Duryea v. Social Security Administration

Filing 9

ORDER dismissing without prejudice 8 Plaintiff's Amended Complaint. The Clerk is kindly directed to terminate this case. Signed by Senior Judge Stephen M McNamee on 6/4/12. (LSP)

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1 WO 2 3 4 5 6 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 7 FOR THE DISTRICT OF ARIZONA 8 Clayton Edwin Duryea, II, 9 Plaintiff, 10 vs. 11 Social Security Administration, 12 Defendant. 13 ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) No. CV-12-748-PHX-LOA ORDER 14 Pro se Plaintiff commenced this lawsuit on April 9, 2012. (Doc. 1) On the same 15 day, the case was randomly assigned to Magistrate Judge Lawrence O. Anderson. (Doc. 16 3) On April 19, 2012, Judge Anderson issued an order that on or before Friday, May 4, 17 2012, Plaintiff must file an amended complaint, setting forth the alleged error made by 18 the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) or why the ALJ’s decision is not supported by 19 substantial evidence in the record as required by Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a) and 42 U.S.C. § 20 405(g). (Doc. 4) Further, on April 19, 2012, Judge Anderson issued a Notice of Assign- 21 ment and Order, directing Plaintiff to either voluntarily consent to magistrate-judge 22 jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1) or elect to proceed before a United States 23 district judge on or before April 27, 2012. (Doc. 5) 24 In cases wherein a plaintiff, as here, is proceeding in forma pauperis, a district 25 court is required to screen cases and must dismiss the case at any time if the court 26 determines that the allegation of poverty is untrue, or the action or appeal is frivolous or 27 malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief 28 against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). (Doc. 2) 1 Screening IFP cases seeking judicial review of Social Security rulings is also required by 2 § 1915(e)(2). Rhett v. New Jersey State Superior Court, 260 Fed.Appx. 513 (3rd Cir. 3 2008); Wheeler v. Social Sec. Admin., 2010 WL 3784891 (E.D.Cal. Sept. 24, 2010); 4 Robinson v. Social Sec. Admin., 2010 WL 2772626 (E.D.Wis. July 13, 2010); . 5 Title 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) is the federal statute governing judicial review of any 6 final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (“[T]he 7 findings of the Commissioner of Social Security as to any fact, if supported by substantial 8 evidence, shall be conclusive, . . . .”); Schweiker v. Chilicky, 487 U.S. 412, 424 (1988). 9 Section 405(g) is the sole jurisdictional basis for judicial review of any claim arising 10 under the Social Security Act. 42 U.S.C. § 405(h). “The Commissioner’s denial of 11 disability benefits may be set aside only when the ALJ’s findings are based on legal error 12 or not supported by substantial evidence in the record. If the evidence can support either 13 outcome, the Commissioner’s decision must be upheld.” Benton v. Barnhart, 331 F.3d 14 1030, 1035 (9th Cir. 2003) (citation omitted); Sandgathe v. Chater, 108 F.3d 978, 980 15 (9th Cir. 1997) (per curiam); Smolen v. Chater, 80 F.3d 1273, 1279 (9th Cir. 1996). 16 The sole function of a district court is to determine whether the decision of the 17 Commissioner is supported by substantial evidence and whether proper legal standards 18 were applied. Clark v. Apfel, 98 F.Supp.2d 1182 (D.Or. 2000); Bloodsworth v. Heckler, 19 703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983). Substantial evidence means more than a mere 20 scintilla, but less than a preponderance; it is “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind 21 might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 22 401 (1971) (citations omitted); Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 720 (9th Cir. 1998). The 23 ALJ is responsible for resolving conflicts, determining credibility, and resolving 24 ambiguities. Magallanes v. Bowen, 881 F.2d 747, 750 (9th Cir. 1989). If sufficient 25 evidence supports an ALJ’s determination, a district court cannot substitute its own 26 determination. Young v. Sullivan, 911 F.2d 180, 184 (9th Cir. 1990). A district court must 27 uphold the Commissioner’s determination that a plaintiff is not disabled if the Commis- 28 sioner applied the proper legal standard and there is substantial evidence in the record as a -2- 1 2 whole to support the decision. Hoffman v. Heckler, 785 F.2d 1423, 1425 (9th Cir. 1986). On May 8, 2012, Judge Anderson issued an Order to Show Cause due to Plaintiff’s 3 failure to comply with Judge Anderson’s April 19, 2012 orders to either voluntarily 4 consent to magistrate-judge jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1) or elect to 5 proceed before a United States district judge and to file an amended complaint. (Doc. 7) 6 Plaintiff was ordered to show cause in writing on or before May 16, 2012 why this case 7 should not be dismissed without prejudice, or why sanctions should not be imposed for 8 his failure to comply with court orders. 9 In his May 8, 2012 Order to Show Cause, doc. 7, Judge Anderson forewarned 10 Plaintiff that, pursuant to Rule 41(b), Fed. R. Civ. P., and Ferdik v. Bonzelet, 963 F.2d 11 1258, 1260 (9th Cir. 1992), trial courts have the inherent power to control their dockets 12 and, in the exercise of that power, may impose sanctions including, where appropriate, 13 dismissal of a case with or without prejudice. See also, Flaksa v. Little River Marine 14 Constr. Co., 389 F.2d 885, 887, 887 (5th Cir. 1968) (cases omitted); Chambers v. 15 NASCO, Inc., 501 U.S. 32, 44-45 (1991) (district court may “fashion appropriate sanction 16 for conduct” including “outright dismissal.”). “The threat of sanctions promotes com- 17 pliance with a court’s orders even if the sanctions threatened are never imposed.” Green 18 v. Lisa Frank, Inc., 221 Ariz. 138, 152, 211 P.3d 16, 30 (Az.Ct.App. 2009) (concluding 19 the trial court did not abuse its discretion in striking plaintiff’s reply, dismissing his cross- 20 claim, and entering judgment in favor of defendant) (citing federal and state cases of 21 dismissals for a party’s failure to comply with court orders). 