Wells v. Commissioner of Social Security
DECISION AND ORDER denying # 9 Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings; and granting # 10 Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings. Defendant's decision denying Plaintiff disability benefits is affirmed, and the Plaintiff's complaint is dismissed. Signed by Chief Judge Glenn T. Suddaby on 9/11/17. (lmw)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
PATRICIA LYNN WELLS,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY,
LONGSTREET & BERRY, LLP
Counsel for Plaintiff
P.O. Box 249
Fayetteville, NY 13066
MARTHA L. BERRY, ESQ.
U.S. SOCIAL SECURITY ADMIN.
OFFICE OF REG’L GEN. COUNSEL – REGION II
Counsel for Defendant
26 Federal Plaza, Room 3904
New York, NY 10278
GRAHAM MORRISON, ESQ.
GLENN T. SUDDABY, Chief United States District Judge
DECISION and ORDER
Currently before the Court, in this Social Security action filed by Patricia Lynn Wells
(“Plaintiff”) against the Commissioner of Social Security (“Defendant” or “the Commissioner”)
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3), are Plaintiff’s motion for judgment on the
pleadings and Defendant’s motion for judgment on the pleadings. (Dkt. Nos. 9, 10.) For the
reasons set forth below, Plaintiff’s motion for judgment on the pleadings is denied, and
Defendant’s motion for judgment on the pleadings is granted. The Commissioner’s decision
denying Plaintiff’s disability benefits is affirmed, and Plaintiff’s Complaint is dismissed.
Plaintiff was born in 1971, making her 40 years old at the date she filed her application
and 42 years old at the date of the ALJ’s decision. Plaintiff reported graduating high school and
completing two years of college with training as a certified nursing assistant. Plaintiff has no
past relevant work. Generally, Plaintiff alleges disability due to ovarian cancer, mental
disorders, severe back pain, migraines, and asthma.
Plaintiff applied for Supplemental Security Income on April 12, 2012. Plaintiff’s
application was initially denied on August 8, 2012, after which she timely requested a hearing
before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). Plaintiff appeared at a video hearing before ALJ
Roxanne Fuller on August 6, 2013. On September 6, 2013, the ALJ issued a written decision
finding Plaintiff was not disabled under the Social Security Act. (T. 9-19.) 1 On February 17,
2016, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff’s request for review, making the ALJ’s decision the
final decision of the Commissioner. (T. 1-3.)
The ALJ’s Decision
Generally, in her decision, the ALJ made the following six findings of fact and
conclusions of law. (T. 11-19.) First, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since the application filing date. (Id.) Second, the ALJ found that Plaintiff’s
disorders of the spine, asthma, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-
The Administrative Transcript is found at Dkt. No. 5. Citations to the Administrative
Transcript will be referenced as “T.” and the Bates-stamped page numbers as set forth therein
will be used rather than the page numbers assigned by the Court’s CM/ECF electronic filing
compulsive disorder, panic disorder with agoraphobia, and substance abuse are severe
impairments. (T 11-12.) Third, the ALJ found that Plaintiff’s severe impairments do not meet or
medically equal one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. § 404, Subpart P, App. 1 (the
“Listings”). (Id.) Specifically, the ALJ considered Listings 1.00 (musculoskeletal disorders),
3.00 (respiratory disorders), 12.04 (affective disorders), 12.06 (anxiety-related disorders), and
12.09 (personality disorders). Fourth, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform
sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(a) except occasional
climb ramps, stairs, ladders, ropes, and scaffolds; occasional
balance, stoop, crouch, kneel, crawl; occasional exposure to
irritants, such as fumes, odors, dusts, and gases; occasional exposure
to poorly ventilated areas; occasional exposure to chemicals; no
exposure to moving mechanical parts; no operating a motor vehicle;
no exposure to unprotected heights; able to perform simple routine
repetitive tasks; no interaction with the public; occasional
interaction with supervisors and coworkers.
(T. 13.) Fifth, the ALJ found that Plaintiff does not have any past relevant work. (T. 18.) Sixth,
and last, the ALJ found Plaintiff remains able to perform other work in the national economy as a
document preparer, bench hand, and final assembler and therefore is not disabled. (T. 18-19.)
