"overpayment" because it conflicts with his narrow interpretation of the scope of redetermination. This court, however, has already ruled that the Secretary's reassessment of each class member's claim must encompass the entire time period since the class member filed his initial application. Consistent with this ruling, the court adopts plaintiffs' definition of "overpayment."
E. Subparagraph 13(d): Compliance Reports
The parties' final dispute over plaintiffs' proposed order concerns subparagraph 13(d), which requires the Secretary to produce periodic reports detailing his progress in implementing relief. The Secretary has consented to provide plaintiffs' attorneys with a compliance report for each six-month period from the entry of final judgment until each class member obtains relief. Moreover, the parties agree that each compliance report will feature most of the specific components described in subparagraph 13(d), including a statistical breakdown of the Secretary's redeterminations of class members' claims. Nonetheless, the Secretary has balked at plaintiffs' request in subparagraph 13(d) for data regarding class members' appeals to administrative law judges or the Appeals Council. The Secretary insists that the compilation of such data would prove extremely burdensome, involving the review of numerous files in various locations throughout the United States. Even if the Secretary is exaggerating the difficulty of gathering information on class members' appeals, the court questions the utility of such information. Plaintiffs' attorneys can adequately monitor the Secretary's compliance with this court's orders by reviewing the data that the Secretary has already agreed to supply. Thus, the Secretary's compliance reports will fully serve their purpose whether or not they include information on class members' appeals. For this reason, the court will not require the Secretary to report the results of class members' appeals in his semiannual compliance reports.
II. The Secretary's Motion for Reconsideration of Class Certification
To participate in this class action lawsuit, unsuccessful disability claimants did not need to exhaust their administrative remedies or file a timely petition for judicial review. When certifying the Johnson class, this court elected to waive the exhaustion requirement for class members. 100 F.R.D. at 73-74. One year later, the court found that the Secretary had waived the statute of limitations. 607 F. Supp. at 877-78. On three previous occasions, the Secretary's predecessors have asked this court to reconsider these jurisdictional rulings. Each time, the court has reaffirmed its original rulings. 697 F. Supp. at 353; 607 F. Supp. at 878-80; 604 F. Supp. at 1072-74. Undaunted by these repeated rebuffs, the Secretary recently mounted yet another challenge to the composition of the class. Several weeks after the parties moved for entry of an amended judgment order, the Secretary filed an independent motion for reconsideration of class certification in light of the Supreme Court's recent decision in Pittston Coal Group v. Sebben, 488 U.S. 105, 109 S. Ct. 414, 102 L. Ed. 2d 408 (1988).
Sebben involved a class of coal miners who had applied for black lung benefits. In denying the claims of these miners, the Secretary of Labor applied regulations that the Eighth Circuit subsequently struck down. See Coughlan v. Director, Office of Workers' Compensation Programs, 757 F.2d 966 (8th Cir. 1985). Following the invalidation of these regulations, the Sebben plaintiffs sought readjudication of their claims under the standard of review prescribed by Coughlan. In requesting this reconsideration, the Sebben plaintiffs faced a serious obstacle. None of the Sebben class members had exhausted administrative remedies, and most of the miners in the class had not filed a timely petition for judicial review. Therefore, the Sebben plaintiffs' claims had already become final. When the Secretary of Labor refused to reconsider these final determinations, the Sebben plaintiffs persuaded the Eighth Circuit to issue a writ of mandamus compelling the Department of Labor to reopen the claims of all class members. See In re Sebben, 815 F.2d 475 (8th Cir. 1987). On appeal, the Supreme Court agreed that the Secretary of Labor had previously applied invalid regulations when deciding class members' claims. Sebben, 109 S. Ct. at 419-23. Nonetheless, the Supreme Court reversed the Eighth Circuit's mandamus order. The Court observed that "the extraordinary remedy of mandamus . . . will issue only to compel the performance of 'a clear nondiscretionary duty."' Id. at 424 (citing Heckler v. Ringer, 466 U.S. 602, 616, 80 L. Ed. 2d 622, 104 S. Ct. 2013 (1984)). The Court then concluded that the Sebben plaintiffs had not established a duty to reopen the final determinations of their claims. Id. Consequently, the Court ordered dismissal of the petition for mandamus. Id. 109 S. Ct. at 425.
