May it please the Court...

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auntmousie
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May it please the Court...

Post by auntmousie » Sun Jul 26, 2020 8:58 pm

Hey gang, it's me. I go by "auntmousie" but also occasionally throw around my real name (Alyson Young) because frankly I'm too lazy to hide it and I'm really not that difficult to find anyway.
Some interesting facts about me, in no particular order:
  • I'm a lawyer. I do Social Security disability appeals. The best thing about my job is that I get paid by the government to sue the government. My current biggest claim to fame is having done the oral arguments for a published case in the Ninth Circuit. You can look it up: Lamear v. Berryhill, 865 F.3d 1201 (9th Cir. 2017). Yes, really. (I've argued two other cases - one that was affirmed in an unpublished memorandum and I'm still bitter, and one that is still pending as of this writing.)
  • I'm happily married. I presently live with my wife, my niece, my nephew, and a somewhat insane number of cats. I technically also live with my best friend, but she works as a live-in caregiver so she is hardly ever home and that sucks.
  • I live in the outskirts of Portland, Oregon, and it's pretty awesome. But I'm from California, and frankly I miss seeing people who aren't white on a regular basis. My extended family covers pretty much all the colors that humans come in. Bonus, though, I have thirteen majestic redwood trees in my backyard.
  • My first gaming console was a Magnavox Odyssey. My favorite, if measured dispassionately by hours played, is still probably the Intellivision II. But I'm mostly a PC gamer.
  • Actually I'm mostly a tabletop gamer. I started with D&D Basic (where "Elf" is a class) in approximately 1980. I don't think I've ever gone 12 whole months without rolling some polyhedral dice. Name a pen & paper RPG system that's come out in the last 40 years and there's a better than 50/50 chance I'm familiar with it.
  • Long before I became a lawyer, I worked at Microprose for about five years. If you want to see some of my work, dig up a copy of Star Trek: Birth of the Federation, or Star Trek:Generations. I did 100% of the dialog and in-game text for the former, and somewhere around 65% of the latter. I also, in one of the later scenes in ST:G, voiced a random Klingon who tries to kill Captain Kirk - which puts me three degrees from Kevin Bacon.
  • I transitioned to a female identity about sixteen years ago and it was the single best decision I ever made. Marrying my wife, who stuck with me, gets an honorable mention but wasn't so much my decision as a decision we made together. (So if you go looking in the credits on those games, you will find my deadname. I don't care, just don't spam it.)
  • I must have lived in some kind of weird sheltered bubble because I never discovered RLC until the coming-out series was linked in some trans groups I'm in. But like a proper fangirl I immediately binged the entire comic in about a week.
  • I'm an old-school liberal who believes the first amendment is the best amendment. I'm a card-carrying member of the ACLU, and I vote.
  • This ain't my first forum. I met my wife in a dial-up BBS, back before the internet was widely used. I've been active on one board or another almost continuously for the last 30 years.
Most importantly (and this will eventually go in my signature): I'm an open book. Ask me anything, and unless someone else's privacy is impacted (i.e. attorney client privilege or trade secrets), I will answer. Maybe it's just because I grew up at the dawn of the internet age, or maybe it's a reaction to too many people in too many contexts gatekeeping information, but I know a thing or two and I believe the only possible purpose of knowledge is to share it. But, be warned: I will answer. If you don't want to know, don't ask. If I think others might not want to know, I'll figure out a way to answer privately. Or I'll just overshare like crazy. One of those.
Last edited by auntmousie on Tue Jul 28, 2020 6:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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BtEO
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Re: May it please the Court...

Post by BtEO » Mon Jul 27, 2020 9:05 am

That's a lot of good stuff but I'm just like: "Oh dang, that Venus Envy avatar!"

(and I am also three degrees from Kevin Bacon)

alatar1313
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Re: May it please the Court...