The Parties’ Briefings on Their Cross-Motions
Generally, Plaintiff makes two arguments in support of her motion for judgment on the
pleadings. First, Plaintiff argues error due to the fact that the ALJ was unable to ask Plaintiff
questions regarding her pain management treatment while taking testimony at the hearing
because those records were submitted during the hearing. (Dkt. No. 9, at 1 [Pl. Mem. of Law].)
Second, Plaintiff argues that the evidence of the need for medication to manage psychiatric
symptoms and resulting side effects of grogginess require further proceedings to determine
whether Plaintiff has the “physical and mental stamina to make it through a work day.” (Dkt.
No. 9, at 1-2 [Pl. Mem. of Law].)
Generally, Defendant makes two arguments in support of her motion for judgment on the
pleadings. First, Defendant argues that it was Plaintiff’s duty to submit all evidence she wanted
to be considered at the hearing in a timely manner, and that her representative acknowledged and
accepted the fact that the hearing would be conducted without the ALJ’s review of the pain
management records due to Plaintiff’s late submission. (Dkt. No. 10, at 4-5 [Def. Mem. of
Law].) Defendant also argues that Plaintiff’s representative had the opportunity to question her
regarding issues related to those pain management records, but declined to do so. (Dkt. No. 10,
at 5 [Def. Mem. of Law].) Lastly, Defendant argues that the ALJ properly considered these
records in combination with the rest of the evidence prior to rendering the decision regardless of
whether he had reviewed them prior to the hearing, and so the decision itself was properly based
on the totality of the evidence. (Dkt. No. 10, at 5-6 [Def. Mem. of Law].)
Second, Defendant argues that the ALJ afforded appropriate consideration to the
Plaintiff’s reports regarding her mental impairments, including assessing her mental impairment
under the required regulatory technique, considering all the medical evidence, and conducting an
assessment of the credibility of Plaintiff’s allegations. (Dkt. No. 10, at 6-7 [Def. Mem. of Law].)
RELEVANT LEGAL STANDARD
Standard of Review
A court reviewing a denial of disability benefits may not determine de novo whether an
individual is disabled. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Wagner v. Sec’y of Health & Human Servs., 906 F.2d
856, 860 (2d Cir. 1990). Rather, the Commissioner’s determination will be reversed only if the
correct legal standards were not applied, or it was not supported by substantial evidence. See
Johnson v. Bowen, 817 F.2d 983, 986 (2d Cir. 1987) (“Where there is a reasonable basis for
doubt whether the ALJ applied correct legal principles, application of the substantial evidence
standard to uphold a finding of no disability creates an unacceptable risk that a claimant will be
deprived of the right to have her disability determination made according to the correct legal
principles.”); accord Grey v. Heckler, 721 F.2d 41, 46 (2d Cir. 1983), Marcus v. Califano, 615
F.2d 23, 27 (2d Cir. 1979). “Substantial evidence” is evidence that amounts to “more than a
mere scintilla,” and has been defined as “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 91 S. Ct.
1420, 1427 (1971). Where evidence is deemed susceptible to more than one rational
interpretation, the Commissioner’s conclusion must be upheld. Rutherford v. Schweiker, 685
F.2d 60, 62 (2d Cir. 1982).
“To determine on appeal whether the ALJ’s findings are supported by substantial
evidence, a reviewing court considers the whole record, examining evidence from both sides,
because an analysis of the substantiality of the evidence must also include that which detracts
from its weight.” Williams v. Bowen, 859 F.2d 255, 258 (2d Cir. 1988). If supported by
substantial evidence, the Commissioner’s finding must be sustained “even where substantial
evidence may support the plaintiff’s position and despite that the court’s independent analysis of
the evidence may differ from the [Commissioner’s].” Rosado v. Sullivan, 805 F. Supp. 147, 153
(S.D.N.Y. 1992). In other words, this Court must afford the Commissioner’s determination
considerable deference, and may not substitute “its own judgment for that of the
[Commissioner], even if it might justifiably have reached a different result upon a de novo
review.” Valente v. Sec’y of Health & Human Servs., 733 F.2d 1037, 1041 (2d Cir. 1984).
