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Silsbee v. Colvin

United States District Court, N.D. New York

July 23, 2015

LISA SILSBEE, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

PETER A. GORTON, ESQ., LACHMAN & GORTON, Endicott, New York, Counsel for Plaintiff.

AMANDA J. LOCKSHIN, ESQ., SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, OFFICE OF REG'L GEN. COUNSEL-REGION II, New York, New York, Counsel for Defendant.

DECISION and ORDER

GLENN T. SUDDABY, District Judge.

Currently before the Court, in this action filed by Lisa Silsbee ("Plaintiff") against the Commissioner of Social Security ("Defendant" or "Commissioner") seeking Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), are the following: (1) 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 Plaintiff's Complaint be dismissed in its entirety; (2) Plaintiff's Objections to the Report-Recommendation; and (3) Defendant's Response to Plaintiff's Objections. (Dkt. Nos. 14, 16, 17.) For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's Objections are rejected; Magistrate Judge Baxter's Report-Recommendation is accepted and adopted in its entirety; and Plaintiff's Complaint is dismissed.

I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

A. Procedural History

On April 26, 2011, Plaintiff filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits, alleging a disability onset date of January 29, 2010, which left her unable to work. (Administrative Transcript ["T."] at 136-137).[1] On June 30, 2011, Plaintiff's application was initially denied by the Social Security Administration. (T. at 79-82.) Plaintiff appealed the decision and, on November 8, 2012, a hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") of the Social Security Administration. (T. at 28-70.)

On January 11, 2013, the ALJ issued a decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled. (T. at 11-24.)[2] Plaintiff appealed the ALJ's decision to the Social Security Administration's Appeals Council and, on October 2, 2009, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for further review, making the ALJ's decision final. (T. at 1-5.) On March 28, 2014, Plaintiff commenced this action in federal court. (Dkt. No. 1.)

Generally, in her brief in support of her Complaint, Plaintiff essentially asserts three arguments: (1) the ALJ erred by failing to properly consider and assess all of Plaintiff's severe impairments (including her knee impairment, back impairment, joint pain, plantar fasciitis, psychiatric impairments, and the side effects of medication) and include the true limiting effect of those impairments in the Residual Functional Capacity ("RFC") determination, resulting in an RFC evaluation that is not supported by substantial evidence; (2) the ALJ erred by failing to properly weigh the medical evidence; and (3) the ALJ erred by failing to obtain testimony from a vocational expert. (Dkt. No. 11.)

Generally, in her brief in response to Plaintiff's brief, Defendant disagrees with each of these arguments, and argues that the Commissioner's decision should be affirmed. (Dkt. No. 14.)

B. Magistrate Judge Baxter's Report-Recommendation

On May 4, 2015, Magistrate Judge Baxter issued a Report-Recommendation recommending that the Commissioner's decision be affirmed, and that Plaintiff's Complaint be dismissed. (Dkt. No. 15.) Generally, Magistrate Judge Baxter's Report-Recommendation is based on the following findings and conclusions: (1) the ALJ's finding that Plaintiff does not have a "severe impairment" which significantly limits her physical or mental ability to do basic work activities is supported by substantial evidence; (2) the ALJ's finding that Plaintiff has the RFC to perform a full range of sedentary work is supported by substantial evidence; and (3) because the ALJ found that Plaintiff could perform a full range of sedentary work, a vocational expert was not required. ( Id. at Parts VI to VIII.)

C. Plaintiff's Objection to the Report-Recommendation

On May 19, 2015, Plaintiff filed her Objections to the Report-Recommendation, expressly asserting "the same" arguments as asserted in Plaintiff's brief in support of her Complaint. (Dkt. Nos. 11, 16.)

On June 2, 2015, Defendant filed her Response to Plaintiff's Objections, asserting two arguments: (1) because Plaintiff relies exclusively on the arguments raised in her brief in support of her Complaint, the Court need review the Report-Recommendation only for clear error; and (2) the Report-Recommendation survives that clear-error review, the ALJ's decision that Plaintiff remained capable of work being based on substantial evidence. (Dkt. No. 17.)

II. GOVERNING LEGAL STANDARDS

A. Standard Governing Review of a Report-Recommendation

When a specific objection is made to a portion of a magistrate judge's reportrecommendation, 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).[3] 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.[4] Similarly, a district court will ordinarily refuse to consider argument that could have been, but was not, presented to the magistrate judge in the first instance. See Zhao v. State Univ. of N.Y., 04-CV-0210, 2011 WL 3610717, at *1 (E.D.N.Y. Aug. 15, 2011) ("[I]t is established law that a district judge will not consider new arguments raised in objections to a magistrate judge's report and recommendation that could have been raised before the magistrate but were not.") (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); Hubbard v. Kelley, 752 F.Supp.2d 311, 312-13 (W.D.N.Y. 2009) ("In this circuit, it is established law that a district judge will not consider new arguments raised in objections to a magistrate judge's report and recommendation that could have been raised before the magistrate but were not.") (internal quotation marks omitted).

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; see also 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). 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.[5] 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. [6]

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 II.A. of his Report-Recommendation, Magistrate Judge Baxter correctly recited the legal standard governing judicial review of Defendant's decision. (Dkt. No. 14, at Part II.A.) 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

After conducting a clear-error review of 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. 14.) 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. 15) is ACCEPTED and ADOPTED in its entirety; and it is further

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


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