant?

David L. Shapiro:

I don't believe so, Your Honor, except that--

John Paul Stevens:

Well what is there in the district court's opinion would have precluded that?