Standard to Determine Disability
The Commissioner has established a five-step evaluation process to determine whether an
individual is disabled as defined by the Social Security Act. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920.
The Supreme Court has recognized the validity of this sequential evaluation process. Bowen v.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140-42, 107 S. Ct. 2287 (1987). The five-step process is as follows:
First, the [Commissioner] considers whether the claimant is
currently engaged in substantial gainful activity. If he is not, the
[Commissioner] next considers whether the claimant has a “severe
impairment” which significantly limits his physical or mental ability
to do basic work activities. If the claimant suffers such an
impairment, the third inquiry is whether, based solely on medical
evidence, the claimant has an impairment which is listed in
Appendix 1 of the regulations. If the claimant has such an
impairment, the [Commissioner] will consider him disabled without
considering vocational factors such as age, education, and work
experience; the [Commissioner] presumes that a claimant who is
afflicted with a “listed” impairment is unable to perform substantial
gainful activity. Assuming the claimant does not have a listed
impairment, the fourth inquiry is whether, despite the claimant’s
severe impairment, he has the residual functional capacity to
perform his past work. Finally, if the claimant is unable to perform
his past work, the [Commissioner] then determines whether there is
other work which the claimant could perform. Under the cases
previously discussed, the claimant bears the burden of the proof as
to the first four steps, while the [Commissioner] must prove the final
Berry v. Schweiker, 675 F.2d 464, 467 (2d Cir. 1982); accord McIntyre v. Colvin, 758 F.3d 146,
150 (2d Cir. 2014). “If at any step a finding of disability or non-disability can be made, the SSA
will not review the claim further.” Barnhart v. Thompson, 540 U.S. 20, 24 (2003).
Whether Plaintiff Was Afforded a Fair Hearing Despite the ALJ’s Inability
to Question Her About the Pain Management Records
After careful consideration, the Court answers this question in the affirmative for the
reasons stated in Defendant’s memorandum of law. (Dkt. No. 10, at 4-6 [Def. Mem. of Law].)
To those reasons, this Court adds the following analysis.
“A claim of entitlement to social security benefits triggers Due Process Clause
protections.” Pokluda v. Colvin, No. 1:13-CV-0335, 2014 WL 1679801, at *3 (N.D.N.Y. Apr.
28, 2014) (citing Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 332-33 (1976)). “In the context of an
administrative social security hearing, however, Due Process requires only that the proceedings
be ‘full and fair.’” Pokluda, 2014 WL 1679801, at *3 (citing Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S.
389, 401-02 (1971)). Additionally, “administrative proceedings can and should be ‘informal,’
‘liberal,’ and ‘not strict in tone and operation,’” and “[t]heir overall conduct ultimately ‘rests . . .
in the examiner’s discretion.’” Id. (quoting Perales, 402 U.S. at 400-01).
Plaintiff appears to argue that the hearing provided by the ALJ was insufficient because
the ALJ conducted it without having the benefit of reviewing pain management records, which in
turn prevented the ALJ from questioning Plaintiff about that pain management treatment. (Dkt.
No. 9, at 1 [Pl. Mem. of Law].) However, Plaintiff’s attempt to turn this fact into an error is not
persuasive for a number of reasons.
First, Plaintiff’s argument ignores the fact that it was due to the actions of her own
representative that the pain management records were not submitted until the day of the hearing.
By way of explanation for failure to submit these records sooner, Plaintiff’s representative
reported at the hearing that he had received the pain management records the day prior to the
hearing, and that the mental health records were for treatment that occurred only a week or two
prior to the hearing. (T. 37-39.) However, Plaintiff’s representative failed to explain why he did
not submit these records through the electronic system prior to the hearing rather than bringing
them to the hearing. (Id.) Additionally, as Defendant notes, Plaintiff’s hearing representative
indicated that he “can understand  certainly” that the ALJ was having to conduct the hearing
without the benefit of reviewing those records due to the timing of the submission, and the
representative did not request a postponement of the hearing for the ALJ to consider these
records prior to conducting questioning of Plaintiff. (T. 37-38; Dkt. No. 10, at 4-5 [Def. Mem. of
Law].) To the extent that Plaintiff argues that the ALJ should be held responsible for when
Plaintiff’s representative chose to submit these records, or that the ALJ was required to postpone
the hearing until he had considered these new records, Plaintiff’s arguments are not persuasive or
supported by any legal authority.
