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Wanzo v. Commissioner of Social Security

August 20, 2008

DEBRA WANZO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary L. Sharpe U.S. District Judge

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

I. Introduction

Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), Debra Wanzo ("Wanzo") challenges the denial of disability benefits by the Commissioner of Social Security. Pending are Wanzo's objections to Chief Magistrate Judge Gustave J. DiBianco's Report-Recommendation. (See Dkt. No. 12.) Upon careful consideration of the arguments, the relevant parts of the record, and the applicable law, the court adopts the Report-Recommendation in its entirety.*fn1

II. Procedural History

Wanzo filed for disability benefits in December 2003, alleging disability as of October 22, 2003. (Tr. 19.) Her application was denied, and a hearing was conducted by an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). On July 25, 2005, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits, and that decision became the Commissioner's final determination. (Tr. 16-28.)

Wanzo filed a complaint in the Northern District of New York challenging the Commissioner's denial of benefits. (See Dkt. No. 1.) On May 2, 2008, Judge DiBianco issued a report recommending affirmance of the Commissioner's decision. (See Dkt. No. 12.) On May 15th Wanzo filed her objections. (See Dkt. No. 13.)

III. Discussion*fn2

A. Standard of Review

By statute and rule, district courts are authorized to refer social security petitions to Magistrate Judges for proposed findings and recommendations regarding disposition. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) & (B); N.D.N.Y. R. 40.1, 72.3(d); General Order #18.

When a report and recommendation is filed, the parties have ten (10) days from receipt of the report to file specific, written objections to proposed findings and recommendations, and ten (10) days from the receipt of adversary objections to file responses. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); FED. R. CIV. P. 72(b); N.D.N.Y. R. 72.1(c). The local rules further require that the objections must specify the findings and recommendations which are the subject of the objections, and the substantive basis for these objections. See N.D.N.Y. R. 72.1(c). The district court must review de novo those portions of the Magistrate Judge's findings and recommendations that have been properly preserved by compliance with the specificity requirement. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); FED. R. CIV. P. 72(b); N.D.N.Y. R. 72.1(c). "De novo review requires that the court give fresh consideration to those issues to which specific objections have been made. It will examine the entire record, and make an independent assessment of the magistrate judge's factual and legal conclusions." See Almonte v. New York State Div. of Parole, No. 04-CV-484, 2006 WL 149049, at *5 (N.D.N.Y. Jan. 18, 2006) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

If a party fails to object in a timely manner, it procedurally defaults and is not entitled to judicial review. See id. at *3 . Although failure to object or timely object constitutes procedural default, lack of specificity also gives rise to default. See id. at *4. The local rule requires that objections address specific findings and conclusions. See id. Therefore, a party that limits its specific objections to a part of a report's findings or recommendations procedurally defaults as to the remainder. See id. Frivolous or conclusory objections also fail to satisfy the specificity requirement. See id. Furthermore, mere resubmission of the same papers and arguments as submitted to the magistrate judge fails to comply with the specificity requirement and also results in default. See id.

While a procedural default dissolves a party's right to judicial review, courts may nevertheless elect to conduct such a review. Id. at *5. This court has consistently done so under "a 'clearly erroneous' standard, and defines that phrase as follows: a report is clearly erroneous if the court determines that there is a mistake of fact or law which is obvious and affects substantial rights." Id. at *6. "Furthermore, the court will routinely identify issues which have been procedurally defaulted, and articulate the standard of review applied to all issues." Id.

B. Objections

Wanzo proffers several specific objections to Judge DiBianco's report. The court applies a de novo standard of review to such objections and reviews the remainder ...


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