Fillmore v. Astrue

Filing 21

ORDER by Judge Joseph C. Spero denying 20 Motion to Alter Judgment (jcslc1, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 3/1/2012)

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1 2 3 4 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 5 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 6 7 LESLIE FILLMORE, 8 9 Plaintiff, v. MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, 11 For the Northern District of California 10 United States District Court No. C-10-03655 JCS ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT’S MOTION TO ALTER JUDGMENT PURSUANT TO FEDERAL RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 59(e) [Docket No. 20] Defendant. ___________________________________/ 12 13 14 15 In an order filed February 1, 2012, the Court granted Plaintiff’s motion for summary 16 judgment, holding that the ALJ erred at Step Two in finding that Plaintiff’s mental impairment was 17 not severe. In particular, the Court found that “the reasons offered by the ALJ for rejecting [the] 18 opinions [of examining psychologist Ede Thomsen] are not clear and convincing and further, that 19 [the ALJ’s] findings as to the functional areas set forth in the regulations for determining the 20 severity of a mental impairment are not supported by substantial evidence.” The Court went on to 21 address the question of whether the case should be remanded for further proceedings or rather, 22 whether benefits should be awarded. The Court concluded that remand for further proceedings was 23 appropriate because it was unable to determine whether there are jobs available in significant 24 number in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform, taking into account his mental 25 impairment. It instructed, however, that upon remand Dr. Thomsen’s opinions should be credited 26 with respect to certain particular questions. 27 28 The Commissioner now brings a Motion to Alter Judgment Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) (“the Motion”), arguing that: 1) the Court applied erroneous legal standards in 1 determining the proper weight to be given Dr. Thomsen’s opinions; 2) the ALJ offered sufficient 2 reasons for rejecting Dr. Thomsen’s opinions; and 3) the Court should not have ordered the 3 Commissioner to credit Dr. Thomsen’s opinions on remand. The Motion is DENIED. 4 Under Rule 59(e), a motion to alter or amend judgment may be granted where “necessary to Northern Santa Fe Railroad, 338 F.3d 1058, 1063 (9th Cir. 2003)(citations omitted). The 7 Commissioner contends that the Court committed legal error on two grounds. First, the 8 Commissioner argues that the Court erroneously interpreted the “clear and convincing” standard as 9 requiring a higher degree of proof than the “substantial evidence” standard. Motion at 2. The only 10 citation offered by the Commissioner in support of this contention is an argument made in Plaintiff’s 11 For the Northern District of California correct manifest errors of law or fact upon which the judgment is based.” Turner v. Burlington 6 United States District Court 5 reply brief. The Court did not adopt this approach in its Order and therefore, the Commissioner’s 12 argument has no merit. 13 Second, the Commissioner asserts that the Court misunderstood the “controlling weight 14 rule,” citing Social Security Ruling 96-2p for the proposition that “opinions other than treating 15 sources can never be entitled to controlling weight.” Id. at 3. This Social Security Ruling explains 16 that the term “controlling weight” is “used in 20 C.F.R. 404.1527(d)(2) and 416.927(d)(2) to 17 describe the weight we give to a medical opinion from a treating source that must be adopted.” 18 Here, the Court did not rely on these regulations in holding that Dr. Thomsen’s opinions should be 19 credited. Rather, the Court held that Dr. Thomsen’s opinions should be credited because the ALJ 20 had not offered clear and convincing reasons supported by substantial evidence for declining to 21 credit them. Therefore, the Court rejects the Commissioner’s position. 22 Finally, the Court rejects the Commissioner’s argument that the ALJ set forth sufficient 23 reasons for rejecting Dr. Thomsen’s opinions for the reasons set forth in the Court’s summary 24 judgment order. 25 26 27 28 2 1 The Motion is DENIED. 2 IT IS SO ORDERED. 3 4 Dated: March 1, 2012 5 __________________________ JOSEPH C. SPERO United States Magistrate Judge 6 7 8 9 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 3

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