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Gagne v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, N.D. New York

January 9, 2018

KINDRA MARIE GAGNE, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          LEGAL AID SOCIETY OF N.E. NEW YORK Counsel for Plaintiff.

          SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION OFFICE OF GEN'L COUNSEL-REGION II Counsel for Defendant.

          OF COUNSEL: MARY MARTHA WITHINGTON, ESQ. KRISTINA D. COHN, ESQ. Special Assistant U.S. Attorney.

          DECISION AND ORDER

          GLENN T. SUDDABY, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Currently before the Court, in this Social Security action filed by Kindra Marie Gagne (“Plaintiff”) against the Commissioner of Social Security (“Defendant” or “Commissioner”) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), are (1) the Report-Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge William B. Mitchell Carter recommending that the Commissioner's decision be affirmed and that Plaintiff's Complaint be dismissed, and (2) Plaintiff's Objection to the Report-Recommendation. (Dkt. Nos. 11, 12.) For the reasons set forth below, the Report-Recommendation is accepted and adopted in its entirety.

         I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

         A. Magistrate Judge Carter's Report-Recommendation

         Generally, in his Report-Recommendation, Magistrate Judge Carter rendered the following findings of fact and conclusions of law: (1) the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) did not err in his Step Three determination because, inter alia, (a) the ALJ properly concluded that Plaintiff had moderate restrictions in activities of daily living based on the medical evidence, (b) the ALJ's determination that Plaintiff had moderate limitations in social functioning was supported by substantial evidence, and (c) setting aside the fact that the ALJ did not “dismiss” the opinions of Dr. Sung Hyon, M.D., and Dr. Thomas Osika, Ph.D., the fact remains that neither opinion pertained to whether or not Plaintiff's impairment may meet or equal a Listing but to Plaintiff's ultimate ability to work (which finding is reserved to the Commissioner); and (2) the ALJ did not err in his residual functioning capacity (“RFC”) determination because, inter alia, (a) he gave appropriate weight to the opinions of Drs. Hyon and Osika based on the evidence and law, (b) he properly assessed Plaintiff's credibility under the governing legal standard, and (c) he properly considered the combined effects of Plaintiff's mental and physical impairments. (Dkt. No. 11, at Part IV.)

         B. Plaintiff's Objections to the Report-Recommendation

         Generally, liberally construed, Plaintiff's Objections to the Report-Recommendation assert the following three arguments: (1) that the medical evidence of record and testimony of Plaintiff support a finding that her mental impairments in combination meet or equal the Listings found that Sections 12.04 (for Affective Disorders) and 12.06 (for Anxiety Related Disorders); (2) that the evidence of record supports a finding that Plaintiff's RFC is so compromised by her mental and physical impairments that she is unable to engage in substantial gainful activity at any exertional level; and (3) that the little weight provided by the ALJ to the opinions of Drs. Hyon and Osika constitutes legal error and undermines a finding that substantial evidence supports a denial. (Dkt. No. 12, at “Argument.”)

         II. APPLICABLE LEGAL STANDARDS

         A. Standard of Review of Magistrate Judge Carter'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).[1]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.[2] 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.[3] 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), ...


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