Second, as Defendant notes, the transcript of the hearing shows that, although the ALJ
did not have the ability to review these records prior to the hearing, she did attempt to question
Plaintiff somewhat related to the evidence submitted at the hearing, though her question focused
on a statement from a mental treating source rather than the pain management treatment. (T. 47;
Dkt. No. 10, at 5 [Def. Mem. of Law].) Additionally, as Defendant correctly points out,
Plaintiff’s hearing representative (who was presumably more familiar with the evidence he was
submitting) was in the position to ask more specific questions about that evidence at the hearing
if he believed such questioning was warranted, yet he declined the opportunity to do so. (T. 5556; Dkt. No. 10, at 5 [Def. Mem. of Law].) Again, although the ALJ has a concurrent duty to
ensure the record is fully developed, including eliciting relevant testimony at the hearing,
Plaintiff still bears the ultimate burden of producing evidence to support her claim of disability.
See Burgess v. Astrue, 537 F.3d 117, 128 (2d Cir. 2008) (quoting Melville v. Apfel, 198 F.3d 45,
52 (2d Cir. 1999); citing Draegert v. Barnhart, 311 F.3d 468 (2d Cir. 2002), Butts v. Barnhart,
388 F.3d 377, 383 (2d Cir. 2004)). If there was something so material in these records that
failure to address it at the hearing would have rendered Plaintiff’s hearing unfair or otherwise
legally inadequate, Plaintiff’s representative should have taken the provided opportunity at the
hearing to address it, particularly as it was Plaintiff’s representative who waited until the hearing
to submit these records. Additionally, any concerns regarding the ALJ’s inability to question
Plaintiff specifically about these records are ameliorated by the fact that the ALJ appropriately
considered all of the evidence when making the final determination, as will be discussed below.
Third, Plaintiff has not alleged how the inability to question Plaintiff specifically about
these treatment notes in any way impacted the outcome of her case. The ALJ’s discussion of the
treatment and opinion evidence shows that she appropriately considered all the evidence
submitted on the date of the hearing when making her determination. (T. 14-17.) Additionally,
nothing in these treatment notes suggests that eliciting testimony would have been likely to result
in a different outcome. The pain management records show that, on February 25, 2013,
Sebastian Thomas, M.D., observed normal gait and station, normal head and neck findings,
tenderness to palpation at the bilateral sacroiliac joints and L5/S1 lumbar spine vertebral bodies,
pain the in sacroiliac joints with straight leg raising and in the right leg with FABER testing,
weakness in both legs secondary to low back pain, intact sensation, intact judgment and insight,
intact memory, and positive findings for anxiety. (T. 279.) On March 18, 2013, Dr. Thomas
observed Plaintiff displayed tenderness to palpation along the sacroiliac joints and was alert and
oriented but appeared very anxious while undergoing a sacroiliac joint injection. (T. 291.) On
April 8, 2013, Plaintiff reported experiencing an 85 percent reduction of pain for three weeks due
to the injection, though she currently presented with bilateral sacroiliac joint tenderness and
positive bilateral leg pain on FABER testing. (T. 291.) On May 28, 2013, Plaintiff was noted to
have a normal mood and affect and normal behavior when undergoing a radiofrequency ablation
of the right sacroiliac joint. (T. 299.) On June 25, 2013, Plaintiff reported significant
improvement after the ablation, noting she was “extremely happy” with the results and that she
could ambulate and continue performing her daily activities. (T. 307.) Syed Ali, M.D., observed
that Plaintiff was oriented and alert, and had a normal mood and affect, normal behavior, and
normal judgment and thought content. (T. 308.) On July 26, 2013, Plaintiff reported a 90
percent reduction of pain for two months following radiofrequency ablation; she noted it was
returning slowly, but she still had a 30 to 40 percent reduction in pain at that time. (T. 312.) Dr.