Factually, Sebben bears a certain resemblance to the instant case. In each case, a government agency relied on invalid regulations when denying certain claims for federal disability benefits. In each case, several of the affected claimants filed a class action suit seeking reconsideration of their applications for benefits. Finally, in each case, plaintiffs' proposed class included claimants who had not satisfied the procedural requirements of exhaustion and timeliness. After noting these superficial similarities between the cases, the Secretary argues that each case should produce a similar outcome: the denial of readjudications to class members who have not exhausted administrative remedies or complied with the statute of limitations. This argument overlooks a rather obvious point: Although Sebben and Johnson may have evolved from similar factual scenarios, the similarity between the cases ends when the legal analysis begins. In Sebben, the Supreme Court denied plaintiffs relief because they had not justified judicial resort to the extreme remedy of mandamus under 28 U.S.C. § 1361. By contrast, the Secretary's challenge to the Johnson class raises two entirely different issues: judicial waiver of exhaustion and the Secretary's waiver of the 60-day limitations period under the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Thus, the Supreme Court's mandamus analysis in Sebben provides this court with little assistance in defining the appropriate scope of the Johnson class.
The Secretary acknowledges that Sebben did not directly address the jurisdictional issues involved in Social Security class action suits. Nonetheless, the Secretary urges this court to redefine the Johnson class by applying the "policy" espoused in Sebben. According to the Secretary, Sebben stands for the general principle that courts should favor the finality of claims over the waiver of procedural prerequisites. This court does not read Sebben so broadly. In any event, the court need not strain to apply Sebben to the instant case when the Supreme Court has already offered more explicit guidance concerning the waiver of procedural prerequisites in Social Security class actions. In Bowen v. City of New York, 476 U.S. 467, 90 L. Ed. 2d 462, 106 S. Ct. 2022 (1986), the Supreme Court analyzed the very same issues raised by the Secretary in his continuing challenge to the composition of the Johnson class. Last October, based on its analysis of City of New York, this court concluded that it had properly defined the Johnson class "to include claimants who did not satisfy the requirements of timely appeal and exhaustion - requirements that have been waived in the context of this litigation." 697 F. Supp. at 353. Sebben does not alter the court's position on this matter.
Contrary to this court's conclusion, the Secretary continues to insist that City of New York justifies his proposed redefinition of the class. He claims to find additional support for this argument in Sebben's discussion of City of New York. In fact, Sebben's passing reference to City of New York has little if any relevance to the issues involved in the instant case. When discussing City of New York, the Sebben Court focused solely on the issue of equitable tolling of the statute of limitations. See Sebben, 109 S. Ct. at 425. In the instant case, however, this court did not rely on the equitable tolling doctrine; rather, the court found that the Secretary had waived the limitations period. 607 F. Supp. at 877-78. Thus, Sebben sheds no new light on how City of New York affects the definition of the Johnson class.
Despite his citation to a recent Supreme Court decision, the Secretary's latest challenge to the class echoes most of the same arguments that this court has already rejected. For the fourth time, the court declines the Secretary's invitation to overturn its previous waiver rulings. Nonetheless, at the Secretary's request, the court will make one minor modification to the class definition: The class will not include individuals whose applications were denied or whose entitlements were terminated after May 1, 1985. By that date, the Secretary had abandoned the practice of refusing to combine nonsevere impairments. In assessing all disability claims since that date, the Secretary has not applied the regulation that this court invalidated in Johnson. For this reason, May 1, 1985 represents an appropriate temporal terminus for the class. Accordingly, the court shall amend the class definition in its final judgment order, closing the class as of May 1, 1985.
III. Plaintiffs' Motion for Rule 11 Sanctions
Although the Secretary learned about Sebben while the parties were negotiating an amended judgment order, he did not immediately indicate to plaintiffs that he would mount yet another challenge to the composition of the class. In fact, at the time the parties filed their competing motions for amended judgment, the Secretary raised no objection to the definition of the class proposed by plaintiffs. Then, several weeks after the parties had finished briefing their motions for amended judgment, the Secretary filed a motion for reconsideration of class certification in light of Sebben. Plaintiffs characterize this eleventh-hour motion for reconsideration as a harassing and dilatory tactic that needlessly increased the cost of this litigation. On this basis, plaintiffs seek sanctions under Fed. R. Civ. P. 11.
