Page:Michael J. Biestek v. Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security.pdf/24

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Gorsuch, J., dissenting

cases like the one before us, and in that way begin to offer lower courts meaningful guidance in this important area. While I would not hesitate to take this course and make plain that cases like Mr. Biestek’s fail the substantial evidence standard, I understand the Court today to choose the first option and leave these matters for another day.

There is good news and bad news in this. If my understanding of the Court’s opinion is correct, the good news is that the Court remains open to the possibility that in real-world cases like Mr. Biestek’s, lower courts may—and even should—find the substantial evidence test unmet. The bad news is that we must wait to find out, leaving many people and courts in limbo in the meantime. Cases with facts like Mr. Biestek’s appear to be all too common. See, e. g., Dubin, Overcoming Gridlock: Campbell After a Quarter-Century and Bureaucratically Rational Gap-Filling in Mass Justice Adjudication in the Social Security Administration’s Disability Programs, 62 Admin. L. Rev. 937, 966 (2010). And many courts have erred in them by finding the substantial evidence test met, as the Sixth Circuit did in the case now before us. Some courts have even conflated the substantial evidence standard—a substantive standard governing what’s needed to sustain a judgment as a matter of law—with procedural rules governing the admission of evidence. These courts have mistakenly suggested that, because the Federal Rules of Evidence don’t apply in Social Security proceedings, anything an expert says will suffice to meet the agency’s burden of proof. See, e. g., Welsh v. Commissioner of Social Security, 662 Fed. Appx. 105, 109–110 (CA3 2016); Bayliss v. Barnhart, 427 F. 3d 1211, 1218, and n. 4 (CA9 2005). Definitively resolving this case would have provided more useful guidance for practitioners and lower courts that have struggled with a significant category of cases like Mr. Biestek’s, all while affording him the relief the law promises in disputes like his.