Disability Law Clinic wins rare victory in Third Circuit Court of Appeals
September 24, 2009
University Park, Pa. — Capping eight years of litigation, the Disability Law Clinic won a rare outright victory for a disabled client in the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit during the 2008-2009 academic year.
Kathy Brownawell had applied for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) in September 2000, based on various impairments. Students in the clinic represented Brownawell at a hearing in 2001, followed by appeals that went up and down through multiple administrative and court proceedings over the ensuing years. Clinic student Jennifer Stull wrote the final merits brief to the Third Circuit, which ultimately ruled that Brownawell was wrongfully denied SSI benefits and ordered the government to pay her SSI going back to her original application. Of approximately fifty cases decided by the Third Circuit in 2008 in this area of law, Brownawell’s was the only one in which the court ordered that benefits be granted. The case may be read at Brownawell v. Astrue, 554 F.3d 352 (3rd Cir. 2008).
Looking back, Stull says, “I was delighted to be able to bring to a successful conclusion a case that so many prior clinic students had worked on over many years. This definitely capped my law school career. Applying for a position in the clinic was by far the best decision I made in law school.”