The US Supreme Court ruled Monday that an expert’s refusal to disclose private data will not result in the preclusion of her testimony.
In the case at hand the Social Security Administration (SSA) utilized an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) to assess the merits of a Social Security claim.
The Petitioner, Michael Biestek, was a former construction worker who was claiming that he was no longer able to work due to his mental and physical disabilities, and therefore, required Social Security Benefits. The ALJ heard expert testimony from an expert in disability, Erin O’Callaghan, who described the types of jobs that Biestek was qualified to accomplish. The ALJ denied Biestek’s benefits, using the evidence presented by O’Callaghan. Biestek was seeking review of this conclusion based upon the fact that the expert would not disclose where she obtained her findings regarding Biestek’s job capabilities.
The Supreme Court ruled that O’Callaghan’s testimony counts as “substantial evidence” within the confines of the court system.
“The phrase ‘substantial evidence’ is a ‘term of art’ used throughout administrative law to describe how courts are to review agency fact finding.”
The Supreme court determined that O’Callaghan’s testimony would be evidence that is “more than a mere scintilla” of information that “a reasonable mind might accept as adequate” to support job applicability.
The court also held that it is within an ALJ’s discretion to determine whether the views of an expert is trustworthy, and if there is good reason to keep the data private. The court’s analysis works in opposition to the idea that there is an objective, “Categorical Rule” for determining the credibility of expert testimony.
The decision was 5-3 with Justices Neil Gorsuch, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissenting.