Trials & Litigation

Lawyer Sentenced to Anger Course After Elevator Incident with Social Security Judge

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A federal magistrate judge found an Oregon disability claims lawyer guilty of disorderly conduct and sentenced him to a year of probation and an anger management course after a three-year series of incidents between Daniel Bernath and a social security judge escalated into an elevator altercation at an administrative hearing office.

“I hope I don’t see any of you in court again,” said U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Papak yesterday, after dressing down Bernath for behavior that included lampooning the disability hearing judge, Dan Hyatt, on Bernath’s website (which now features a “Praise the Judges” page), reports the Oregonian.

After Hyatt questioned Bernath’s honesty in a 2007 disability hearing, the suburban Portland lawyer filed six complaints against Hyatt with lawyer discipline authorities and suggested to tax authorities in a letter that he might have cheated on his return.

All the bar complaints were dismissed, but social security officials disciplined the judge because a compact disc of the hearing in which the judge questioned Bernath’s honesty included a claimant’s social security number, which is an invasion of privacy. As a result, Hyatt was suspended for four days.

Bernath must also stay away from Hyatt, under his sentence yesterday, and the judge recused himself from hearing any of Bernath’s cases some time ago.

Meanwhile, the Bernath battle continues on other fronts, according to a lengthy earlier Oregonian article on the fireworks so far:

The elevator incident earlier this year briefly resulted in a restraining order, won by Bernath against the judge, that prevented Hyatt from entering his own workplace, prompting social security officials to seek help from the federal district court in Portland.

The social security office is also seeking to bar Bernath from continuing to represent claimants.

On his side, Bernath has filed notices of his intent to seek millions of dollars in damages in lawsuits against the Social Security Administration and Hyatt.

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