Post by alatar1313 » Mon Jul 27, 2020 9:51 am

Haha some coincidence that is. I'm a social security disability hearing attorney and this comic (well ya know, and a few decades of repressed crap) started my journey toward transitioning to a female identity. I sort of feel like you're me, but years in the future.

Were you practicing when you transitioned? I have serious fear about the impact this process will have on my legal career, and there are not a lot of people who can answer any sort of questions about that. Can't stop now, but at least I might be able to get some tips. Lol.
Last edited by alatar1313 on Mon Jul 27, 2020 10:20 am, edited 1 time in total.

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auntmousie
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Re: May it please the Court...

Post by auntmousie » Mon Jul 27, 2020 3:38 pm

BtEO wrote:
Mon Jul 27, 2020 9:05 am
That's a lot of good stuff but I'm just like: "Oh dang, that Venus Envy avatar!"

(and I am also three degrees from Kevin Bacon)
Wow, somebody recognized it! Yay!

I got permission from the author back in my livejournal days to use it as an avatar... plus, all of my bitstrips ones were too big and I didn't feel like reducing them.
When all is said and done, more is generally said than is done.
Ask me anything - no, really - but be warned: I will answer. If you didn't want to know... don't ask.

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auntmousie
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Re: May it please the Court...

Post by auntmousie » Mon Jul 27, 2020 3:51 pm

alatar1313 wrote:
Mon Jul 27, 2020 9:51 am
Haha some coincidence that is. I'm a social security disability hearing attorney and this comic (well ya know, and a few decades of repressed crap) started my journey toward transitioning to a female identity. I sort of feel like you're me, but years in the future.

Were you practicing when you transitioned? I have serious fear about the impact this process will have on my legal career, and there are not a lot of people who can answer any sort of questions about that. Can't stop now, but at least I might be able to get some tips. Lol.
Well, if you're past me, kindly keep a better eye on your blood sugar! oh, I mean um... yeah.

I'm afraid I was not practicing when I transitioned - in fact I did just about everything (TM) before law school. My transition happened in what I call my "shiftless wastrel" years, between my first and second careers, when my main responsibility was keeping my wife sane. Ayup... that happened. And she didn't shoot me, which in retrospect is kind of a miracle.

Other than getting periodically misgendered by judges, which I've learned to mostly shrug off, my transition hasn't had much of an impact on my career. It may have impacted my job search (no one will admit it one way or the other, but I think it did), but my employer is more of an old school "all I care about is whether you can do the work" kind of outfit.

At the risk of talking shop - I passed the bar in '12, and landed this job in early '14. I briefly worked in appeals, then moved over to doing hearings for a few years (I stopped counting after the first thousand hearings), then hopped back in the appellate saddle a couple years ago. When I did hearings it was mostly out of Portland OHO, and while I won't say nice things about all of those judges, they are generally pretty woke at least.

Although...

Picture this: It's the end of a hearing, and I'm pointing out a rule to the judge that I think should cut the case my way. The judge has a different reading of the same rule. Rather than argue in front of a client, I offer to check it out and submit a post-hearing brief - with the self-deprecating tagline of "I could be wrong - heck, I was wrong for thirty years once." As we're leaving, the judge stops me. "Counsel, what on earth were you wrong about for thirty years?" "My gender," I answer, and let the door close before he can respond. He retired about two months later and I will always believe that was the day he made up his mind.
When all is said and done, more is generally said than is done.
Ask me anything - no, really - but be warned: I will answer. If you didn't want to know... don't ask.

alatar1313
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Re: May it please the Court...

Post by alatar1313 » Mon Jul 27, 2020 7:19 pm

That's a pretty awesome story. Confidence right there. Thanks!

