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Sandra Cook v. Michael J. Astrue

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT NORTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK


May 19, 2011

SANDRA COOK, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Glenn T. Suddaby, United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM-DECISION and ORDER

Currently before the Court in this action, filed by Sandra Cook ("Plaintiff") against Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue ("Defendant") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking Social Security benefits, is the Report-Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge Andrew T. Baxter, issued pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) and (B) and Local Rule 72.3(c) of the Local Rules of Practice for this Court, recommending that Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings be granted, and this action be dismissed in its entirety. (Dkt. No. 18.) For the reasons set forth below, Magistrate Judge Baxter's Report-Recommendation is adopted in its entirety, and Plaintiff's Complaint is dismissed.

I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

A. Procedural History

Because neither party has objected to Part I of Magistrate Judge Baxter's Report-Recommendation, setting forth the procedural background of this action, the Court adopts that description of this action's procedural background. (See generally Dkt. No. 18, at I [Report-Rec].)

On November 7, 2006, Plaintiff applied for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") under the Social Security Act, based on back and neck impairments as well as carpal tunnel syndrome, which left her unable to work. (Administrative Transcript ["T."] at 14.)*fn1 On January 23, 2007, Plaintiff's application was denied by the Social Security Administration. (T. at 59-62.) Plaintiff subsequently requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") of the Social Security Administration, which was held on March 3, 2009. (T. at 21-49.)

On April 9, 2009, the ALJ issued his decision denying Plaintiff's application. (T. at 12-20.) finding Plaintiff not disabled. (T. at 12-20.) In his decision, the ALJ applied the five-step sequential evaluation process for determining whether an individual is disabled,*fn2 and concluded that Plaintiff was not under a disability, as that term is defined under the Social Security Act. (Id.)

On January 6, 2010, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of Defendant. (T. at 1-4.) On March 5, 2010, Plaintiff commenced this action in federal court. (Dkt. No. 1.)

B. Parties' Briefing

Generally, in her brief in support of her Complaint, Plaintiff asserts the following three arguments: (1) the ALJ's finding that Plaintiff has the Residual Functional Capacity ("RFC") to perform the full range of light work is not supported by substantial evidence; (2) the ALJ erred in failing to call a Vocational Expert; and (3) the ALJ failed to give proper weight to Plaintiff's treating physician and improperly analyzed Plaintiff's credibility. (Dkt. No. 13). Generally, in his brief in response to Plaintiff's brief, Defendant disagrees with each of these three arguments, and argues that the Commissioner's decision should be affirmed. (Dkt. No. 16.)

C. Magistrate Judge Baxter's Report-Recommendation

On January 1, 2011, Magistrate Judge Baxter issued a Report-Recommendation recommending that Plaintiff's case be dismissed. Generally, in support of his recommendation, Magistrate Judge Baxter found as follows: (1) the ALJ properly analyzed Plaintiff's RFC and credibility; (2) the ALJ gave appropriate weight to the opinion of Plaintiff's treating physician; and (3) because the ALJ found that Plaintiff could perform a full range of light work, it was not necessary to call a Vocational Expert. (Dkt. No. 18.)

II. APPLICABLE LEGAL STANDARDS

A. Standard of Review of Magistrate Judge Baxter's Report-Recommendation

When specific objections are made to a magistrate judge's report-recommendation, the Court makes a "de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made." See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C).*fn3

When only general objections are made to a magistrate judge's report-recommendation, or where the objecting party merely reiterates the same arguments taken in its original papers submitted to the magistrate judge, the Court reviews the report-recommendation for clear error or manifest injustice. See Brown v. Peters, 95-CV-1641, 1997 WL 599355, at *2-3 (N.D.N.Y. Sept. 22, 1997) (Pooler, J.) [collecting cases], aff'd without opinion, 175 F.3d 1007 (2d Cir. 1999).*fn4

Similarly, when a party makes no objection to a portion of a report-recommendation, the Court reviews that portion for clear error or manifest injustice. See Batista v. Walker, 94-CV-2826, 1995 WL 453299, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. July 31, 1995) (Sotomayor, J.) [citations omitted]; Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b), Advisory Committee Notes: 1983 Addition [citations omitted]. After conducing the appropriate review, the Court may "accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C).

B. Standard Governing Judicial Review of Defendant's Decision

In Part III.A. of his Report-Recommendation, Magistrate Judge Baxter correctly recited the legal standard governing judicial review of Defendant's decision. (Dkt. No.18.) As a result, this standard is incorporated by reference in this Decision and Order, which is intended primarily for the review of the parties.

III. ANALYSIS

Objections to the Report-Recommendation have not been filed in this case, and the time in which to do so has expired. As a result, the Court need review the Report-Recommendation only for clear error. After carefully reviewing all of the papers in this action, including Magistrate Judge Baxter's Report-Recommendation, the Court concludes that Magistrate Judge Baxter's thorough Report-Recommendation is correct in all respects. (Dkt. No. 18.) Magistrate Judge Baxter employed the proper standards, accurately recited the facts, and reasonably applied the law to those facts. (Id.) As a result, the Court accepts and adopts Magistrate Judge Baxter's Report-Recommendation in its entirety for the reasons stated therein. (Id.)

ACCORDINGLY, it is

ORDERED that Magistrate Judge Baxter's Report-Recommendation (Dkt. No. 18) is ACCEPTED and ADOPTED in its entirety; and it is further

ORDERED that Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings (Dkt. No. 16) is GRANTED; and it is further

ORDERED that Plaintiff's Complaint (Dkt. No. 1) is DISMISSED.


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