Thomas observed normal ranges of motion, normal pulmonary functioning, and that she was
alert and oriented with normal mood, affect and behavior. (T. 312-13.)
The treatment notes from Plaintiff’s pain management treatment therefore show that
while Plaintiff experienced symptoms, she also experienced relief from her lumbar spine pain
with treatment, first with sacroiliac injections and then more significantly with radiofrequency
ablation of the sacroiliac joint. Plaintiff has not alleged a reason as to why she believes the
ALJ’s inability to ask questions regarding these records was detrimental to conducting a fair
hearing or in any other way negatively impacted the ALJ’s decision making. Additionally, this
Court does not see any suggestion that questioning Plaintiff about her pain management
treatment specifically would have been likely to result in any additional evidence that would
have caused the ALJ to make different findings.
For all the above reasons, there was no error in the ALJ’s decision to conduct the hearing
without first considering the pain management records that were submitted at that time. Remand
is not warranted on this basis.
Whether the ALJ Conducted a Proper Assessment of Plaintiff’s Credibility
After careful consideration, the Court answers this question in the affirmative for the
reasons stated in Defendant’s memorandum of law. (Dkt. No. 10, at 6-7 [Def. Mem. of Law].)
To those reasons, this Court adds the following analysis.
In determining whether a claimant is disabled, the ALJ must also make a determination
as to the credibility of the claimant’s allegations. “‘An administrative law judge may properly
reject claims of severe, disabling pain after weighing the objective medical evidence in the
record, the claimant’s demeanor, and other indicia of credibility, but must set forth his or her
reasons with sufficient specificity to enable us to decide whether the determination is supported
by substantial evidence.’” Schlichting v. Astrue, 11 F. Supp. 3d 190, 205 (N.D.N.Y. 2012)
(quoting Lewis v. Apfel, 62 F. Supp. 2d 648, 651 (N.D.N.Y. 1999)). The Second Circuit
recognizes that “‘[i]t is the function of the [Commissioner], not [reviewing courts], to resolve
evidentiary conflicts and to appraise the credibility of witnesses, including the claimant,’” and
that “[i]f there is substantial evidence in the record to support the Commissioner’s findings, ‘the
court must uphold the ALJ’s decision to discount a claimant’s subjective complaints of pain.’”
Schlichting, 11 F. Supp. 3d at 206 (quoting Carroll v. Sec’y of Health and Human Servs., 705
F.2d 638, 642 (2d Cir. 1983); Aponte v. Sec’y, Dep’t of Health and Human Servs., 728 F.2d 588,
591 (2d Cir. 1984)). Due to the fact that the ALJ has the benefit of directly observing a
claimant’s demeanor and “other indicia of credibility,” the ALJ’s credibility assessment is
generally entitled to deference. Weather v. Astrue, 32 F. Supp. 3d 363, 381 (N.D.N.Y. 2012)
(citing Tejada v. Apfel, 167 F.3d 770, 776 (2d Cir. 1999)).
Although Plaintiff does not explicitly frame it as such, her argument that remand is
warranted to determine whether Plaintiff has the “physical and mental stamina to make it through
a work day” is essentially a challenge to the ALJ’s credibility finding, as Plaintiff relies on her
own reports of agoraphobia, panic attacks, and medication side effects as evidence of her level of
limitations. (Dkt. No. 9, at 1-2 [Pl. Mem. of Law].) Rather than relying on Plaintiff’s subjective
reports, the ALJ found that her allegations regarding the intensity, persistence, and limiting
effects of her symptoms were not entirely credible. (T. 14.) In support of this finding, the ALJ
cited to inconsistencies with the objective medical evidence, notations that medication and
treatment were effective at controlling her symptoms, inconsistencies in her reports throughout
the record about her history of substance abuse, reports of her daily activities, and a poor work
history prior to the alleged onset date. (T. 14-16.)