I pretty much just do hearings on contract from other firms. So, I was doing 20-30/month prior to the pandemic closures. I'm out of Oklahoma though, so I frequently see all the judges in Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Springfield MO, and Ft Smith AR. I was also traveling the country doing contract hearings (something like 25 states so far including 10ish hearings in Medford - I think they were Portland ALJs - that's one of my favorites to fly out to). In general I'm not concerned with the judges I've only seen once or twice, I'd be more concerned with the ones who already have seen me a hundred times already. Some of them I know are...not exactly supportive due to their seeming hostility toward lgbtq+ claimants that doesn't seem to appear with other claimants (just one example off the top of my head: one of mine was a woman married to another woman - the ALJ kept insisting on referring to her wife as her "roommate" despite correction). In those situations, I've always been able to explain to my clients how they should still take heart that much of the process is not up to the individual ALJ's discretion, that there is an appeals process above the hearing level, and that I'll be with them every step of the way. It just feels very different when it may potentially be my fault.

When it's just bias against me, I don't really care all that much. Strangers can think whatever they want. But, when it has the potential to impact my clients' chances, I'm not sure what to think about it. I just feel like ALJs might use what little discretion they have against my clients. On one hand, I know this is somewhat irrational to some degree. I know that most of the ALJs I interact with regularly don't make their final decision until later on post-hearing anyway. I know that most of them care a *lot* more about preparation and good argument than they care about the personal qualities of the representative. But I still know that, when a hearing goes poorly or a claimant I thought should win gets denied, I *already* feel it's my fault. And this is without adding potential bias to the situation. So, I'm just not really sure what to think about it.

Maybe I should keep practicing disability up until I have the confidence to present female in a professional setting. Then I could switch fields. Or move somewhere other than Oklahoma. I don't know! I've been practicing long enough for reciprocity in a bunch of other states, but most of my friends live here. I'm sure I'll figure it out, but if you have any tips, they'd be greatly appreciated.

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auntmousie
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Re: May it please the Court...

Post by auntmousie » Mon Jul 27, 2020 8:02 pm

alatar1313 wrote:
Mon Jul 27, 2020 7:19 pm
Maybe I should keep practicing disability up until I have the confidence to present female in a professional setting. Then I could switch fields. Or move somewhere other than Oklahoma. I don't know! I've been practicing long enough for reciprocity in a bunch of other states, but most of my friends live here. I'm sure I'll figure it out, but if you have any tips, they'd be greatly appreciated.
For reference, Medford judges are generally out of Eugene. Given a brief description I could probably name the judge, if it was in the last couple years...

I've also done a bit of "globe-trotting" - done hearings in Alaska, California, North Dakota, Nebraska, and Tucson so far - as well as several in various locations in Oregon and Washington, which I don't really count because they're still in driving range. Because I did hearings long enough to not embarrass myself, the firm still occasionally assigns me out-of-state hearings - because for the most part, I can work in an airport just as well as at the office. (In reality... well, maybe not "just as well." But don't tell them!)

I have not spent much time in Oklahoma - in fact, discounting flyover time, I think I just visited the panhandle for a bit on a four-state driving tour the day before my SRS. We went and took pictures at the "Welcome To..." signs for New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma. What little of OK I saw did not make me want to see more, but I'll acknowledge that my sample size was both small and skewed.

Moving across the country is not an easy decision or an easy task, and I wouldn't want to unduly push you. Leaving friends and family behind was a big heartache when I left California, and I didn't even have a professional license to consider. The support of friends is important, especially now - when the very nature of quarantine makes finding new friends a bit harder.

I can definitely recommend Portland, OR as both being generally trans-friendly and having an extremely collegial bar. The nice thing about Social Security is that you can use your existing license for it, and don't have to take a new bar exam right away. (I have no idea what the reciprocity situation is, though it's probably not too hard to google.) The up-until-recently HO Chief ALJ for Portland is openly lesbian, so that ... obviously paints a different picture from what you're describing. (Then again, so is the Governor.) There is a Facebook group for the Portland Transgender community, and they're pretty welcoming of people thinking of moving to the area; if you wanted to look into it I would start there. Medford also seems nice, albeit a much smaller town. Eugene is a nice college town, I could see myself there if for some reason I had to leave Portland in the dead of night and never look back. Bend is great if you like mountains and beer (and hey, who doesn't), but I'm a city girl at heart, and Bend just isn't.

