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Wider v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. New York

March 29, 2017

RAY WIDER, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          Center for Disability Advocacy Rights (CEDAR) Attorneys for the Plaintiff, Christopher James Bowes, Esq., Of Counsel

          United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York Attorneys for the Defendan Candace Scott Appleton, Assistant United States Attorney

          MEMORANDUM OF DECISION & ORDER

          ARTHUR D. SPATT United States District Judge

         On April 28, 2015, the Plaintiff Ray Wider (the “Plaintiff” or the “claimant”) commenced this civil action pursuant to the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405 et seq. (the “Act”), challenging a final determination by the Defendant Acting Commissioner of Social Security Carolyn W. Colvin (the “Defendant” or the “Commissioner”), that he is ineligible to receive Social Security disability insurance benefits.

         On October 5, 2016, the Court referred the parties' cross motions for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“Fed. R. Civ. P.” or “Rule”) 12(c) to Magistrate Judge A. Kathleen Tomlinson.

         Presently before the Court are the Defendant's objections to the February 21, 2017 Report and Recommendation (the “R&R”) of Judge Tomlinson. For the following reasons, the Court adopts the R&R in its entirety with the exception of its recommendations regarding the opinions of Nurse Practitioner Donald Payette. Therefore the Court grants in part the Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c); denies the Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c); and remands the case to the Administrative Law Judge for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. The R&R

         Relevant here, the R&R found that Administrative Law Judge Hilton R. Miller (the “ALJ”) failed to identify, or acknowledge the treating physician rule; and failed to apply it to the Plaintiff's two treating sources, Dr. Yvonne Waldemar (“Dr. Waldemar”) and Nurse Practitioner Donald Payette (“N.P. Payette”). Because the R&R found that the “ALJ decision [was] infected] with legal error, ” (R&R at 56), it did not analyze whether the ALJ's decision was supported by substantial evidence. The R&R recommended that the case be remanded back to the ALJ for the proper application of the treating physician rule to the opinions of Dr. Waldemar and N.P. Payette. Based on that, the R&R recommended that the Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) be denied; the Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings be granted in part; and the case be remanded to the Commissioner for further proceedings consistent with the R&R.

         B. The Defendant's Objections

         The Defendant argues that the ALJ did, in fact, identify the treating physician rule; that the ALJ properly applied it; and that the R&R mistakenly conflates treatment notes with medical opinion evidence. The Defendant asks that the Court analyze that portion of the R&R de novo, and to find that the ALJ's decision was supported by substantial evidence.

         C. The Plaintiff's Arguments

         The Plaintiff did not object to any of the R&R's findings. The Plaintiff argues that the Court should adopt the R&R because it correctly identifies the need for remand so that the ALJ can contact the treating sources about his functional capacities.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. District Court Review of a Magistrate Judge's R&R

         A district court reviewing a magistrate judge's report and recommendation “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). Parties may raise objections to the magistrate judge's report and recommendation, but they must be “specific, ” “written, ” and submitted “[w]ithin 14 days after being served with a copy of the recommended disposition.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(2); accord 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). A district court must conduct a de novo review of those portions of the R&R or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which timely and proper objections are made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); see Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(3) (“The district judge may accept, reject, or modify the recommended disposition; receive further evidence; or return the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions.”). The district court may adopt those portions of a report and recommendation to which no timely objections have been made, provided no clear error is apparent from the face of the record. Lewis v. Zon, 573 F.Supp.2d 804, 811 (S.D.N.Y. 2008); Nelson v. Smith, 618 F.Supp. 1186, 1189 (S.D.N.Y. 1985).

         In addition, “[t]o the extent . . . that the party makes only conclusory or general arguments, or simply reiterates the original arguments, the Court will review the [R&R] strictly for clear error.” IndyMac Bank, F.S.B. v. Nat'l Settlement Agency, Inc., No. 07-CV-6865, 2008 WL 4810043, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 31, 2008); see also Toth v. N.Y. City Dep't of Educ., No. 14CV3776SLTJO, 2017 WL 78483, at *7 (E.D.N.Y. Jan. 9, 2017) (“Reviewing courts should review a report and recommendation for clear error where objections are merely perfunctory responses, argued in an attempt to engage the district court in a rehashing of the same arguments set forth in the original petition.” (quoting Ortiz v. Barkley, 558 F.Supp.2d 444, 451 (S.D.N.Y. 2008))). “The goal of the federal statute providing for the assignment of cases to magistrates is to increase the overall efficiency of the federal judiciary.” McCarthy v. Manson, 554 F.Supp. 1275, 1286 (D. Conn. 1982), aff'd, 714 F.2d 234 (2d Cir. 1983) (quoting Nettles v. Wainwright,677 F.2d 404, 410 (Former 5th Cir. 1982) (en banc)) (footnote omitted). ...


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