Hinton v. Social Security Administration

Filing 16

ORDER Dismissing 13 Amended Complaint with leave to amend. Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint is due within sixty (60) days of the date she receives this Order. Absent a showing of good cause, Plaintiff's failure to timely file a Second Amended Complaint may result in dismissal of this action for failure to comply with a court order. Signed by Magistrate Judge Lawrence O Anderson on 8/9/11. (DMT)

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1 WO 2 3 4 5 6 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 7 FOR THE DISTRICT OF ARIZONA 8 9 Shawnella Hinton, Plaintiff, 10 11 vs. 12 Social Security Administration, 13 Defendant. 14 ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) No. CV-11-704-PHX-LOA ORDER 15 This matter is before the Court on review of pro se Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint. 16 (Doc. 13) For the reasons set forth below, the Court will direct Plaintiff to file a Second 17 Amended Complaint in compliance with this Order. 18 I. Procedural History 19 On April 8, 2011, Plaintiff filed a Complaint apparently seeking review of the denial 20 of her application for disability benefits under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act. 21 Plaintiff also filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis, which the Court granted. (Doc. 22 4) Plaintiff has consented to magistrate-judge jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636. (Doc. 23 9) Because Plaintiff’s Complaint did not comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8, the 24 Court directed Plaintiff to filed an Amended Complaint on or before August 5, 2011. (Docs. 25 6, 12) On August 5, 2011, Plaintiff timely filed an Amended Complaint. 26 II. Discussion 27 28 A. Screening Standard The Court has previously granted Plaintiff’s application to proceed in forma pauperis 1 and now reviews the Amended Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Pursuant to 28 2 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), a district court must conduct an initial review of the complaint for 3 sufficiency to state a claim. The court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the court 4 determines that the action is “frivolous or malicious,” “fails to state a claim upon which relief 5 may be granted,” or “seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 6 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). If the court determines that the complaint fails to state a claim, leave 7 to amend may be granted to the extent that the deficiencies of the complaint can be cured by 8 amendment. 9 Although pro se pleadings are liberally construed, see Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 10 519, 520-21 (1972), a pro se plaintiff must still satisfy the pleading requirements of Rule 8(a) 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. A pleading must contain a “short and plain statement 12 of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). While Rule 8 13 does not demand detailed factual allegations, “it demands more than unadorned, the-defendant- 14 unlawfully harmed -me accusations.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, ___ U.S.___, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 15 (2009). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory 16 statements, do not suffice.” Id. “[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted 17 as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Id. (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. 18 v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is plausible “when the plaintiff pleads factual 19 content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the 20 misconduct alleged.” Id. “Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief 21 [is] . . . a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial 22 experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950. 23 B. Proper Defendant 24 Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint names the Social Security Administration as the only 25 Defendant. The Social Security Administration is not a proper defendant in an action 26 challenging the denial of Social Security Benefits. Rather, the Commissioner of Social 27 Security, presently Michael J. Astrue, is the proper defendant in such an action. 42 U.S.C. § 28 405(g) (referring to the “Commissioner’s Answer”). Title 20 CFR § 422.210(d) elaborates: -2- Proper defendant. Where any civil action described in paragraph (a) of this section is instituted, the person holding the Office of the Commissioner shall, in his official capacity, be the proper defendant. Any such civil action properly instituted shall survive notwithstanding any change of the person holding the Office of the Commissioner or any vacancy in such office. If the complaint is erroneously filed against the United States or against any agency, officer, or employee of the United States other than the Commissioner, the plaintiff will be notified that he has named an incorrect defendant and will be granted 1 2 3 4 5 60 days from the date of receipt of such notice in which to commence the action against the correct defendant, the Commissioner. 6 20 CFR § 422.210 (emphasis added). Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint does not identify the 7 proper defendant. Plaintiff shall properly name Michael Astrue, the Commissioner of Social 8 Security, and not the Social Security Administration, in her Second Amended Complaint. 9 10 C. Timeliness of Appeal Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) authorizes dismissal for lack of subject 11 matter jurisdiction. Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and lack inherent or general 12 subject matter jurisdiction. Federal courts can adjudicate only those cases in which the United 13 States Constitution and Congress authorize them to adjudicate. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. 14 Co., 511 U.S. 374 (1994). Federal courts presumptively lack jurisdiction over civil actions, and 15 the burden to establish the contrary rests upon the party asserting jurisdiction. Kokkonen, 511 16 U.S. at 377. Lack of subject matter jurisdiction is never waived and may be raised by the court 17 sua sponte. Attorneys Trust v. Videotape Computer Products, Inc., 93 F.3d 593, 594-595 (9th 18 Cir. 1996). 