Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, March 17, 2016


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Ninth Circuit Rejects Challenge by Stephen Yagman to Amounts Taken From Benefits to Satisfy Debt


By a MetNews Staff Writer


The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday rebuffed disbarred lawyer Stephen Yagman’s challenge the extent of the federal government’s confiscation of a portion of his Social Security benefits to satisfy his debt to the United States.

Yagman, once a prominent civil rights attorney, was convicted in 2007 of income tax evasion and other felonies. He was sentenced to three years in prison, and at that time, owed the government roughly $100,000.

In yesterday’s unpublished memorandum opinion, the panel recited that he presently owes “approximately $22,500.” It rejected his contention that not more than 15 percent of the monthly benefits may be seized.

The per curiam decision notes that $750 per month cannot be touched by the government because that portion of the benefits, under 31 U.S.C. § 3716(c)(3)(A)(i), is “exempt from offset.”

A 15 percent cap, the opinion declares, is contained in a different statute. The opinion says:

 “Thus, the statutory exemption guarantees only that a debtor will receive a monthly benefit of at least $750 notwithstanding the debt. Since Yagman has always received far in excess of that amount, the calculation of his offsets complies with the statute’s unambiguous command.”

The opinion affirms the dismissal of Yagman’s action, under the Administrative Procedures Act, by District Court Judge Stephen V. Wilson.

It declines to address arguments arguments not presented to Wilson.

The case is Yagman v. Whittlesey, No. 14-55006.


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