Sawtelle v. Commissioner of Social Security Administration
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)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF ARIZONA
Commissioner of Social Security
The Court has considered Motion for Remand (Doc. 19), Plaintiff’s Response
(Doc. 20), and Defendant’s Reply (Doc. 21).
The matter is deemed submitted for
decision. The parties are in agreement that remand is appropriate and the factual basis for
remand is not in dispute. The Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 405(g). Both
parties have consented to U.S. Magistrate Judge jurisdiction (Doc. 11).
The Court finds that proper notification procedures were not followed by the
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) in determining that Plaintiff did not have good cause for
failing to appear at a hearing. The error was not harmless because the ALJ must consider
the good cause reasons provided by a claimant under 20 C.F.R. §§ 405.380, 405.20(a).
The ALJ failed to do so. See Tommasetti v. Astrue, 533 F.3d 1035, 1038 (9th Cir. 2008)
(citations omitted); Molina v. Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1115 (an error is harmless so long
as there remains substantial evidence supporting the ALJ’s decision and the error “does
not negate the validity of the ALJ’s ultimate conclusion”) (citations omitted). Remand is
required under sentence six of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for further administrative proceedings.
The Court further finds that a determination of good cause by this Court or an
award of benefits is not appropriate. The ALJ did not hold a hearing on the merits. Nor
did the ALJ consider any information presented by the Plaintiff regarding good cause for
failing to appear at the hearing. The District Court is not a finder of fact in the first
instance. Remand for development of the administrative record is appropriate. See
Trerchler v. Comm’r of Social Sec Admin, 775 F.3d 1090 (9th Cir. 2014).
IT IS ORDERED 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). The Appeals Council shall
instruct the ALJ to further develop the record as to whether the Plaintiff had good cause
for failing to appear at the hearing by mailing a Form HA-L90 and giving Plaintiff the
opportunity to explain her absence. The ALJ shall consider if Plaintiff established good
cause and reschedule the hearing if necessary.
Dated this 2nd day of September, 2015.
Honorable Eileen S. Willett
United States Magistrate Judge
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