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Strange v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, N.D. New York

September 16, 2014


Cynthia L. Strange, Pro Se, Herkimer, NY, for the Plaintiff.

HON. RICHARD S. HARTUNIAN, United States Attorney, MICHELLE L. CHRIST, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney, Syracuse, NY, Steven P. Conte, Regional Chief Counsel, Social Security Administration, Office of General Counsel, Region II, New York, NY, for the Defendant.


GARY L. SHARPE, Chief District Judge.

I. Introduction

Plaintiff pro se Cynthia L. Strange challenges defendant Commissioner of Social Security's denial of Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB), seeking review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). (Compl., Dkt. No. 1.) In a Report and Recommendation (R&R) filed July 7, 2014, Magistrate Judge Earl S. Hines recommended that the Commissioner's decision be affirmed. (Dkt. No. 29.) Pending are Strange's objections to the R&R. (Dkt. No. 30.) For the reasons that follow, the court adopts the R&R in its entirety.

II. Background[1]

On November 10, 2011, Strange filed an application for DIB under the Social Security Act. (Tr.[2] at 82, 161-63.) After her application was denied, Strange requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), which was held on December 18, 2012. ( Id. at 48-75, 86-93.) On January 4, 2013 the ALJ issued a decision denying the requested benefits, which became the Commissioner's final determination upon the Social Security Administration Appeals Council's denial of review. ( Id. at 1-6, 15-35.)

Strange commenced the present action by filing her complaint on May 7, 2013 seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's determination. (Compl.) After receiving the parties' briefs, Judge Hines issued an R&R recommending that the Commissioner's decision be affirmed. ( See generally Dkt. No. 29.) Judge Hines explicitly noted that any written objections to the R&R were to be filed by July 24, 2014, within fourteen days of service of the July 7, 2014 R&R. ( Id. at 29); see also 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); N.D.N.Y. L.R. 72.1(c). In a handwritten letter filed August 11, 2014, Strange objected to the R&R and, by way of explanation for her tardiness, stated that her computer was broken and she was unable to retrieve her response to the R&R which was contained therein. (Dkt. No. 30 at 1.)

III. Standard of Review

By statute and rule, district courts are authorized to refer social security appeals to magistrate judges for proposed findings and recommendations as to disposition. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A), (B); N.D.N.Y. L.R. 40.1, 72.3(d); General Order No. 18. Before entering final judgment, this court reviews report and recommendation orders in cases it has referred to a magistrate judge. If a party properly objects to a specific element of the magistrate judge's findings and recommendations, this court reviews those findings and recommendations de novo. See Almonte v. N.Y. State Div. of Parole, No. Civ. 904CV484GLS, 2006 WL 149049, at *3, *5 (N.D.N.Y. Jan. 18, 2006). In cases where no party has filed an objection, only vague or general objections are made, or a party resubmits the same papers and arguments already considered by the magistrate judge, this court reviews the findings and recommendations of the magistrate judge for clear error. See id. at *4-5.

IV. Discussion

Strange submitted the following in response to Judge Hines' R&R: (1) two handwritten pages expressing her personal frustrations with the process of obtaining benefits and stating that she knows she is entitled to benefits; and (2) a copy of Judge Hines' decision accompanied by handwritten annotations, some of which are not readily legible. (Dkt. No. 30 at 1-31.) The Commissioner filed a response, arguing that Strange raises no specific errors and her objections were untimely filed. (Dkt. No. 31 at 2.) In light of Strange's pro se status, the court has considered her objections. Nevertheless, Strange has not cited to any legal authority that might compel a different result, repeats some of the same arguments raised in her brief before Judge Hines, and has failed to point to any errors in Judge Hines' findings of fact or conclusions of law. ( See generally Dkt. No. 30.) Strange's conclusory, untimely, and groundless "objections" are general and do not warrant de novo review. See Almonte, 2006 WL 149049 at *4. The court, having carefully reviewed the record, finds no clear error in the R&R and accepts and adopts the thorough and well-reasoned report in its entirety.

V. Conclusion

WHEREFORE, for the foregoing reasons, ...

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