The opinion of the court was delivered by: PORT
Memorandum-Decision and Order
Jurisdiction of this court is invoked pursuant to the provisions of the Social Security Act as amended. 42 U.S.C.A. § 405(g). The plaintiff in each of the above entitled actions seeks a review and reversal of the final decision of the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare. The matter is properly before the Court on cross motions for summary judgment.
The claims of Lena Wright (Lena) and Archie Wright (Archie) brother and sister, for old-age insurance benefits were granted. However, the administrative determination suspended benefits in Archie's case for the months of April through October in the years 1957 and 1958. In computing Lena's benefits for the same years, alleged earnings from self-employment were eliminated.
The Secretary treated the entire net income from the operation of a roadside stand as self-employment income of Archie's. The claimants contend the net income should be allocated equally to each as their respective distributive share of the income from a partnership. 42 U.S.C.A. § 411(a), (d). This would result in self-employment income to Archie of less than $1200.00 for each of the years in question, i.e. $1131.51 for 1957 and $1162.55 for 1958.
On the basis of this income, Archie would have been entitled to benefit payments for the months eliminated. 42 U.S.C.A. § 403(e). Lena would correspondingly have been credited with self-employment income in the same amounts for those years. This distribution of income results only if Archie and Lena establish that they were partners during the years in question.
If, under the applicable law, the administrative conclusion that the claimants were not partners during the years 1957 and 1958 is based on findings of fact supported by substantial evidence, the determination of the Secretary must stand; if not, it falls. 42 U.S.C.A. § 405(g).
42 U.S.C.A. § 405(g) accords conclusive finality to "(the) findings of the Secretary as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence * * *." The effective application of this Congressional command is not difficult when Administrative and Judicial findings coincide.
Tempting as it may be to do so, the judicial view may not be substituted for the administratively arrived at result if supported by the record. "The Secretary, and not the courts, is charged with resolving conflicts in the evidence, and it is immaterial that the evidence before him will permit a conclusion inconsistent with his." Thomas v. Celebrezze, 331 F.2d 541 (4 Cir. 1964).
The plaintiffs had the burden of proof of establishing their entitlement to the benefits claimed. Carqueville v. Flemming, 263 F.2d 875 (7 Cir. 1959).
The Secretary held the evidence failed to establish the formation of a bona fide partnership between the plaintiffs, and therefore, they failed in carrying the burden placed on them. The record supports the Secretary's holding.
The plaintiffs in their briefs complain that "(the) Referee and the Appeals Council are both obsessed with the finding of a 'bona fide partnership'". The plaintiffs further picture themselves as victims of administrative arbitrariness and of having "been caught up in a tangle of administration double-talk designed to confuse the issue and deny this claim regardless of merit." The plaintiffs support this contention by the following quotation from the Referee's opinion -
"Careful evaluation of the evidence of record and the testimony adduced at the hearing leads to the conclusion that the claimant has failed to sustain the burden of proof of establishing, by credible evidence, that the net self-employment which she states she received as a result of a partnership arrangement between herself and her brother, Archie Wright, properly represents her distributive share of the earnings of a bona fide partnership which did, in fact, exist and the Hearing Examiner so finds."
The paragraph quoted is not artistically stated nor a model of clarity. However, it is clear that the Referee held in that paragraph that he found claimants had failed to ...