Howerton v. Astrue
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER: IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendant's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint is GRANTED. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that all other pending motions are DENIED as moot. A separate Order of Dismissal shall accompany this Memorandum and Order. Signed by District Judge Audrey G. Fleissig on 12/31/2012. (KSM)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
CHARLES LIONEL HOWERTON,
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE,
Commissioner of Social Security,
Case No. 4:12CV01582 AGF
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on Defendant’s motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s pro se
complaint for judicial review of Defendant’s denial of Plaintiff’s application for disability
benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act. Defendant argues that the complaint
must be dismissed because of Plaintiff’s failure to file it within the statutorily required
time. For the reasons set forth below, the motion shall be granted.
The record establishes the following. On June 22, 2011, an administrative law
judge (“ALJ”) issued an order denying Plaintiff’s application for benefits. By notice
dated September 19, 2011, the Appeals Council of the Social Security Administration
informed Plaintiff that his request for review of the ALJ’s decision was denied. The
notice advised Plaintiff that he had 60 days from the date of receipt of the notice to seek
judicial review by filing a complaint in a United States district court. The Appeals
Council also informed Plaintiff that the notice would be presumed to be received five
days after its date.
Plaintiff filed his action pro se in this Court on August 29, 2012, almost nine
months after the date of the Appeals Council’s notice of the denial to review the ALJ’s
decision. In his complaint and in another pleading, he asserts that when he filed his
request for review with the Appeals Council, he thought he was filing a request for
judicial review by the federal court. He states further that after the Appeals Council
denied his request, he contacted an attorney who told him it was too late to seek judicial
review. He asserts that he does not understand paper work and “didn’t know what [he]
Defendant asserts that Plaintiff did not request an extension of time from the
Appeals Council to file his civil action and that the action is time barred. Plaintiff has not
filed a response to Defendant’s motion to dismiss, and his time to do so has now passed.
The Social Security Act provides for judicial review of a final decision of the
Commissioner by “a civil action commenced within sixty days after the mailing to him of
notice of such decision or within such further time as the Commissioner of Social
Security may allow.” 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The Commissioner’s regulations provide as
“Any civil action [for judicial review] must be instituted within 60 days
after the Appeals Council’s notice of denial of request for review of the
[ALJ’s] decision or notice of the decision by the Appeals Council is
received by the individual . . . except that this time may be extended by the
Appeals Council upon a showing of good cause. For purposes of this
section, the date of receipt of notice of denial of request for review of the
presiding officer’s decision or notice of the decision by the Appeals Council
shall be presumed to be 5 days after the date of such notice, unless there is a
reasonable showing to the contrary.”
20 C.F.R. § 422.210(c).
The timeliness of a complaint for judicial review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) is a
statute of limitations and not a jurisdictional question. Bowen v. City of New York, 476
U.S. 467, 478 (1986). Statutory tolling has been allowed when the plaintiff “has actively
pursued his judicial remedies by filling a defective pleading during the statutory period,
or where the complainant has been induced or tricked by his adversary’s misconduct into
allowing the filing deadline to pass.” Medellin v. Shalala, 23 F.3d 199, 204 (8th Cir.
1994) (citation omitted). “Generally, equitable circumstances that might toll a limitations
period involve conduct (by someone other than the claimant) that is misleading or
fraudulent.” Turner v. Bowen, 862 F.2d 708, 710 (8th Cir. 1998). Such circumstances do
not include ignorance of one’s legal rights. Id.
Here, there has been no showing that would justify statutory tolling. Plaintiff has
not alleged that he filed a defective pleading within the statutory time limit or that he was
tricked into letting the deadline pass. His pro se status or general lack of legal knowledge
is not an adequate basis to warrant equitable tolling. See Shoemate v. Norris, 390 F.3d
595, 598 (8th Cir. 2004); Cupp v. Astrue, No. 4:10CV00498 DSJ/TCM, 2010 WL
5564635, at *2 (E.D. Mo. Oct 25, 2010), Report & Recommendation adopted by 2011
WL 92029 (E.D. Mo. Jan 11, 2011).
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendant’s motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s complaint
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that all other pending motions are DENIED as moot.
A separate Order of Dismissal shall accompany this Memorandum and Order.
AUDREY G. FLEISSIG
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated this 31st day of December, 2012.
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