Williams v. Commissioner of Social Security

Filing 3

Order granting Plaintiffs 2 Motion To Proceed Informa Pauperis; Order dismissing complaint with leave to amend, signed by Magistrate Judge Jennifer L. Thurston on 6/7/2017. Amended Complaint due by 6/21/2017. (Rosales, O)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 LARRY KEITH WILLIAMS, Plaintiff, 12 v. 13 14 CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, 15 Defendant. ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) Case No.: 1:17-cv-0760- JLT ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF’S MOTIONS TO PROCEED INFORMA PAUPERIS (Doc. 2) ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT WITH LEAVE TO AMEND 16 Larry Keith Williams seeks to proceed in forma pauperis with an action for judicial review of 17 18 the administrative decision denying an application for Social Security benefits. Pending before the 19 Court are the complaint (Doc. 1) and a motion to proceed in forma pauperis filed by Plaintiff (Doc. 2). 20 For the following reasons, the request to proceed in forma pauperis (Doc. 2) is GRANTED, and the 21 complaint DISMISSED with leave to amend. 22 I. Proceeding in forma pauperis The Court may authorize the commencement of an action without prepayment of fees “by a 23 24 person who submits an affidavit that includes a statement of all assets such person . . . possesses [and] 25 that the person is unable to pay such fees or give security therefor.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). The Court 26 reviewed the applications and finds Plaintiff satisfies the requirements of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). 27 Therefore, Plaintiff’s request to proceed in forma pauperis is GRANTED. 28 /// 1 1 II. Screening Requirement When an individual seeks to proceed in forma pauperis, the Court is required to review the 2 3 complaint and shall dismiss a complaint, or portion of the complaint, if it is “frivolous, malicious or 4 fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or . . . seeks monetary relief from a defendant 5 who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). A plaintiff’s claim 6 is frivolous “when the facts alleged rise to the level of the irrational or the wholly incredible, whether or 7 not there are judicially noticeable facts available to contradict them.” Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 8 25, 32-33 (1992). 9 III. Pleading Standards 10 General rules for pleading complaints are governed by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. A 11 pleading must include a statement affirming the court’s jurisdiction, “a short and plain statement of the 12 claim showing the pleader is entitled to relief; and . . . a demand for the relief sought, which may 13 include relief in the alternative or different types of relief.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). 14 A complaint must give fair notice and state the elements of the plaintiff’s claim in a plain and 15 succinct manner. Jones v. Cmty Redevelopment Agency, 733 F.2d 646, 649 (9th Cir. 1984). The 16 purpose of the complaint is to give the defendant fair notice of the claims against him, and the grounds 17 upon which the complaint stands. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 512 (2002). The 18 Supreme Court noted, 21 Rule 8 does not require detailed factual allegations, but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation. A pleading that offers labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders naked assertions devoid of further factual enhancement. 22 Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Vague 23 and conclusory allegations do not support a cause of action. Ivey v. Board of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 24 268 (9th Cir. 1982). The Court clarified further, 19 20 25 26 27 28 [A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” [Citation]. A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. [Citation]. The plausibility standard is not akin to a “probability requirement,” but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. [Citation]. Where a complaint pleads facts that are “merely consistent with” a defendant’s liability, it “stops short of 2 the line between possibility and plausibility of ‘entitlement to relief.’ 1 2 Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (citations omitted). When factual allegations are well-pled, a court should 3 assume their truth and determine whether the facts would make the plaintiff entitled to relief; legal 4 conclusions are not entitled to the same assumption of truth. Id. The Court may grant leave to amend a 5 complaint to the extent deficiencies of the complaint can be cured by an amendment. Lopez v. Smith, 6 203 F.3d 1122, 1127-28 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc). 