I think someone on this website said some pretty good things about Austin (wink), and that's probably closer to you, if you wanted to make a less drastic change.
When all is said and done, more is generally said than is done.
Ask me anything - no, really - but be warned: I will answer. If you didn't want to know... don't ask.

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Re: May it please the Court...

Post by alatar1313 » Mon Jul 27, 2020 9:04 pm

Ah, I hadn't actually been to Eugene. It's quite possible that the ALJs were out of there. It's been a little bit. I do love the town, though. Though I hear Medford collects smoke in the valley due to the geography. Either way, beautiful place and I love visiting. My family thinks it gets too cold, but I don't mind.

We've considered Austin as well. Much more liberal than anywhere in Oklahoma. Gets hot, but could be worse. Texas is absolutely swimming with other disability attorneys though. I never get my bids on hearings down there (probably because the state's so big, and thus they have such a high travel reimbursement cap). So, I'd certainly need to change the structure of my business going down there.

The biggest reason we ended up sticking around the last time we considered moving is because, while I certainly can practice anywhere with my oklahoma license in SSA administrative proceedings, there was a question as to whether I could own/operate a business providing legal services with an out of state license, regardless of practice area. It's something that I never did resolve, but I wasn't able to find anyone with a straight answer nor was I able to find one myself. But there are plenty of reciprocity states with essentially no requirements to move your bar license if you can prove you've been actively practicing ~5 years. Worst case scenario I could take another bar exam. Obviously not the preferred scenario, but I've passed one - I could pass another. lol

But who knows. Like one of the judges in Oklahoma City, one of my favorites, is also an open lesbian. I had forgotten she was until you mentioned the one up there. Last time I was talking to her (pre-covid), she was recommending places to visit the next time I had hearings out in Hawaii since she and her partner go out every year. No one seems to have a problem with her - everyone wants to have her for hearings since her favorable rate is solid and she's always willing to hear a good argument. Though I haven't been stalking the halls asking around either. Honestly, I'm probably just overthinking it. I'd imagine 90% of them don't care who I am so long as I get my records in on time and have the file well researched and referenced. If any ALJ were foolish enough to say anything on the record, we could deal with that (I'm sure we both have a few good stories about idiotic things ALJs have said on the record). It's just one of those fears I have and probably like 30-40% of the reason I didn't want to ever confront my feelings about any of this before I saw this comic. But hey, I guess worst case scenario I could always see how it goes then move later if it goes poorly. Plenty of opportunity with a law license in the country.

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Re: May it please the Court...

Post by BtEO » Mon Jul 27, 2020 9:33 pm

auntmousie wrote:
Mon Jul 27, 2020 3:38 pm
BtEO wrote:
Mon Jul 27, 2020 9:05 am
That's a lot of good stuff but I'm just like: "Oh dang, that Venus Envy avatar!"

(and I am also three degrees from Kevin Bacon)
Wow, somebody recognized it! Yay!

I got permission from the author back in my livejournal days to use it as an avatar... plus, all of my bitstrips ones were too big and I didn't feel like reducing them.
I'm really glad it got at least the updates it did so it didn't end where it originally looked like it might have done.

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auntmousie
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Re: May it please the Court...

Post by auntmousie » Tue Jul 28, 2020 12:02 am

alatar1313 wrote:
Mon Jul 27, 2020 9:04 pm
(I'm sure we both have a few good stories about idiotic things ALJs have said on the record).
Ain't that the truth! One of my favorites was on remand from federal court. ALJ calls me in for a pre-hearing conference, explaining that she thinks her decision writer just did a bad job, and doesn't believe there's any reason to change her decision, but noticed that my client turned 55 and grids out. Offers to let me amend to age 55 and take a fully favorable decision on that date. I point out that there's a new psych eval from a Washington state doctor that says my client is disabled outright on mental grounds. ALJ starts a rant about how she knows that doctor and his father, and he never met a claimant that he didn't think was disabled, he wouldn't even think I, or she, or the clerk was able to work even though we're all working, so frankly she isn't going to credit his opinion. While sh'e ranting, I look down and see that beautiful little red light... and say "I understand your position, I'll talk to my client."

