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I recently had a disability case with a judge from the Albany hearing office. That judge sends out a letter 30 days before a scheduled hearing setting his expectations for evidence at the hearing. I really liked the letter. It is not standard practice for most judges to send a prehearing letter like this, at least not in my area. It should be standard practice, though, because is was super helpful to get. I will explain below.

Here is the actual judge’s letter. Let’s look at it paragraph by paragraph:

Hearing Records: In this section, the judge reminds the Representative that records are due 5 business days ahead of the hearing. This is by regulation. But notice the tone of the reminder. There are no threats from the judge that evidence may be excluded at hearing if not timely filed. There is just an explanation about why timely evidence is important. In the next paragraph, the judge encourages Representatives to obtain a treating source statement.

Briefs: I loved what the judge said about hearing briefs. He gave a concise description of what to include in a brief. This judge will accept a brief 1 day ahead of the hearing. The rule is 5 business days ahead of the hearing. I wish more judges would specify when they want the brief. In the absence of that guidance, however, the earlier the brief is submitted the better.

Claimant’s Medications (SSA HA-4632): This judge wants a medication list in all cases. Fair enough.

OTR Requests: The judge wants OTR requests at least 7 days prior to the hearing, and only in appropriate cases. Makes sense. The judge also said to please call his clerk if an OTR is filed, and let the clerk know. That makes sense too; an OTR should be reviewed promptly. Since I had filed an OTR request in my case with this judge, I called the clerk to let them know. I got a call back that afternoon, saying that the OTR request had been granted. Had the letter not had the instruction to call the clerk, I would not have done so and the OTR request likely would not have been acted on so quickly.

Post Hearing Records: If the record is left open after the hearing, records should be accompanied by a letter brief explaining the purpose, relevance, and impact of the new evidence.

As I said, this letter was very helpful for me, because the case was with a judge with whom I was not familiar. We have a sense of these issues with the judges we see regularly, but it was nice to see what a judge expects written down ahead of the hearing.