22 A district court’s inherent authority to sanction parties for failing to comply with 23 its orders exists, in part, to prevent “disobedience [of] the orders of the Judiciary, regard- 24 less of whether such disobedience interfered with the conduct of trial.” Chambers, 501 25 U.S. at 44 (quoting Young v. United States ex rel. Vuitton et Fils, S.A., 481 U.S. 787, 26 798 (1987) (internal quotation marks omitted). “Dismissal of the complaint for failure to 27 comply with the rules [is] within the court’s discretion.” Sergio Bautista et al. v. Los 28 Angeles County, 216 F.3rd 837, 841 (9th Cir. 2000) (citing Original Ballet Russe, Ltd. v. -3- 1 Ballet Theatre, Inc., 133 F.2d 187, 188 (2nd Cir. 1943)); Anheuser-Busch, Inc. v. Natural 2 Beverage Distribs., 69 F.3d 337, 348 (9th Cir. 1995) (The public interest “in expeditious 3 resolution of litigation,” a court’s need to manage its docket, the risk of prejudice to an 4 adverse party for the failure to comply with court orders, the public policy favoring 5 disposition on the merits, the availability of lesser sanctions, the bad faith of a non- 6 compliant party, and the relationship between improper conduct and the case’s merits 7 warrant the consideration of sanctions); Poulis v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 747 F.2d 8 863, 868 (3d Cir. 1984). 9 The Civil Justice Reform Act of 1990 (“CJRA”), 28 U.S.C. § 471 et seq., 10 mandates the early and on-going judicial management of the pretrial process. Under the 11 CJRA mandate, “[f]ederal trial courts are now required, by statute, to implement tech- 12 niques and strategies designed to dispose of cases in an efficient and inexpensive 13 manner.” Schwarzkopf Technologies Corp. v. Ingersoll Cutting Tool Co., 142 F.R.D. 14 420, 423 (D. Del. 1992). Additionally, federal judges “are subject to the injunction of 15 Rule 1 [Federal Rules of Civil Procedure] that [the Rules] ‘be construed to secure the just, 16 speedy and inexpensive determination of every action.’” Herbert v. Lando, 441 U.S. 153, 17 177, (1979) (emphasis in original). 18 On May 14, 2012, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint, doc. 8, which still fails 19 to identify Plaintiff’s claim of the legal error made by the ALJ and the explanation for 20 such error, contrary to Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2) (“A pleading that states a claim for relief 21 must contain . . . a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is 22 entitled to relief; . . . .”). See Hinton v. Social Sec. Admin., 2011 WL 3489663, * 1 23 (D.Ariz. August 9, 2011); Pizarro v. Social Sec. Admin., 2008 WL 220320, * 1 (E.D.Cal. 24 January 25, 2008). Plaintiff’s allegation that “[t]he reason I’m taking Social Security to 25 court is for the large amount of Back Pay that is owed to me” fails to state a claim or give 26 the Commissioner fair notice of the alleged error the ALJ committed. 27 28 To date, Plaintiff has failed to comply with the Court’s May 19, 2012 Notice of Assignment and Order, doc. 5, and the Court’s Order to Show Cause, doc. 7, with respect -4- 1 to Plaintiff’s failure to comply with the Court’s Notice of Assignment and Order. 2 Plaintiff’s failures to timely comply with Judge Anderson’s April 19 and May 8, 2012 3 orders are frustrating the speedy and inexpensive resolution of this case. 4 In determining whether to dismiss a case for failure to comply with court orders, 5 district courts weigh five factors: (1) the public interest; (2) the court’s need to manage 6 the docket; (3) the risk of prejudice to the defendant; (4) the public policy favoring 7 disposition of cases on their merits; and (5) the availability of less drastic alternatives. 8 Ferdik, 963 F.2d at 1260-61. Plaintiff’s failures to comply with court orders are 9 frustrating the Court’s responsibilities mandated by Rule 1, FED.R.CIV.P., and the 10 Civil Justice Reform Act of 1990, 28 U.S.C. § 471 et seq. Plaintiff’s pro se status does 11 not discharge his obligation to “abide by the rules of the court in which [they] litigate[].” 12 Carter v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, 784 F.2d 1006, 1008 (9th Cir. 1986). 13 After considering Plaintiff’s amended complaint fails to state a claim upon which 14 relief may be granted, the adequacy of lesser sanctions, that Plaintiff has been forewarned 15 that sanctions may be imposed, and weighing all five Ferdik factors to determine if 16 dismissal is appropriate due to Plaintiff’s failure to comply with prior court orders, the 17 Court concludes that dismissal of Plaintiff’s amended complaint without prejudice is 18 appropriate and just under the circumstances of this case. 19 Pursuant to General Order 11-3 (Dismissal of a Civil Case Assigned to a United 20 States Magistrate Judge Absent Voluntary Consent by the Parties Under 28 U.S.C. § 21 636(c)(1)), 22 23 24 IT IS ORDERED that Plaintiff’s amended complaint, doc. 8, is DISMISSED without prejudice. The Clerk is kindly directed to terminate this case. DATED this 4th day of June, 2012. 25 26 27 28 -5-

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