Sawtelle v. Commissioner of Social Security Administration

Filing 23

ORDER that the decision of the ALJ (Doc. 13-1 at 11-12) is reversed. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED remanding the case for further administrative proceedings pursuant to sentence six of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (see attached PDF for further details). Signed by Magistrate Judge Eileen S Willett on 9/2/2015. (ACL)

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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 Lorrie Sawtelle, No. CV-15-08009-PCT-ESW Plaintiff, 10 11 v. 12 ORDER Commissioner of Social Security Administration, 13 14 15 Defendant. The Court has considered Motion for Remand (Doc. 19), Plaintiff’s Response 16 (Doc. 20), and Defendant’s Reply (Doc. 21). The matter is deemed submitted for 17 decision. The parties are in agreement that remand is appropriate and the factual basis for 18 remand is not in dispute. The Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 405(g). Both 19 parties have consented to U.S. Magistrate Judge jurisdiction (Doc. 11). 20 The Court finds that proper notification procedures were not followed by the 21 Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) in determining that Plaintiff did not have good cause for 22 failing to appear at a hearing. The error was not harmless because the ALJ must consider 23 the good cause reasons provided by a claimant under 20 C.F.R. §§ 405.380, 405.20(a). 24 The ALJ failed to do so. See Tommasetti v. Astrue, 533 F.3d 1035, 1038 (9th Cir. 2008) 25 (citations omitted); Molina v. Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1115 (an error is harmless so long 26 as there remains substantial evidence supporting the ALJ’s decision and the error “does 27 not negate the validity of the ALJ’s ultimate conclusion”) (citations omitted). Remand is 28 required under sentence six of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for further administrative proceedings. 1 The Court further finds that a determination of good cause by this Court or an 2 award of benefits is not appropriate. The ALJ did not hold a hearing on the merits. Nor 3 did the ALJ consider any information presented by the Plaintiff regarding good cause for 4 failing to appear at the hearing. The District Court is not a finder of fact in the first 5 instance. Remand for development of the administrative record is appropriate. See 6 Trerchler v. Comm’r of Social Sec Admin, 775 F.3d 1090 (9th Cir. 2014). 7 Therefore, 8 IT IS ORDERED that the decision of the ALJ (Doc. 13-1 at 11-12) is reversed. 9 IT IS FURTHER ORDERED remanding the case for further administrative 10 proceedings pursuant to sentence six of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The Appeals Council shall 11 instruct the ALJ to further develop the record as to whether the Plaintiff had good cause 12 for failing to appear at the hearing by mailing a Form HA-L90 and giving Plaintiff the 13 opportunity to explain her absence. The ALJ shall consider if Plaintiff established good 14 cause and reschedule the hearing if necessary. 15 Dated this 2nd day of September, 2015. 16 17 18 Honorable Eileen S. Willett United States Magistrate Judge 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 -2-

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