Marrs v. Colvin
MEMORANDUM Opinion and Order: Plaintiff's Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment pursuant to FRCP 59(e) [dkt.27] is denied. - Signed by the Honorable Susan E. Cox on 9/13/2017. [For further details see order] Mailed notice (np, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting
Commissioner of Social Security, 1
Magistrate Judge Susan E. Cox
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
On October 28, 2016, Plaintiff initiated this matter by filing his Complaint. On April 4,
2017, Plaintiff filed his motion to reverse the Social Security Administration’s (“SSA”) disability
determination [dkt. 13]. On July 20, 2017, Defendant filed a Motion for Reversal with Remand for
Further Administrative Proceedings [dkt.20] (which is essentially a summary judgment motion for
purposes of an SSA appeal). On July 27, 2017, the Court granted Defendant’s motion for reversal
and remand “over Plaintiff’s objections/positions as set forth in Defendant’s Motion” [dkt 26]. This
matter is before the Court on Plaintiff’s fully briefed Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment pursuant
to FRCP 59(e) [dkt.27].
To prevail on a Rule 59(e) motion to alter or amend a judgment, Plaintiff must clearly
establish that the court committed a manifest error of law or fact. See Cincinnati Life Ins. Co. v. Beyrer,
722 F.3d 939, 954 (7th Cir. 2013). 2 Plaintiff argues that the Court committed an error of law when it
granted Defendant’s motion to remand without including within that remand order certain
Nancy A. Berryhill is substituted for her predecessor, Carolyn W. Colvin, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Plaintiff does not assert newly discovered evidence, another potential basis for relief under Rule 59(e). Beyrer, 722
F.3d at 954.
requirements and limitations on the SSA and the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). 3 Primarily, the
Plaintiff sought to have this Court order the ALJ to consider the issues raised in the opening brief of
Plaintiff’s appeal to the Court.
Of course, including such limitations on remand would be akin to the Court (at least
implicitly) finding that Plaintiff’s contentions on appeal were meritorious. However, a motion to
remand obviates the need for the Court to engage in an analysis of the ALJ’s decision and to make
rulings on the same. Such was the case here; in ruling on the Commissioner’s motion to remand, the
Court was not required to make rulings on Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment related to the
ALJ’s decision, regardless of whether that the motion for remand was fully or partially agreed to.
Similar issues were raised in Fox v. Colvin, 2016 WL 2889030, at *2 (N.D. Ill. May 17, 2016).
In that case, the plaintiff did not object to the notion that his social security appeal should be
remanded, but objected to defendant’s motion to remand to the extent he sought to have terms
(analogous to those sought by plaintiff in the instant matter) included in the remand order that
would dictate “the review and consideration the ALJ must conduct on remand.” Id. The plaintiff
further claimed that if the parties could not agree to the scope of the remand, the district court
would be required to rule on the merits of plaintiff’s appeal after a full briefing. Id. at *3. The court
rejected plaintiff’s arguments, reasoning:
[t]here would be no good reason to require full briefing and a judicial decision on the
merits where both parties agree that the case should be remanded. And here, both
parties agree[d] that the case should be remanded; their only quibble is about the
terms of the remand order. That quibble [did] not require this Court to engage in an
unnecessary exercise that would waste the resources of the parties and the Court, and
that would needlessly delay further administrative proceedings.
2016 WL 2889030, at *2. In rejecting plaintiff’s arguments for specific remand language, the court
went on to note that “if accepted, plaintiff’s argument [for specific remand language] would give him
Actually, Plaintiff’s motion seems not to argue any true errors of law or fact; it appears Plaintiff’s counsel wanted
to provide an “explanation for Plaintiff’s objections” [dkt. 27, ¶ 5], which were already understood (and rejected
for the reasons explained herein) by the Court when it analyzed and decided the motion for remand back in July.
a broader ruling in a voluntary remand than plaintiffs typically receive when the Court decides the
case on the merits.” Id. Thus, in remanding this matter, this Court made no finding as to any alleged
errors in the ALJ’s decision or whether these alleged errors rise above the level of harmlessness.
The cases cited to by Plaintiff are unavailing for the point that a remand of this type (before
the Court makes a ruling on Plaintiff’s summary judgment motion) can provide the specific
instructions to the ALJ upon remand, as each of the cases cited to was decided after a full legal
analysis of the ALJ’s opinion as compared to the Administrative Record. See Autman v. Colvin, 2016
WL 6568016 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 4, 2016); Quintana v. Colvin, 2016 WL 3752982 (N.D. Ill. July 14, 2016);
Newcomb v. Berryhill, 2017 WL 3189475 (N.D. Ill. July 27, 2017). None were decided on motions for
remand. Moreover, none of the cases cited by Plaintiff instruct the ALJ to take a specific action or
make certain findings; the cases do make findings on how the ALJ erred (because, in those cases, the
legal sufficiency of ALJ’s decision was actually analyzed), but none orders a specific course of action
other than remanding “for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.”
The Court is loath to require (and believes it would have been an error at the motion for
reversal with remand stage to require) the ALJ to address certain “errors” or conflicts in their
decision before it has even been determined whether those are indeed errors. Fox v. Colvin is also
illustrative of this point: “[r]equiring the ALJ to ‘consider all arguments’ raised by plaintiff in his
brief implies that the Court has itself considered those arguments and has found them to be
meritorious – which, again, we have not done.” Fox, 2016 WL 2889030, at *2.
In short, there was no error of law or fact. The Court had the authority to remand the case
despite the “unusual situation” of the failure of the parties to agree on the precise terms of the
remand order, and exercised that authority. Id. at *1-2. Plaintiff has not demonstrated the Court
committed any manifest error of law or fact. Cincinnati Life Ins. Co. v. Beyrer, 722 F.3d 939, 954 (7th
Cir. 2013). Plaintiff’s Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment pursuant to FRCP 59(e) [dkt.27] is
U.S. Magistrate Judge, Susan E. Cox
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