A recently unveiled whistleblower lawsuit alleges that a prominent Kentucky disability lawyer illegally colluded with a federal disability judge to approve his clients' cases and reap the millions in attorney's fees that came with them.
Eric C. Conn, the self-proclaimed "Mr. Social Security," is an attorney in eastern Kentucky who helps clients obtain federal disability benefits. Under federal law, an attorney is entitled to a portion of an applicant's past-due benefits if the applicant wins an appeal. Attorney Conn was very good at winning appeals -- so good, in fact, that the Wall Street Journal reported that he made $3.8 million from disability appeals in 2010 alone.
But it turns out that Attorney Conn may have had an unfair advantage due to his relationship with federal disability judge David Daugherty. According to a complaint filed against Conn and Daugherty, the now-retired judge approved 99.7 percent of the cases before him, besting the national average approval rate by 37.7 percent. The complaint alleges that Conn colluded with Daugherty to approve his cases, and that Daugherty went to elaborate lengths to make sure that Conn's cases were assigned to him, going so far as to steal files from other judges' desks.
The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs began looking into the matter in 2011 after the Journal first raised questions about Daugherty's handling of cases, and in a recent report found "a raft of improper practices by the Conn law firm to obtain disability benefits, inappropriate collusion between Mr. Conn and [Daugherty], and inept agency oversight which enabled the misconduct to continue for years."
Conn would not address the issue with a reporter from CBS' 60 Minutes who was reporting on the state of the disability insurance system, and he refused to testify before the Senate Committee investigating him. In addition to the whistleblower action, the Kentucky bar association is looking into Conn's activities.
An article about the case can be found on Kentucky.com.
To view the October 6, 2013, 60 Minutes report, click here