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Taylor v. Astrue

United States District Court, N.D. New York

September 26, 2012

KEITH TAYLOR, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, Comm'r of Soc. Sec., Defendant

Order Filed: July 20, 2012

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For Plaintiff: PETER A. GORTON, ESQ., OF COUNSEL, LACHMAN & GORTON, Endicott, New York.

For Defendant: ANDREEA L. LECHLEITNER, ESQ., OF COUNSEL, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, OFFICE OF REG. GEN. COUNSEL - REGION II, New York, New York.

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MEMORANDUM-DECISION and ORDER

Hon. Glenn T. Suddaby, U.S. District Judge.

Currently before the Court, in this action filed by Keith Taylor (" Plaintiff" ) against Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue (" Defendant" ) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking Social Security benefits, are the following: (1) Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings (Dkt. No. 13); (2) Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings (Dkt. No. 15); (3) the Report-Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge Victor E. Bianchini, 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 be granted, Plaintiff's motion be denied, and this action be dismissed in its entirety (Dkt. No. 17); and (4) Plaintiff's Objections to the Report-Recommendation (Dkt. No. 18). For the reasons set forth below, Magistrate Judge Bianchini's Report-Recommendations is accepted and adopted in its entirety.

I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

A. Procedural History

In Part II of his Report-Recommendation, Magistrate Judge Bianchini correctly describes the procedural background of the action. (Dkt. No. 17, at Part II) Furthermore, Plaintiff has not specifically objected to that description. (Dkt. No. 18.) As a result, this description is incorporated by reference in this Decision and Order, which is intended primarily for the review of the parties. The Court adds only the following brief summary of that description.

On March 12, 2007, Plaintiff applied for Social Security Insurance (" SSI" ) and Disability Insurance Benefits (" DIB" ) under the Social Security Act alleging a disability onset date of May 17, 2005. ( See Administrative Transcript [" T." ] at 85-94.) Plaintiff's application was initially denied by the Social Security Administration. Thereafter,

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Plaintiff appealed the decision and on July 10, 2009, a hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge (" ALJ" ) of the Social Security Administration. (T. at 28.) On December 18, 2009, the ALJ issued his decision denying Plaintiff's application for benefits. (T. at 6-27.) On March 4, 2011, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of Defendant. (T. at 1-3.) On April 14, 2011, Plaintiff commenced this action in federal court. (Dkt. No. 1.)

B. Parties' Motion Arguments

Generally, in his motion for judgment on the pleadings, Plaintiff asserts the following five arguments: (1) the ALJ erred by finding Plaintiff's lumber degenerative disc disease, bilateral degenerative knee joint condition, asthma, peripheral vascular disease, and diabetes to be non-severe impairments (Dkt. No. 13 at Part I); (2) the ALJ erred by failing to consider the combined effects of Plaintiff's impairments and in failing to consider whether Plaintiff's severe degenerative disc disease and bilateral knee joint pain met or equaled Sections 1.02 and/or 1.04 of the Listings; id. at Part II); (3) the ALJ erred in failing to develop the record by failing to obtain the treating providers opinions and/or failing to obtain a consultative orthopedic exam ( id. at Part III); (4) the ALJ erred in his determination of Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (" RFC" ) ( id. at Part IV); and (5) the ALJ erred in assessing the credibility of Plaintiff, who was unrepresented during the hearing ( id. at Part V).

Generally, in his motion for judgment on the pleadings, Defendant disagrees with each of these arguments, and argues that the Commissioner's decision should be affirmed. ( See generally Dkt. No. 15.)

C. Magistrate Judge Bianchini's Report-Recommendation

On July 20, 2012, Magistrate Judge Bianchini issued a Report-Recommendation recommending that Defendant's decision denying Plaintiff Social Security benefits be affirmed and the Complaint be dismissed. (Dkt. No. 17, at Part III. B.) Generally, in support of his recommendation, Magistrate Judge Bianchini found as follows: (1) the ALJ correctly determined, based on substantial record evidence, that Plaintiff's above-referenced impairments were non-severe; (2) the ALJ properly considered the combined effects of Plaintiff's impairments, and correctly determined, based on substantial evidence, that Plaintiff's degenerative disc disease and bilateral knee joint pain met or equaled Sections 1.02 and/or 1.04 of the Listings; (3) the ALJ properly exercised his discretion in finding that further development of the record was unnecessary; (4) the ALJ's RFC assessment was supported by substantial evidence; and (5) the ALJ properly exercised his discretion to evaluate Plaintiff's credibility, and rendered an independent judgment regarding the extent of Plaintiff's subjective complaints based on the objective medical and other evidence. ( id. at Part III.B.)

