Johnson v. United States Railroad Retirement Board

969 F.2d 1082 (D.C. Cir. 1992)


P is the wife of Edward Johnson, a former railroad employee. As the mother and stepmother of his five children, D found her eligible for a spousal annuity effective September 10, 1976. In late 1986, D notified her that the Tier I component of her annuity would be cut off on April 1, 1987, when her youngest child turned sixteen. On reconsideration, P's claim was denied, and her monthly payment was reduced from $391.11 to $84.11. P filed an administrative appeal and was told that the issue presented 'was solely a matter of law,' and did not require a hearing. The first appeals referee denied P's claim. A second appeals referee reopened the decision and again rejected P. A three-member panel of the Board issued its final decision, affirming the decision of the second appeals referee in a one-sentence order. The third-panel member dissented vigorously, calling the Board's policy of nonacquiescence 'grossly unjust' and urging payment of Tier I benefits to all widows and spouses with children between sixteen and eighteen. P then filed a class action in district court claiming a violation of the Act and the Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause. She also claimed that the Board's policy of intra-circuit nonacquiescence violated the statutory and constitutional rights of her class. The district court decided that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction and transferred her case to this court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1631. This court cannot adjudicate the class action; and if she chose to pursue the transfer, she would have to abandon the class action challenge. She chose instead to move for reconsideration, requesting that the district court dismiss her complaint, or that it certify its order finding no jurisdiction for interlocutory review under 28 U.S.C. § 129(b). P petitioned this court for review, to protect her individual claim for benefits.