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The U.S. District Court for the District of Maine has approved several amendments to the Local Rules, which take effect on January 1, 2013.

Local rule 16.3(a)(2) establishes a streamlined process for Social Security appeals in Maine. These cases are routed to the magistrate judge. Based upon an Itemized Statement of Errors and a fact sheet filed by the Plaintiff, and the oral argument of both parties, the Magistrate issues a recommended decision for the appeal. 

The principal change in local rule 16.3(a)(2) is a new requirement that the Commissioner must file an opposition brief to the Plaintiff's Itemized Statement of Errors. This is a welcome change in the rule, because previously you would appear at oral argument without knowing what the U.S. attorney would argue to defend the Commissioner's decision. This rule change should focus the parties and the Court on the true issues of the appeal, and everyone will be better prepared. The other rule changes are a 20-page limit for briefs, and a provision allowing the Magistrate judge to waive oral argument.

Here is a link to new local rule 16.3 (link opens a PDF).