D. Plaintiff's Objections to the Report-Recommendation

On July 23, 2012, Plaintiff filed his Objections to the Report-Recommendation. (Dkt. No. 18.) In his Objections, Plaintiff repeats the same arguments asserted in his brief in support of his motion for judgment on the pleadings. ( Compare Dkt. No. 18 [Plf.'s Obj.] with Dkt. No. 13 [Plf.'s Brief].) Indeed, Plaintiff acknowledges this fact, beginning by stating, " Plaintiff hereby objects to the Report and Recommendation and alleges initially, of course,

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the same argument set forth in the Plaintiff's brief." (Dkt. No. 18, at 1.)

More specifically, the bulk of Plaintiff's Objection repeats his argument that the ALJ erred by finding Plaintiff's lumber degenerative disc disease, bilateral degenerative knee joint condition, asthma, peripheral vascular disease, and diabetes to be non-severe impairments. (Dkt. No. 18, at 1-3.) For example, in doing so, Plaintiff expressly cites page 7 and 5 of his underlying brief. ( Id. at 1-2.)

Plaintiff concludes his Objection by attempting to incorporate by reference the " other issues raised by the Plaintiff" in his underlying brief. ( id. at 3.)

II. APPLICABLE LEGAL STANDARDS

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

When a specific objection is made to a portion of a magistrate judge's report recommendation, the Court subjects that portion of the report-recommendation to a de novo review. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(2); 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). To be " specific," the objection must, with particularity, " identify [1] the portions of the proposed findings, recommendations, or report to which it has an objection and [2] the basis for the objection." N.D.N.Y. L.R. 72.1(c).[1] When performing such a de novo review, " [t]he judge may . . . receive further evidence. . . ." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). However, a district court will ordinarily refuse to consider evidentiary material that could have been, but was not, presented to the magistrate judge in the first instance.[2]

When only a general objection is made to a portion of a magistrate judge's report-recommendation, the Court subjects that portion of the report-recommendation to only a clear error review. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(2),(3); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b), Advisory Committee Notes: 1983 Addition.[3] Similarly, when an objection merely

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reiterates the same arguments made by the objecting party in its original papers submitted to the magistrate judge, the Court subjects that portion of the report-recommendation challenged by those arguments to only a clear error review.[4] Finally, when no objection is made to a portion of a report-recommendation, the Court subjects that portion of the report-recommendation to only a clear error review. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b), Advisory Committee Notes: 1983 Addition. When performing such a " clear error" review, " the court need only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation." id.[5]

After conducting 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 Bianchini correctly recites the legal standard governing judicial review of Defendant's decision. (Dkt. No. 17, at Part III.A.) Furthermore, Plaintiff has not specifically objected to that recitation. (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

As explained above in Part I.D. of this Decision and Order, Plaintiff's Objections merely reiterate the same arguments that he made in his brief in support of his motion for judgment on the pleadings. As explained above in Part II.A. of this Decision and Order, when an objection merely reiterates the same arguments made by the objecting party in its original papers submitted to the magistrate judge, the Court subjects that report-recommendation to only a clear error review. As a result, the Court need review Magistrate Judge Bianchini's Report-Recommendation only for clear error.

After reviewing all of the papers in this action, the Court concludes that Magistrate Judge Bianchini's Report-Recommendation is free of clear error. (Dkt. No. 17.) Magistrate Judge Bianchini 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 the Report-Recommendation in its entirety for the reasons stated therein. ( Id.) The Court would only add that, even if it were to subject Magistrate Judge Bianchini's Report-Recommendation to a de novo review,

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that thorough and correct Report-Recommendation would survive such a review.

ACCORDINGLY, it is

ORDERED that Magistrate Judge Bianchini's Report-Recommendation (Dkt. No. 17) is ACCEPTED and ADOPTED in its entirety; and it is further

ORDERED that Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings (Dkt. No. 15) is GRANTED; and it is further ORDERED that Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings (Dkt. No. 13) is DENIED; and it is further

ORDERED that Defendant's decision denying disability benefits is ...


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