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Catherine Mary Ellis v. Michael J. Astrue

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT NORTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK


November 8, 2012

CATHERINE MARY ELLIS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.

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

DECISION and ORDER

Currently before the Court, in this action filed by Catherine Mary Ellis ("Plaintiff") against Commissioner of Social Security 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 decision be affirmed, and that Plaintiff's Complaint be dismissed. (Dkt. No. 22.)

I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

A. Procedural History

Because neither party has filed an Objection to Part I of Magistrate Judge Baxter's Report-Recommendation, which accurately describes the procedural background of this action, the Court adopts that part's description in this Decision and Order, which is intended primarily for the review of the parties. (See generally Dkt. No. 22, at Part I [Report-Rec].)

On March 12, 2010, Plaintiff "protectively filed"*fn1 an application for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") under the Social Security Act alleging a disability as of July 25, 2009, which left her unable to work.*fn2 (See Administrative Transcript ["T."] at 117-18.)*fn3 Plaintiff's application was denied by the Social Security Administration on May 10, 2010. (T. at 54-59.) Plaintiff requested a hearing and, on April 1, 2010, a hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") of the Social Security Administration. (T. at 17-46.)

On May 25, 2011, the ALJ issued his decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled at any time from July 25, 2009 until the date of his decision. (T. at 8-16.) Plaintiff appealed the ALJ's decision to the Social Security Administration's Appeals Council and on August 19, 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 October 7, 2011, Plaintiff commenced this action in federal court. (Dkt. No. 1.)

Generally, in her brief in support of her Complaint, Plaintiff asserts the following two arguments: (1) the ALJ's residual functional capacity ("RFC") assessment as to Plaintiff's non-exertional limitations caused by her emotional impairments was not supported by substantial evidence, in that (a) the ALJ did not properly assess Plaintiff's treating physician's opinions, (b) the ALJ erroneously failed to find agoraphobia as a severe condition, and (c) the ALJ's credibility finding with respect to Plaintiff's psychiatric and emotional problems was not proper; and (2) the ALJ erred by failing to call upon the services of a vocational expert to assess the effect of Plaintiff's non-exertional limitations. (Dkt. No. 18.)

Generally, in his brief in response to Plaintiff's brief, Defendant disagrees with each of these arguments, and argues that his decision should be affirmed. (Dkt. No. 21.) For example, Defendant argues as follows: (1) the ALJ properly considered Plaintiff's mental impairments in determining her RFC; (2) the ALJ properly considered Plaintiff's agoraphobia at step two of the applicable five-step process; (3) the ALJ properly considered Plaintiff's subjective symptoms; and (4) vocational expert testimony was not required under the circumstances. (Id.)

B. Magistrate Judge Baxter's Report-Recommendation

On September 7, 2012, Magistrate Judge Baxter issued a Report-Recommendation recommending that Defendant's decision be affirmed, and that Plaintiff's Complaint be dismissed. (Dkt. No. 22, at Part VI.) Generally, in so doing, Magistrate Judge Baxter made the following findings: (1) the ALJ's RFC determination is supported by substantial evidence and is consistent with the findings of Plaintiff's treating physicians; and (2) consultation with a vocational expert was not necessary since the ALJ properly concluded that Plaintiff's mental impairments did not affect her ability to perform basic sedentary work. (Id.)

Neither party filed an Objection to the Report-Recommendation, and the deadline by which to do so has expired. (See generally Docket Sheet.)

II. APPLICABLE LEGAL STANDARDS

A. Standard of Review of Magistrate Judge Baxter'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).*fn4 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.*fn5

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.*fn6 Similarly, 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 portion of the report-recommendation challenged by those arguments to only a clear error review.*fn7 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.*fn8

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

Because neither party has filed an Objection to Part III of Magistrate Judge Baxter's Report-Recommendation, which accurately correctly recited the legal standard governing judicial review of Defendant's decision, the Court adopts that part's recitation in this Decision and Order, which is intended primarily for the review of the parties. (See generally Dkt. No. 22, at Part III [Report-Rec].)

III. ANALYSIS

After carefully reviewing all of the papers in this action, the Court concludes that Magistrate Judge Baxter's thorough Report-Recommendation is correct in all respects. (Dkt. No. 22.) 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 the Report-Recommendation in its entirety for the reasons stated therein.

ACCORDINGLY, it is

ORDERED that Magistrate Judge Baxter's Report-Recommendation (Dkt. No. 22) is ACCEPTED and ADOPTED in its entirety; and it is further

ORDERED that Defendant's decision is AFFIRMED; and it is further ORDERED that Plaintiff's Complaint (Dkt. No. 1) is DISMISSED.


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