Plaintiff-appellant Binder & Binder, PC ("Binder") appeals from a judgment entered on August 22, 2005 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Platt, J.) dismissing for lack of jurisdiction its action against defendant-appellee Jo Anne Barnhart, as the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the "SSA"). Binder brought this action to secure a judgment declaring that it was entitled to keep attorneys' fees paid to it by the SSA in connection with its representation of Gail S. Delnegro ("Delnegro"), who had applied for and received Social Security disability benefits. The SSA had certified and later distributed payment to Binder in the amount of $1,200, which had been withheld from Delnegro's past-due benefits pursuant to the Social Security Act. Delnegro objected to the certified payment because she claimed that her debt to Binder had been discharged in bankruptcy. Informed of Delnegro's discharge in bankruptcy, the SSA then demanded back the payment made to Binder, explaining that any debt owed to Binder had been discharged by the bankruptcy order. Binder refused to return the money and brought this declaratory judgment action in the District Court.
Following the parties' motions for summary judgment, the District Court granted summary judgment to the SSA, the court having found that (i) Binder was not entitled to attorneys' fees under the Social Security Act in connection with its representation of Delnegro; and (ii) any attorneys' fees owed had been extinguished by discharge order granted to Delnegro by the bankruptcy court. Following entry of judgment, Binder appealed to this Court, and we remanded to the District Court for a determination as to whether there was subject matter jurisdiction over Binder's claims. See Binder & Binder, P.C. v. Barnhart, 399 F.3d 128, 133-34 (2d Cir. 2005). The District Court then dismissed the action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, concluding that Binder's claims did not arise under the Social Security Act.
For the reasons that follow, we find that subject matter jurisdiction lies and that the SSA lacked the authority to demand back the payment made to Binder. We vacate the judgment of the District Court and remand for proceedings consistent with this opinion.
Miner '56, Roger J., "Binder & Binder PC v. Barnhart, 481 F. 3d 141 - Court of Appeals, 2nd Circuit 2007" (2007). Circuit Court Opinions. 25.