Christensen v. Saul

Filing 7

ORDER for Clerk to Issue Summonses. Signed by Magistrate Judge Brenda Weksler on 1/6/2021. (Copies have been distributed pursuant to the NEF - JM)

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Case 2:20-cv-01947-BNW Document 7 Filed 01/06/21 Page 1 of 4 1 2 3 4 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 5 DISTRICT OF NEVADA 6 *** 7 VENESSA CHRISTENSEN, 8 Plaintiff, ORDER 9 10 11 Case No. 2:20-cv-01947-BNW v. ANDREW SAUL, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, 12 Defendant. 13 14 Plaintiff Venessa Christensen seeks judicial review of an administrative decision denying 15 her application for Social Security benefits. The Court previously granted Plaintiff’s application 16 to proceed in forma pauperis but dismissed the complaint with leave to amend. ECF No. 4. On 17 November 9, 2020, Plaintiff timely filed a First Amended Complaint (ECF No. 6), which is now 18 before the Court for screening. For the reasons discussed below, the Court will allow Ms. 19 Christensen to proceed with this case. 20 I. Screening the Complaint 21 A. Standard of Review 22 Complaints filed by any plaintiff proceeding in forma pauperis are subject to a mandatory 23 screening by the court. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2);1 Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1127 (9th Cir. 24 2000). In screening the complaint, a court must identify cognizable claims and dismiss claims that 25 26 27 28 1 Although § 1915 largely concerns prisoner litigation, § 1915(e) applies to all in forma pauperis proceedings. Calhoun v. Stahl, 254 F.3d 845, 845 (9th Cir. 2001) (“[T]he provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) are not limited to prisoners[.]”). Case 2:20-cv-01947-BNW Document 7 Filed 01/06/21 Page 2 of 4 1 are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seek monetary 2 relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). 3 Dismissal for failure to state a claim under § 1915(e)(2) incorporates the standard for 4 failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Watison v. Carter, 668 5 F.3d 1108, 1112 (9th Cir. 2012). To survive § 1915 review, a complaint must “contain sufficient 6 factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” See Ashcroft 7 v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). In considering whether the complaint is sufficient to state a 8 claim, all allegations of material fact are taken as true and construed in the light most favorable to 9 the plaintiff. Wyler Summit P’ship v. Turner Broad. Sys. Inc., 135 F.3d 658, 661 (9th Cir. 1998) 10 (citation omitted). Although the standard under Rule 12(b)(6) does not require detailed factual 11 allegations, a plaintiff must provide more than mere labels and conclusions. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. 12 Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). A formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action is 13 insufficient. Id. Unless it is clear that the complaint’s deficiencies could not be cured through 14 amendment, a plaintiff should be given leave to amend the complaint with notice regarding the 15 complaint’s deficiencies. Cato v. United States, 70 F.3d 1103, 1106 (9th Cir. 1995). 16 In the context of Social Security appeals, if a plaintiff’s complaint challenges a decision 17 by the Social Security Administration, the plaintiff must exhaust administrative remedies before 18 filing a lawsuit. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); see also Bass v. Social Sec. Admin., 872 F.2d 832, 833 19 (9th Cir. 1989) (per curiam) (“Section 405(g) provides that a civil action may be brought only 20 after (1) the claimant has been party to a hearing held by the Secretary, and (2) the Secretary has 21 made a final decision on the claim”). Generally, if the SSA denies a claimant’s application for 22 disability benefits, the claimant may request reconsideration of the decision. If the claim is denied 23 at the reconsideration level, a claimant may request a hearing before an administrative law judge. 24 If the ALJ denies the claim, a claimant may request review of the decision by the Appeals 25 Council. If the Appeals Council declines to review the ALJ’s decision, a claimant may then 26 request judicial review. See generally 20 C.F.R. §§ 404, 416. 