Sanders v. Office of the Regional Chief Counsel, Region X Social Security Administration
ORDER DISMISSING ACTION AND DENYING APPLICATION TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS re #1 , #2 - Signed by JUDGE JILL A. OTAKE on 4/1/2021. In accordance with the foregoing, Court: (1) DISMISSES the Complaint with leave to amend as permitted herein and (2) DENIES the IFP Application. ECF No. 2. Plaintiff's deadline to pay the filing fee is April 15, 2021. If Plaintiff elects to file an amended complaint, he must comply with the following requirements: (1) The deadline to file an amended complaint is May 3, 2021; (2) The amended complaint should be titled "First Amended Complaint"; (3) Plaintiff must cure the deficiencies identified above; and (4) Plaintiff may not add new causes of action without leave of court. Any amendments must be limited to the causes of action asserted, if legally sound. Plaintiff is cautioned that failure to timely pay the filing fee will result in the automatic dismissal of this action. Dismissal will also result if Plaintiff fails to file an amended pleading that conforms with this Order. (emt, )COURT'S CERTIFICATE of Service - Daniel R. Sanders shall be served by First Class Mail to the address of record listed on the Notice of Electronic Filing (NEF) on April 2, 2021.
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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF HAWAII
DANIEL R. SANDERS,
CIVIL NO. 21-000163 JAO-WRP
ORDER DISMISSING ACTION AND
DENYING APPLICATION TO
PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS
OFFICE OF THE REGIONAL CHIEF
COUNSEL, REGION X SOCIAL
ORDER DISMISSING ACTION AND DENYING
APPLICATION TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS
Before the Court is pro se Plaintiff Daniel Sanders’ (“Plaintiff”) Application
to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (“IFP Application”), filed March 25, 2021. For the
following reasons, the Court DISMISSES the Complaint with leave to amend and
DENIES the IFP Application. ECF No. 2.
Dismissal of the Complaint Under the In Forma Pauperis Statute – 28 U.S.C.
Plaintiff requests leave to proceed in forma pauperis. A court may deny
leave to proceed in forma pauperis at the outset and dismiss the complaint if it
appears from the face of the proposed complaint that the action: (1) is frivolous or
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malicious; (2) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (3) seeks
monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2); see Tripati v. First Nat’l Bank & Trust, 821 F.2d 1368, 1370 (9th
Cir. 1987); Minetti v. Port of Seattle, 152 F.3d 1113, 1115 (9th Cir. 1998). When
evaluating whether a complaint fails to state a viable claim for screening purposes,
the Court applies Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“FRCP”) 8’s pleading standard
as it does in the context of an FRCP 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. See Wilhelm v.
Rotman, 680 F.3d 1113, 1121 (9th Cir. 2012).
FRCP 8(a) requires “a short and plain statement of the grounds for the
court’s jurisdiction” and “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the
pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(1)–(2). Although the Federal
Rules adopt a flexible pleading policy, a complaint must give fair notice and state
the elements of the claim plainly and succinctly. See Jones v. Cmty. Redev.
Agency, 733 F.2d 646, 649 (9th Cir. 1984). “The Federal Rules require that
averments ‘be simple, concise and direct.’” McHenry v. Renne, 84 F.3d 1172,
1177 (9th Cir. 1996). FRCP 8 does not demand detailed factual allegations.
However, “it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmedme accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). “Threadbare recitals
of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do
not suffice.” Id. “[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as
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true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Id. (quoting Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)); Nordstrom v. Ryan, 762
F.3d 903, 908 (9th Cir. 2014) (citations and quotations omitted). A claim is
plausible “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw
the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678.
In the present case, even construing Plaintiff’s Complaint liberally,
Bernhardt v. Los Angeles County, 339 F.3d 920, 925 (9th Cir. 2003); Jackson v.
Carey, 353 F.3d 750, 757 (9th Cir. 2003), the Court finds that dismissal is
appropriate. The basis for this action is unclear. On one hand, Plaintiff attempts to
appeal a Social Security Appeals Council decision,1 yet he also alleges that the
U.S. Air Force denied him the ability to petition the Social Security Administration
for disability benefits on July 26, 1991.2 Compare Compl. at 2 with id. at 4.
Included in the caption of the Complaint is a demand for trial. To the extent
Plaintiff might be requesting a jury trial, he is not entitled to one. See Lee v.
Astrue, No. CV 09-00245 ACK-KSC, 2010 WL 346452, at *1 (D. Haw. Jan. 29,
2010) (“A jury is not available under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) . . . because the statute
does not affirmatively and unambiguously grant a right to a jury trial.” (citing
Lehman v. Nakshian, 453 U.S. 156, 168 (1981)); Greene v. Comm’r of the Soc.
Sec. Admin., 194 F. App’x 415, 416 (9th Cir. 2006). Nor are trials conducted in
social security appeals. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (“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.”).
No one associated with the U.S. Air Force is named as a defendant.
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Plaintiff requests the application of Social Security rules and regulations circa 1990
— prior to changes made in 2017 regarding disabled veterans — due to his
inability to seek disability benefits.3 Id. at 4.
Courts must screen social security appeals, even though they are appeals of
right. See Jaime B. v. Saul, No. 19-CV-02431-JLB, 2020 WL 1169671, at *2 (S.D.