Substantial evidence supports the ALJ’s finding that Plaintiff’s allegations were
inconsistent with the evidence. Although the treatment evidence does show that Plaintiff
experienced symptoms, it does not support the extent of limitations Plaintiff reported. The ALJ
discussed the treatment evidence in detail in the written decision and provided explanations
regarding what evidence she relied on in making her determination, as well as reasons for
rejecting evidence that she did not find persuasive in light of all the evidence. (T. 14-18.) The
ALJ’s discussion of the evidence is sufficient to show that the extent of Plaintiff’s allegations
was inconsistent with the objective medical evidence.
The ALJ also noted that Plaintiff had made inconsistent statements to different sources
regarding her history of substance abuse that called the credibility of her statements into
question. (T. 16.) A notable example of this is that she reported to Zachary Forbes, M.S.W., on
January 17, 2012, that she “often drinks, consumes pills, and any substance she can get her hands
on,” while later reporting to the consultative examiner on July 10, 2012, that she did not have a
history of drug or alcohol abuse. (T. 199, 227.) Inconsistencies in a claimant’s statements are a
proper consideration when conducting the credibility analysis. See Taylor v. Colvin, No. 3:14CV-0928, 2016 WL 1049000, at *8 (N.D.N.Y. Mar. 11, 2016) (finding that the ALJ’s citation to
multiple inconsistencies in the plaintiff’s statements were sufficient reason to uphold the
In terms of daily activities, the ALJ noted that Plaintiff testified she watched television,
slept, performed light housekeeping, laundry and dishes, and left the house to grocery shop once
per week. (T. 16.) At the consultative examination on July 10, 2012, Plaintiff reported she could
dress, bathe and groom herself, cook, prepare food and clean when not in too much pain, do
laundry, shop if someone was with her, manage money, go places in a car with a friend, read,
watch television, and listen to music and the radio. (T. 229.) There was nothing unreasonable in
the ALJ’s interpretation that these reported activities contradicted Plaintiff’s allegation that she
was unable to perform even sedentary unskilled work. See Hart v. Astrue, 32 F. Supp. 3d 227,
235 (N.D.N.Y. 2012) (“To the extent Dr. Magsino’s opinion is capable of more than one
reasonable interpretation, this Court must defer to the interpretation of the ALJ and may not
substitute its own opinion.”); Brouillette v. Astrue, 901 F. Supp. 2d 328, 333 (N.D.N.Y. 2012)
(“If the evidence is deemed susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, then the
Commissioner’s conclusion must be upheld.”).
Lastly, the ALJ was permitted to consider Plaintiff’s poor work history as one factor in
the analysis when determining the issue of credibility. See Stroud v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., No.
13-CV-3251, 2014 WL 4652581, at *11 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 8, 2014) (“‘A claimant’s unexplained
poor work history may negatively impact on the claimant’s credibility.’”) (quoting Marine v.
Barnhart, No. 00-CV-9392, 2003 WL 22434094, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 24, 2003)); Ellis v.
Comm’r of Soc. Sec., No. 3:11-CV-1205, 2012 WL 5464632, at *12 (N.D.N.Y. Sept. 7, 2012)
(“Although work history may be deemed probative of credibility, it is one of the many factors to
be considered.”) (citing Campbell v. Astrue, 465 F. App’x 4, 7 (2d Cir. 2012); Wavercak v.
Astrue, 420 F. App’x 91, 94 (2d Cir. 2011)).
AS detailed above, the ALJ provided multiple reasons for concluding Plaintiff’s
allegations were not entirely credible, and the credibility determination is therefore consistent
with the applicable legal standards and supported by substantial evidence. Remand is not
warranted on this basis.
ACCORDINGLY, it is
ORDERED that Plaintiff’s motion for judgment on the pleadings (Dkt. No. 9) is
DENIED; and it is further
ORDERED that Defendant’s motion for judgment on the pleadings (Dkt. No. 10) is
GRANTED; and it is further
ORDERED that Defendant’s decision denying Plaintiff disability benefits is
AFFIRMED; and it is further
ORDERED that Plaintiff’s Complaint (Dkt. No. 1) is DISMISSED.
Dated: September 11, 2017
Syracuse, New York
Hon. Glenn T. Suddaby
Chief U.S. District Judge
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