Hicks v. Astrue
ORDER granting 29 Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, denying 32 Defendant's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, and adopting the 35 Memorandum and Recommendations. Signed by Chief Judge James C. Dever III on 8/10/2012. (Sawyer, D.)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF NORTH CAROLINA
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE,
Commissioner ofthe Social Security
On July 3, 2012, Magistrate Judge Webb issued a Memorandum and Recommendation
("M&R") [D.E. 35]. In that M&R, Judge Webb recommended that the court grant Marlene Hicks's
("Hicks" or "plaintiff') motion for judgment on the pleadings [D.E. 29], deny Michael J. Astrue's
("Commissioner" or "defendant") motion for judgment on the pleadings [D.E. 32], and remand the
case to the Commissioner for further proceedings consistent with the M&R. On July 13,2012, the
Commissioner filed an objection to the M&R [D.E. 36]. Hicks did not respond.
"The Federal Magistrates Act requires a district court to make a de novo determination of
those portions ofthe [magistrate judge's] report or specified proposed findings or recommendations
to which objection is made." Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th
Cir. 2005) (alteration in original) (emphasis and quotation omitted); see 28 U.S.C. § 636(b). Absent
a timely objection, "a district court need not conduct a de novo review, but instead must only satisfy
itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation."
Diamond, 416 F.3d at 315 (quotation omitted).
The court has reviewed the M&R, the record, and the Commissioner's objection. As for
those portions ofthe M&R to which the Commissioner made no objection, the court is satisfied that
there is no clear error on the face of the record.
The court has reviewed de novo the portions of the M&R to which the Commissioner
objected. The scope of judicial review of a final decision regarding disability benefits under the
Social Security Act is limited to determining whether substantial evidence supports the
Commissioner's factual fmdings and whether the Commissioner applied the correct legal standards.
See, e.g., 42 U.s.C. § 405(g); Walls v. Barnhm, 296 F.3d 287, 290 (4th Cir. 2002); Hays v. Sulliv1ID,
907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990). Substantial evidence is "evidence which a reasoning mind
would accept as sufficient to support a particular conclusion. It consists ofmore than a mere scintilla
of evidence but may be somewhat less than a preponderance." Laws v. Celebrezze, 368 F.2d 640,
642 (4th Cir. 1966), abrogated by implication on other grounds by Black & Decker Disability Plan
v. Nord, 538 U.S. 822 (2003).
This court may not reweigh the evidence or substitute its judgment for that of the
Commissioner. See,~, Hays, 907 F.2d at 1456. Rather, in determining whether substantial
evidence supports the Commissioner's decision, the court's review is limited to whether the
Commissioner analyzed the relevant evidence and sufficiently explained his fmdings and rationale
concerning the evidence. See,~, Sterling Smokeless Coal Co. v. Akers, 131 F.3d 438, 439-40
(4th Cir. 1997).
The court has reviewed the record, the M&R, and the objection de novo. The objection
simply rehashes the arguments addressed in the M&R concerning whether the ALJ erred in failing
to address Hicks's hypertension and depression. The court cannot add to Magistrate Judge Webb's
analysis. Moreover, the remand (of course) does not dictate any particular result. Rather, the AU
simply needs to discuss and analyze the issues concerning hypertension and depression. The court
OVERRULES the objection [D.E. 36], and adopts the M&R [D.E. 35]. Accordingly, Hicks's
motion for judgment on the pleadings [D.E. 29] is GRANTED, the Commissioner's motion for
judgment on the pleadings [D.E. 32] is DENIED, and the court REMANDS the case to the
Commissioner for further proceedings consistent with the M&R [D.E. 35] and with this order.
SO ORDERED. This...1O. day of August 2012.
~ C. DEVER. .III
Chief United States District Judge
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