Nelson v. Social Security Office
ORDER denying 14 Motion to Reopen Case as set out. Signed by District Judge William H. Steele on 08/09/2018. Copy to Plaintiff. (srd)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
SOCIAL SECURITY OFFICE,
CIVIL ACTION 17-0571-WS-MU
This closed matter comes before the Court on pro se plaintiff Valerie Nelson’s filing,
which is liberally construed as a Motion to Reopen (doc. 14).
Nelson commenced this action on December 29, 2017, appealing a decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security denying her benefits. On February 7, 2018, however, Nelson
filed a Motion to Stay (doc. 10), based on information that the Appeals Council had reinstated
her request for review of the Administrative Law Judge’s denial, and had granted additional time
for submission of argument and evidence. On February 16, 2018, Magistrate Judge Murray
entered a Report and Recommendation (doc. 11), opining that a stay was inappropriate because
the reinstatement of Nelson’s appeal meant that there was no final decision of the Commissioner
of Social Security, and therefore no jurisdiction to hear her case in federal court. See 42 U.S.C. §
405(g) (“Any individual, after any final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security made
after a hearing to which he was a party, … may obtain a review of such decision by a civil action
commenced within sixty days after the mailing to him of notice of such decision.”). On that
basis, the Magistrate Judge recommended that Nelson’s federal case be dismissed for lack of
jurisdiction, rather than stayed. Nelson did not object. On March 19, 2018, this Court entered an
Order (doc. 12) and Judgment (doc. 13), adopting the Report and Recommendation and
dismissing Nelson’s Complaint without prejudice for lack of jurisdiction.
Now, nearly five months later, Nelson files what appears to be a Motion to Reopen, in
which she indicates that the Appeals Council closed her case and did not review the additional
evidence she provided. For that reason, she wishes to have this federal action reopened so that
she may “have her day in court.” The trouble is that this case was closed, not stayed, in March
2018. The circumstances that Nelson described do not justify relief from the March 19 Order
and Judgment dismissing her Complaint for lack of jurisdiction. At that time, the Court
expressly declined to grant Nelson’s request for a stay that would have allowed her to reinstate
her existing lawsuit upon final action by the Appeals Council. That reasoning remains sound
today. Of course, the dismissal was without prejudice, so nothing in this Order would forbid
Nelson from commencing a new federal court action against the Commissioner by filing a new
complaint appealing the final decision denying her benefits, and either paying the filing fee or
submitting an application to proceed without prepayment of fees and costs. But reopener of her
prior Complaint dismissed several months ago on jurisdictional grounds is not appropriate at this
time. Accordingly, the Motion to Reopen is denied.
DONE and ORDERED this 9th day of August, 2018.
s/ WILLIAM H. STEELE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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