27 28 Once a plaintiff has exhausted administrative remedies, she may obtain judicial review of a SSA decision denying benefits by filing suit within 60 days after notice of a final decision. Id. Page 2 of 4 Case 2:20-cv-01947-BNW Document 7 Filed 01/06/21 Page 3 of 4 1 An action for judicial review of a determination by the SSA must be brought “in the district court 2 of the United States for the judicial district in which the plaintiff resides.” Id. The complaint 3 should state the nature of plaintiff’s disability, when plaintiff claims she became disabled, and 4 when and how she exhausted her administrative remedies. The complaint should also contain a 5 plain, short, and concise statement identifying the nature of plaintiff’s disagreement with the 6 determination made by the SSA and show that plaintiff is entitled to relief. 7 A district court can affirm, modify, reverse, or remand a decision if plaintiff has exhausted 8 her administrative remedies and timely filed a civil action. However, judicial review of the 9 Commissioner’s decision to deny benefits is limited to determining: (a) whether there is 10 substantial evidence in the record as a whole to support the findings of the Commissioner, and (b) 11 whether the correct legal standards were applied. Morgan v. Commissioner of the Social Security 12 Adm., 169 F.3d 595, 599 (9th Cir. 1999). 13 B. Analysis 14 Here, Ms. Christensen alleges in her amended complaint that Plaintiff’s application for 15 disability insurance benefits was denied initially, upon reconsideration, and by the Administrative 16 Law Judge (“ALJ”) following a hearing. ECF No. 6 at 2. Plaintiff further alleges that on August 17 24, 2020, the Appeals Council denied the request for review, and, at that time, the ALJ’s decision 18 became the Commissioner’s final decision. Id. Plaintiff originally filed this action on October 20, 19 2020, which is within the allowable period. ECF No. 1-1. Thus, it appears that Ms. Christensen 20 has exhausted the administrative remedies and timely commenced this action. 21 Additionally, the amended complaint indicates the nature of Ms. Christensen’s disability 22 and its alleged onset date. ECF No. 6 at 2–3. It also indicates that Plaintiff resides within the 23 District of Nevada. Id. at 1. 24 Finally, the amended complaint includes sufficient facts to state a claim for relief, alleging 25 that the ALJ “failed to resolve the apparent conflict” with the vocational expert’s testimony 26 “regarding [Plaintiff’s] ability to perform the jobs identified and the numbers of jobs in the 27 national economy” and those “government publications subject to administrative notice.” Id. at 3. 28 Accordingly, Plaintiff appears to state a cognizable claim upon which relief can be granted. Page 3 of 4 Case 2:20-cv-01947-BNW Document 7 Filed 01/06/21 Page 4 of 4 1 2 IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that: 1. The Clerk of Court must serve the Commissioner of the Social Security 3 Administration by sending a copy of the summons and First Amended Complaint (ECF No. 6) by 4 certified mail to: (1) Office of the Regional Chief Counsel, Region IX, Social Security 5 Administration, 160 Spear St., Suite 800, San Francisco, California 94105-1545; and (2) the 6 Attorney General of the United States, Department of Justice, 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., 7 Washington, D.C. 20530. 8 9 10 11 2. The Clerk of Court must issue summons to the United States Attorney for the District of Nevada and deliver the summons and First Amended Complaint (ECF No. 6) to the U.S. Marshal for service. 3. From this point forward, Plaintiff must serve on Defendant or, if 12 appearance has been entered by an attorney, on the attorney, a copy of every pleading, motion, or 13 other document submitted for consideration by the Court. Plaintiff must include with the original 14 paper submitted for filing a certificate stating the date that a true and correct copy of the 15 document was personally served or sent by mail to Defendant or counsel for Defendant. The 16 Court may disregard any paper received by a district judge or magistrate judge that has not been 17 filed with the Clerk, and any paper received by a district judge, magistrate judge, or the Clerk that 18 fails to include a certificate of service. 19 DATED: January 6, 2021. 20 21 22 BRENDA WEKSLER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 23 24 25 26 27 28 Page 4 of 4

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