In assessing the propriety of imposing Rule 11 sanctions, this court must make "an objective determination of whether [the Secretary's] conduct was reasonable under the circumstances." Brown v. Federation of State Medical Boards, 830 F.2d 1429, 1435 (7th Cir. 1987). Judged by an objective standard of reasonableness, the timing of the Secretary's motion for reconsideration defies easy explanation. In attempting to justify his delay in filing the motion, the Secretary offers a couple of lame excuses. First, he claims that his motion for amended judgment, which simply concerned the details of implementing relief, did not provide an appropriate context for raising his objections to the class, which challenged the merits of the court's prior orders. This assertion is rather dubious; when moving for amended judgment, the Secretary could easily have challenged plaintiffs' proposed class definition in the same manner that he objected to other aspects of plaintiffs' proposed order. Even giving the Secretary the benefit of the doubt, his reluctance to raise the class certification issue in his motion for amended judgment does not explain why he waited more than a month after the completed briefing of the motions for amended judgment before he filed his motion for reconsideration. The Secretary tries to attribute this delay to the fact that he recently retained a new attorney. This attorney, however, entered the case while the parties were still negotiating the details of the amended judgment order. Moreover, the Secretary has retained the same attorney of record from the outset of this litigation. Therefore, a change in counsel does not account for the Secretary's delay in filing his motion for reconsideration of class certification.
Ultimately, the Secretary can offer no reasonable explanation for the timing of his motion for reconsideration. His conduct probably merits Rule 11 sanctions. Nonetheless, this court has decided to deny plaintiffs' motion for Rule 11 sanctions. The imposition of such sanctions would unfairly single out the Secretary as the sole villain in this litigation. At various points in the litigation, attorneys on both sides have engaged in unreasonable conduct, advancing legal arguments that were highly questionable if not indefensible. The court attributes this phenomenon to the rancorous relationship that has developed between the lawyers, a blood feud that evokes images of the Montagues and the Capulets. The attorneys' animosity toward each other has transformed zealous advocacy of noble principles into inflexible adherence to untenable positions. In this war of words between the attorneys, the only casualties have been the class members, some of whom have died while awaiting a rehearing on their disability claims. Although plaintiffs' attorneys may fancy themselves the white knights of this litigation, their outrageous posturing has contributed to the delay in their clients' receipt of relief.
Arguably, attorneys on both sides of this lawsuit have engaged in sanctionable conduct. In light of this mutual misconduct, the court sees no point in sanctioning either of the parties at this late stage of the lawsuit. The court can only hope that the entry of an amended judgment order will restore some semblance of civility and reasonableness to this litigation.
For the foregoing reasons, the court grants plaintiffs' motion for entry of an amended judgment order. As the court has previously discussed, this amended judgment order will include certain amendments proposed by the Secretary. Insofar as the Secretary asks the court to close the plaintiff class as of May 1, 1985, the court grants the Secretary's motion for redefinition of the class. In all other respects, however, the court denies the Secretary's motion for reconsideration of class certification. The court also denies plaintiffs' motion for Rule 11 sanctions.
To ensure the full and prompt implementation of the relief previously ordered by this court, it is hereby ORDERED, ADJUDGED, AND DECREED that:
1. As used herein, the following terms have the meanings indicated.
(a) "Class Members" means the class of persons defined as:
All persons in Illinois who have filed applications for disability benefits under Title II and/or Title XVI of the Social Security Act, and whose benefits (between February 26, 1979 and May 1, 1985 inclusive) have been denied pursuant to the policies set forth in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c) and.1522 (1983), 416.920(c) and.922 (1983), and Social Security Rulings cum ed. 82-55, 82-56 (1982); and all recipients of such benefits who (between February 26, 1979 and May 1, 1985 inclusive) have made claims for continued benefits (through participation in a Continuing Disability Interview), and whose benefits have been terminated pursuant to the same policies.