ARTICLE: Toward a New Dynamic in Poverty Client Empowerment: The Rhetoric, Politics, and Therapeutics of Opening Statements in Social Security Disability Hearings Skip over navigation
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Copyright (c) 1996 Yale Journal of Law and Feminism
Yale Journal of Law and Feminism

ARTICLE: Toward a New Dynamic in Poverty Client Empowerment: The Rhetoric, Politics, and Therapeutics of Opening Statements in Social Security Disability Hearings

1996

8 Yale J.L. & Feminism 119

Author

Linda S. Durston and Linda G. Mills +

Excerpt

I. INTRODUCTION

The Social Security Administration's Hearings, Appeals, and Litigation Law Manual states that its Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) should make opening statements in Social Security disability hearings. 2 While the matter is not formally prescribed one way or another, ALJs also typically invite claimant representatives--the advocates and attorneys who assist claimants in presenting their evidence before ALJs--to make opening statements. Despite this incentive to introduce remarks in disability hearings, a study of sixty-seven transcripts from Social Security disability hearings conducted in three major U.S. cities found that Social Security ALJs in 72% of the cases reviewed either gave no opening statement or gave an incomplete one. 3 A review of these same transcripts shows that claimant representatives almost without exception declined to introduce their arguments and analyses.

From a rhetorical standpoint, 4 an opening statement, introduction, or exordium is essential to establish a starting point for virtually any kind of communication. An audience's level of attention and retention is highest at the beginning of a speech, and the exordium raises the audience's expectations about the subject and form of the discourse. Moreover, the exordium sets pace, proportion, tone, character, stance, and style. 5 According to one recent observer, the beginning establishes "explicit and implicit rules of pertinence" that "authorize" the "links between steps" and that give rise to spontaneous arguments dealing with the subject and the speaker in the subsequent argument. 6 According to Kenneth Burke, the exordium is the appetite, the arousing, "the arrows of ...
 
 
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