7 IV. Jurisdiction 8 Plaintiff seeks review of a decision by the Commissioner of Social Security denying disability 9 benefits. (Doc. 1) The Court would have jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), which provides 10 in relevant part: Any individual, after any final decision of the Commissioner 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 such decision or within such further time as the Commissioner may allow. Such action shall be brought in the district court of the United States for the judicial district in which the plaintiff resides, or has his principal place of business . . . The court shall have power to enter, upon the pleadings and transcript of the record, a judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, with or without remanding the cause for a rehearing. 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 Id. (emphasis added). Except as provided by statute, “[n]o findings of fact or decision of the Commissioner shall be 18 19 reviewed by any person, tribunal, or governmental agency.” 42 U.S.C. § 405(h). The Supreme Court 20 noted the purpose of the legislation was “to forestall repetitive or belated litigation of stale eligibility 21 claims.” Califano v. Sanders, 430 U.S. 99, 108 (1977). Thus the regulations operate as a statute of 22 limitations a claimant to appeal a final decision of the Commissioner. Bowen v. City of New York, 476 23 U.S. 467, 479 (1986); Matthews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 328 n. 9 (1976)). Because the time limit is 24 “a condition on the waiver of sovereign immunity,” it “must be strictly construed.” Id. 25 V. 26 Discussion and Analysis According to Plaintiff, the Appeals Council denied his request for review of the decision 27 rendered by the administrative law judge on March 27, 2017, at which time the decision became the 28 final decision of the Commissioner. (Doc. 1 at 2, ¶ 8) Therefore, Plaintiff’s request for review would 3 1 be due within sixty-five days of the date of Appeal’s Council’s notice, or no later than May 31, 2017. 2 See 42 U.S.C. §405(g) (noting that a claimant is “presumed” to have received the notice of denial 3 within “5 days after the date of such notice”). However, Plaintiff did not initiate this action until June 4 1, 2017. Thus, it appears the statute of limitations may have run on the request for review. See, e.g., 5 Fletcher v. Apfel, 210 F.3d 510 (5th Cir. 2000) (affirming judgment in favor of Commissioner where 6 the claimant missed the statute of limitations by one day). On the other hand, there are two exceptions to the statute of limitations: (1) the Commissioner 7 8 may grant an extension of time to file a civil action, and (2) the statute of limitations may be tolled 9 through the doctrine of “equitable tolling.” Bowen, 476 U.S. at 479-80; 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Here, 10 however, Plaintiff does not allege that he requested an extension of time, and does not allege any facts 11 that would support the equitable tolling of the statute of limitations. Therefore, from the face of 12 Plaintiff’s complaint, it does not appear the Court has jurisdiction over the matter. 13 VI. 14 Leave to Amend the Complaint If the Court determines that a complaint fails to state a claim, leave to amend should be granted 15 to the extent that the deficiencies of the complaint can be cured by amendment. Lopez v. Smith, 203 16 F.3d 1122, 1130 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc). A complaint, or a portion thereof, should only be 17 dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted if it appears beyond doubt that 18 the plaintiff can prove no set of facts, consistent with the allegations, in support of the claim or claims 19 that would entitle him to relief. See Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984), citing Conley 20 v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957); see also Palmer v. Roosevelt Lake Log Owners’ Ass’n., Inc., 21 651 F.2d 1289, 1294 (9th Cir. 1981). 22 The Court cannot find with certainty that Plaintiff cannot allege facts supporting a 23 determination that the Court has jurisdiction over the matter. The Court will grant Plaintiff leave to 24 amend the complaint to cure the deficiencies of this complaint by stating whether he requested an 25 extension of time from the Appeals Council or, in the alternative, to allege facts that support the 26 tolling of the statute of limitations. Failure to cure the deficiencies will result in a recommendation 27 that the matter be dismissed. The amended complaint must bear the docket number assigned this case 28 and must be labeled “First Amended Complaint.” 4 1 Accordingly, the Court ORDERS: 2 1. Plaintiff’s motion to proceed in forma pauperis (Doc. 2) is GRANTED; 3 2. Plaintiff’s complaint is DISMISSED with leave to amend; and 4 3. Plaintiff is GRANTED 14 days from the date of service of this order to file an amended 5 complaint that complies with the requirements of the pertinent substantive law, the 6 Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and the Local Rules of Practice. 7 8 9 10 IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: June 7, 2017 /s/ Jennifer L. Thurston UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 5

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