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Shahat v. Astrue

United States District Court, Second Circuit

November 6, 2013

MOUSTAFA A. EL SHAHAT, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

DEBRA FREEMAN, Magistrate Judge.

In this case, which was remanded for further administrative proceedings pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and is closed on the Docket of the Court, plaintiff Moustafa A. El Shahat ("Plaintiff') has now moved for an Order reopening the case, directing the defendant Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner" or "Defendant")[1] to file the certified administrative record in the case, and granting summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons set forth below, I respectfully recommend that Plaintiff's motion (Dkt. 10) be granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

A. Procedural History

Plaintiff filed an application for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") on February 9, 2009, alleging that he was disabled as of December 19, 2008. (See Complaint, dated July 5, 2011 ("Compl.") (Dkt. 1), ¶¶ 4-5.) Plaintiff's application was denied by Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Robert Gonzalez on December 9, 2010. ( Id. ¶ 7.) Plaintiff's petition for review of this decision was denied by the Social Security Administration ("SSA") Appeals Council on May 17, 2011, rendering ALJ Gonzalez's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. ( Id. ¶ 8.)

Plaintiff commenced the present action on July 7, 2011, seeking review of the Commissioner's denial of his application for DIB. Before the Commissioner answered the Complaint, the parties stipulated that the case should be remanded for further administrative proceedings pursuant to the sixth sentence of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), and, on January 4, 2012, the Court "So Ordered" the parties' stipulation. (Dkt. 9.) On January 5, 2012, the case was teiminated on the Court's Docket.

On remand, Plaintiff amended his application to assert that the date of the onset of his disability was March 1, 2009, three months later than the disability onset date that he had originally alleged. ( See Notice of Motion, dated Jan. 10, 2013, (Dkt. 10), App'x 1.) Then, on September 26, 2012, ALJ Mary Sparks issued a decision in Plaintiff's favor, finding that Plaintiff was disabled as of March 1, 2009. (Notice of Motion, App'x 1, at 1.) Defendant filed ALJ Sparks's favorable decision with this Court on January 14, 2013. (See Notice of Filing of Favorable Administrative Decision on Remand, dated Jan. 14, 2013 ("Notice Fay. Dec.") (Dkt. 12), Ex. A (Copy of ALJ's "fully favorable" decision).)

B. Plaintiff's Motion

Currently before the Court is Plaintiff's motion to reopen the case and grant summary judgment in his favor. In his moving papers, Plaintiff argues that he is the "prevailing party" within the meaning of the Equal Access to Justice Act ("EAJA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d), and is therefore entitled to judgment in his favor. (See Memorandum in Support of Motion to Reopen the Proceedings, and Enter Judgment in Favor of Plaintiff, dated Jan. 10, 2013 ("Pl. Mem.") (Dkt, 11), at 2-3.) Plaintiff also asks the Court to compel Defendant to file a certified copy of the administrative record in this action. (See Reply Memorandum in Support of Motion to Reopen the Proceedings, and Enter Judgment in Favor of Plaintiff, dated Apr. 15, 2013 ("Pl. Reply Mem.") (Dkt. 16), at 4.)

Defendant does not oppose Plaintiff's application to reopen the case or for the entry of judgment in this matter. Defendant argues, however, that Plaintiff is not entitled to a judgment that declares Plaintiff the "prevailing party" within the meaning of the EAJA, or that requires Defendant to file the record of administrative proceedings in this case. (See Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment and an Order Directing the Commissioner to File an Administrative Record After Remand, dated Mar. 22, 2013 ("Def. Mem.") (Dkt. 14), at 2-5.)

DISCUSSION

I. APPLICABLE LEGAL STANDARDS

It is now well-settled that 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), which governs judicial review of "any final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security made after a hearing to which he was a party, " limits the district courts to granting only two types of remands: (1) remands pursuant to the fourth sentence of Section 405(g), [2] and (2) remands pursuant to the sixth sentence Section 405(g).[3] See Shalala v. Schaefer, 509 U.S. 292, 296 (1993); see also Melkonyan v. Sullivan, 501 U.S. 89, 100 (199)). Whether a court remands a case pursuant to sentence four or six impacts the timing of when the court enters a judgment in the case, which in turn impacts a plaintiff s ability to seek attorney's fees under the EMA.

A court may only remand a case pursuant to sentence four of Section 405(g) when the court has also entered a final judgment "affirming, modifying, or reversing" the administrative decision. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); see also Schaefer, 509 U.S. at 297; Melkonyan, 501 U.S. at 101. Thus, a sentence four remand necessarily "accompanies a judgment that terminates the district court's jurisdiction." Edwards Ex Rel. Edwards v. Barnhart, 238 F.Supp.2d 645, 649 (S.D.N.Y. 2003) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)). In contrast, where, as here, a court remands a case pursuant to sentence six, the court continues to retain jurisdiction over the case during the subsequent administrative proceedings, and Section 405(g) "requires that the [Commissioner] shall, ' after reconsidering its decision, return to the court for final judgment." Edwards, 238 F.Supp.2d at 65]; seeo/ro Schaefer, 509 U.S. at 297 ("Immediate entry of judgment (as opposed to entry of judgment after postremand agency proceedings have been completed and their results filed with the court) is in fact the principal feature that distinguishes a sentence-four remand from a sentence-six remand."). Further, upon returning to the court after a sentence six remand, the Commissioner must file with the court any "additional and modified findings of fact and decision" that occurred pursuant to the remand, and, "in ...


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