19 Judicial review of the Commissioner’s administrative decisions is governed by 20 Section 405(g) and (h) of the Social Security Act, which provide, in pertinent part, that: 21 22 23 (g) Any individual, after any final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security made after a hearing to which he was a party, irrespective of the amount in controversy, 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 or within such further time as the Commissioner of Social Security may allow. 24 * 25 (h) The findings and decision of the Commissioner after a hearing shall be binding upon all individuals who were parties to such hearing. No findings of facts or decision of the Commissioner shall be reviewed by any person, tribunal, or governmental agency except as herein provided. No action against the United States, the Commissioner, or any officer or employee thereof shall be brought 26 27 * * 28 -3- 1 under section 1331 or 1346 of Title 28 to recover on any claim arising under this subchapter. 2 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), (h). Section 405(g) and (h), therefore, operate as a statute of limitations 3 establishing the time period in which a claimant may appeal a final decision of the 4 Commissioner. Bowen v. City of New York, 476 U.S. 467, 479 (1986); Vernon v. Heckler, 811 5 F.2d 1274, 1277 (9th Cir. 1987). Because the time limit set forth in 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) is a 6 condition on the waiver of sovereign immunity, it must be strictly construed. Bowen, 476 U.S. 7 at 479. “The limitations to final decisions and to a sixty-day filing period serve to compress the 8 time for judicial review and to limit judicial review to the original decision denying benefits, 9 thereby forestalling repetitive or belated litigation of stale eligibility claims.” Anderson v. 10 11 Astrue, 2008 WL 4506606, * 3 (E.D.Cal., Oct.7, 2008). Here, Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint does not contain any dates relevant to her 12 administrative proceedings. Although Plaintiff attached several documents related to the 13 administrative proceedings to her original Complaint, doc. 1, those materials are not part of the 14 Amended Complaint and will not be considered by the Court. Local Rule of Civil Procedure 15 15.1 requires that an amended complaint be complete in itself. LRCiv.P 15.1 (stating that an 16 “amended pleading is not to incorporate by reference any part of the preceding pleading, 17 including exhibits.”). This is because an amended complaint supersedes the original complaint. 18 Loux v. Rhay, 375 F.2d 55, 57 (9th Cir. 1967). Accordingly, once a plaintiff files an amended 19 complaint, the original no longer serves any function in the case. Therefore, “a plaintiff waives 20 all causes of action alleged in the original complaint which are not alleged in the amended 21 complaint.” London v. Coopers & Lybrand, 644 F.2d 811, 814 (9th Cir. 1981). 22 Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint does not include any dates related to her application 23 for disability benefits and the denial related thereto. Therefore, by solely reviewing the 24 Amended Complaint, the Court cannot determine whether Plaintiff’s filing is timely. 25 Upon receiving a denial of benefits, a plaintiff has sixty days to file an appeal with the 26 Appeals Council. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.967, 404.968. When the Appeals Council reviews the case, 27 it will either affirm, modify, or reject the administrative law judge’s (“ALJ”) recommendation. 28 -4- 1 It may also remand the case. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.979, 404.977. The Appeals Council’s decision 2 is binding unless a party files an action in federal district court within sixty days of the Appeals 3 Council’s decision. 20 C.F.R. §§ 422.210, 404.981. Thus, prior to filing an appeal in federal 4 court, Plaintiff must establish that an appeal with the Appeals Council was filed. Any complaint 5 filed in federal court must then be filed within sixty days of the Appeals Council’s decision. 6 Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint fails to demonstrate that she has filed an appeal with the 7 Appeals Council, and makes no mention of the decision or the outcome. As set forth above, Plaintiff’s Second Amended Complaint must establish that her 8 9 case is properly before the Court and is timely. Plaintiff may not rely on any previously filed 10 pleading or exhibits, but must file a Second Amended Complaint which is complete within 11 itself. 12 D. Plaintiff’s Allegations 13 Liberally construing the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that she was denied 14 disability benefits. She alleges that (1) Defendant erred in failing to consider the supporting 15 materials from Plaintiff’s doctor’s, counselors, family, and psychiatrist, (2) the decision denying 16 her application for benefits appears to be based on information that does not pertain to Plaintiff, 17 and (3) Defendant considered only a “limited selection of documentation submitted by Plaintiff” 18 in rejecting her claim for benefits. Plaintiff’s allegations appear sufficient to survive review 19 under § 1915(e)(2). 20 E. Leave to Amend 21 Although Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint contains the deficiencies noted above, the 22 Court will allow Plaintiff to file a Second Amended Compliant. Plaintiff is reminded that an 23 amended complaint supercedes a previously filed complaint, Forsyth v. Humana, Inc., 114 F.3d 24 1467, 1474 (9th Cir. 1997), and must be complete in itself without reference to a prior or 25 superceded pleading. 26 For the foregoing reasons, 27 IT IS ORDERED that the Amended Complaint is dismissed with leave to amend. 28 -5- 1 Plaintiff’s Second Amended Complaint is due within sixty (60) days of the date she receives 2 this Order. Absent a showing of good cause, Plaintiff’s failure to timely file a Second Amended 3 Complaint may result in dismissal of this action for failure to comply with a court order. 4 DATED this 9th day of August, 2011. 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 -6-

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