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Phan v. Colvin
United States District Court, S.D. California
February 25, 2014
TRUYEN GIA PHAN, MINH TRIEU DOAN, CUC HUYNH, LILYAN LOC LE, DUC HUU HUYNH, PERLIE LA, NHAN CONG NGUYEN, THOM THI TRAN, THO HA, KHAM NGOC TRAN, OANH KIEU VO, ANH VAN THAI, PHONG THI VU, DAU THI THAI, MINH THAI, DUYEN NGUYEN, MANH THI NGUYEN, MAI DO, RIN LAY, ANH VAN NGUYEN, DIEP THI NGUYEN, LANA NGUYEN, NGOC THUY VAN, TRAI MINH CHAU, TONY TRAN, NHO NGUYEN, PAM ANH TRINH, TRUNG KHAI NGUYEN, MINH TRUONG, VIET HOANG DUONG, DOES 1-100, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Social Security Administration, Defendant.
WILLIAM Q. HAYES, District Judge.
The matter before the Court is the Motion to Dismiss the First Amended Complaint, filed by Defendant Carolyn Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Social Security Administration ("SSA" or "Commissioner"). (ECF No. 10).
On August 30, 2013, Plaintiffs initiated this action by filing a Complaint in this Court. On October 2, 2013, Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint, which is the operative pleading. (ECF No. 7). The docket reflects that Plaintiffs' counsel of record is Alexandra T. Manbeck ("Manbeck").
A. Allegations of the First Amended Complaint
"Plaintiffs are poor, disabled and non-English speaking Vietnamese former prisoners of war and refugees in the United States who reside in San Diego County and who have been or will be applying for Disability Insurance benefits... and/or Supplemental Security Income... benefits under Title II and Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 401, et seq. " Id. ¶ 1. "The Plaintiffs comprise a class of over a thousand claimants who have or had a statutory right to be represented by counsel of their choice at administrative hearings pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 406 and have been or will be represented by Vietnamese-speaking attorney Alexandra Nga Tran Manbeck." Id.
"On November 6, 2011, ... Plaintiffs' attorney [i.e., Manbeck] brought a class action in district court alleging bias on the part of Administrative Law Judge (ALJ') Eve Godfrey. Alzayadi, Donate, et al. v. Michael J. Astrue, 11cv2056-LAB(WVG). However, on September 4, 2012, the district court dismissed the action." Id. ¶ 3. "On March 12, 2013, in retaliation for the filing of the Alzayadi, Donate, et al. case by Plaintiffs' attorney..., the Social Security Administration initiated administrative proceedings under 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1740-404.1790 and 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.1540-416.1594 (hereinafter the suspension provisions') to suspend Plaintiffs' attorney from the practice of Social Security law and to prevent Plaintiffs' attorney from representing the Plaintiffs before the Social Security Administration (SSA')...." Id. ¶ 4. "The government is bringing charges against the plaintiffs' attorney under false pretexts of misconduct...." Id.
"In spite of the fact that in each and every instance of SSA-alleged misconduct against the Plaintiffs' attorney, the Plaintiffs filed affidavits denying that such misconduct ever took place, the government insisted on prosecuting Plaintiffs' attorney under the suspension provisions, thus depriving Plaintiffs of representation and chilling the Plaintiffs' First Amendment rights to information and to representation, since the final determination of the suspension provisions is performed by the same SSA which initiated charges, is final, unappealable and is not subject to judicial review." Id. "As a result of the government's initiation of administrative proceedings to permanently suspend the Plaintiffs' attorney from representing the Plaintiffs in their own administrative proceedings, the Plaintiffs and members of the Plaintiffs' class... are being deprived of their First Amendment right to communicate with their lawyer, to participate in the administrative proceedings and to have access to and to petition the courts, and their Fifth Amendment right to due process." Id. ¶ 5.
Under the label, "Causes of Action, " the First Amended Complaint states:
The Defendant's selective prosecution of Plaintiffs' attorney Alexandra Tran Manbeck under the suspension provisions violates the Administrative Procedure Act.
The suspension provisions, as written and as construed by Defendant, violate the First Amendment on their face and as applied to prevent Plaintiffs from being represented by attorney Tran Manbeck even on a pro bono basis.
The suspension provisions, as written and as construed by Defendant, are unconstitutionally vague and violate the Fifth Amendment on their face and as applied to prevent the Plaintiffs from being represented even on pro bono basis by Plaintiffs' attorney Alexandra Nga Tran Manbeck before the SSA.
The suspension provisions, as written and as applied by Defendant in retaliation against the Plaintiffs' attorney for the filing of an action alleging bias on the part of ALJ Godfrey, violate the First Amendment as Plaintiffs' attorney has changed her ...