Told my client if she takes the deal she's fired. She still got her age 55 grid, and we went straight back to federal court claiming bias - which we won, and got her a new hearing. Never won a bias case before... but the record was crystal clear.
When all is said and done, more is generally said than is done.
Ask me anything - no, really - but be warned: I will answer. If you didn't want to know... don't ask.

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auntmousie
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Re: May it please the Court...

Post by auntmousie » Tue Jul 28, 2020 12:03 am

BtEO wrote:
Mon Jul 27, 2020 9:33 pm
I'm really glad it got at least the updates it did so it didn't end where it originally looked like it might have done.
Hey, thanks for that - I hadn't looked in ages, and somehow had never seen the update.
When all is said and done, more is generally said than is done.
Ask me anything - no, really - but be warned: I will answer. If you didn't want to know... don't ask.

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Re: May it please the Court...

Post by alatar1313 » Tue Jul 28, 2020 12:10 am

Haha yeah I've definitely had a few who have issues with particular doctors and refuse to give them weight - usually a great appeal on merit, but I haven't had one go so far as to tell me about their problems with a particular doctor on the record.

My best ones are probably these: I had one of those excellent ALJs out of Alaska go on a rant and call my client a liar, a thief, and a waste of space on the record. Same ALJ, different client, she finally relented to request a CE post-hearing after I badgered her about it the whole hearing, but then said on record that she just knew that that client was going to go in and lie to the doctor. I'm just sitting there thinking like "why would you even grant the request then? That actually wasn't technically mandatory." Yeah, this is why I don't fly to Alaska on a contingent fee.

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auntmousie
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Re: May it please the Court...

Post by auntmousie » Tue Jul 28, 2020 7:24 am

alatar1313 wrote:
Tue Jul 28, 2020 12:10 am
My best ones are probably these: I had one of those excellent ALJs out of Alaska go on a rant and call my client a liar, a thief, and a waste of space on the record. Same ALJ, different client, she finally relented to request a CE post-hearing after I badgered her about it the whole hearing, but then said on record that she just knew that that client was going to go in and lie to the doctor. I'm just sitting there thinking like "why would you even grant the request then? That actually wasn't technically mandatory." Yeah, this is why I don't fly to Alaska on a contingent fee.
I know EXACTLY the judge you mean. My office sends me to a lot of her hearings because I won one once.

The other one (the guy) just retired.
When all is said and done, more is generally said than is done.
Ask me anything - no, really - but be warned: I will answer. If you didn't want to know... don't ask.

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Re: May it please the Court...

Post by alatar1313 » Tue Jul 28, 2020 7:45 am

Haha. Well hopefully they get a new one in with a higher than 20% approval rate. I enjoy flying out there because Anchorage is so beautiful. I just love the mountains. But I only go there if a firm is paying my fee outside of a contingent arrangement since they're nearly impossible to win (and the big national firms that send me out there tend to have...sub-par evidence gathering skills). I have to say I am so glad I found this practice area because it has given me the opportunity to do a lot of traveling to new and interesting places (and also Nevada, Missouri which has to be the most boring town big enough to have its own social security office). And I actually get to help people. Was doing divorces before and they were just *the worst*.

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auntmousie
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Re: May it please the Court...

Post by auntmousie » Tue Jul 28, 2020 5:43 pm

OMG that description.

And yeah, I wouldn't do divorce law on a bet. What I love about Social Security law is that I never have to feel bad about winning a case. There's certainly some heartache about some that I lose, but I'm reminded about the old man and the starfish.
When all is said and done, more is generally said than is done.
Ask me anything - no, really - but be warned: I will answer. If you didn't want to know... don't ask.

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