Cal. Mar. 10, 2020); Hoagland v. Astrue, No. 1:12-CV-00973-SMS, 2012 WL
2521753, at *1 (E.D. Cal. June 28, 2012) (citation omitted); Plaintiff has not cited
any legal provisions to support his claims, but assuming this is a social security
appeal, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) establishes conditions that a plaintiff must satisfy to
obtain judicial review. Courts have also identified specific requirements to survive
First, the plaintiff must establish that he has exhausted h[is]
administrative remedies pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), and that
the civil action was commenced within sixty days after notice of
a final decision. Second, the complaint must indicate the judicial
district in which the plaintiff resides. Third, the complaint must
state the nature of the plaintiff’s disability and when the plaintiff
claims she became disabled. Fourth, the complaint must contain
a plain, short, and concise statement identifying the nature of the
plaintiff’s disagreement with the determination made by the
Social Security Administration and show that the plaintiff is
entitled to relief.
It is unclear what authority would entitle him to such relief. See Butler v. Apfel,
144 F.3d 622, 624 (9th Cir. 1998) (explaining that remedies are limited to those
expressly provided for in the Social Security Act (citing Schweiker v. Chilicky, 487
U.S. 412, 423–24 (1987)).
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Montoya v. Colvin, No. 16-cv-00454-RFB-NJK, 2016 WL 890922, at *2 (D. Nev.
Mar. 8, 2016) (citations omitted).
Applying these standards, Plaintiff’s Complaint is deficient. He does not
identify the decision he challenges nor the bases for his objections. Moreover, he
does not allege that he exhausted administrative remedies4 or that the action is
timely. Indeed, not only are there questions about the timeliness of the case
pursuant to § 405(g), any allegations about acts and events occurring 30 years ago
would be time barred and appear to be irrelevant regardless. In addition to these
defects, Plaintiff failed to name the proper defendant. If Plaintiff intends to
challenge a social security decision, the Commissioner of Social Security is the
proper defendant. See Butler, 144 F.3d at 624. For these reasons, Plaintiff’s
Complaint fails to state a claim for relief and must be dismissed. See Lopez v.
Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1127 (9th Cir. 2000) (“[S]ection 1915(e) not only permits
but requires a district court to dismiss an in forma pauperis complaint that fails to
state a claim.” (citation omitted)).
Because it is possible that amendment could cure the defects identified
herein, the Court grants Plaintiff leave to file an amended pleading. Any amended
complaint — which should be titled “First Amended Complaint” — must be filed
Plaintiff’s reference to the Appeals Council suggests that he potentially
exhausted administrative remedies.
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by May 3, 2021 and must cure the deficiencies identified above. Moreover,
Plaintiff is advised that Local Rule 10.4 requires that “any party filing . . . an
amended complaint . . . shall reproduce the entire pleading as amended and may
not incorporate any part of a prior pleading by reference, except with leave of
court.” Local Rule 10.4. As a general rule, an amended complaint supersedes the
original complaint. See Lacey v. Maricopa County, 693 F.3d 896, 927 (9th Cir.
2012). Thus, if Plaintiff files an amended complaint, the Complaint no longer
serves any function in the case, and any claims that are not included in the
amended complaint may be deemed waived. See id. at 928.
Plaintiff is cautioned that failure to timely file an amended pleading that
conforms with this Order will result in the automatic dismissal of this action.
The Court may authorize the commencement or prosecution of any suit
without prepayment of fees by a person who submits an affidavit that the person is
unable to pay such fees. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). “An affidavit in support of an
IFP application is sufficient where it alleges that the affiant cannot pay the court
costs and still afford the necessities of life.” Escobedo v. Applebees, 787 F.3d
1226, 1234 (9th Cir. 2015) (citing Adkins v. E.I. Du Pont De Nemours & Co., Inc.,
335 U.S. 331, 339 (1948)). Absolute destitution is not required to obtain benefits
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under the IFP statute, but “a plaintiff seeking IFP status must allege poverty ‘with
some particularity, definiteness and certainty.’” Id. (citation omitted).
Plaintiff represents that he receives a $3,300.00 monthly stipend from the
Department of Veteran Affairs; has $1,500.00 and $312.20 in his savings and
checking accounts, respectively; and pays approximately $1,873.03 in monthly
expenses. ECF No. 2. He also claims that his wife depends on him but does not
disclose the amount he contributes to her support, as required by paragraph 7. See
id. at 2. Giving Plaintiff the benefit of the doubt and assuming that he supports a
two-person household, however, his annual income exceeds the $20,040.00
poverty threshold in Hawai‘i. Annual Update of the HHS Poverty Guidelines, 86
Fed. Reg. 7732-0185 (Feb. 1, 2021). Based on this information, Plaintiff appears
to have adequate financial resources to pay the filing fee. Consequently, the Court
DENIES the IFP Application. If Plaintiff wishes to proceed with this lawsuit, he
must remit the applicable filing fee by April 15, 2021. Failure to do so will result
in the automatic dismissal of this action.
In accordance with the foregoing, Court: (1) DISMISSES the Complaint
with leave to amend as permitted herein and (2) DENIES the IFP Application.
ECF No. 2. Plaintiff’s deadline to pay the filing fee is April 15, 2021. If Plaintiff
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elects to file an amended complaint, he must comply with the following
The deadline to file an amended complaint is May 3, 2021;
The amended complaint should be titled “First Amended Complaint”;
Plaintiff must cure the deficiencies identified above; and
Plaintiff may not add new causes of action without leave of court.
Any amendments must be limited to the causes of action asserted, if
Plaintiff is cautioned that failure to timely pay the filing fee will result in the
automatic dismissal of this action. Dismissal will also result if Plaintiff fails to file
an amended pleading that conforms with this Order.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Honolulu, Hawai‘i, April 1, 2021.
Jill A. Otake
United States District Judge
Civil No. 21-00163 JAO-WRP, Sanders v. Office of the Reg’l Chief Couns., Region X Soc. Sec. Admin.;
ORDER DISMISSING ACTION AND DENYING APPLICATION TO PROCEED IN FORMA
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