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Burgeson v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division

March 31, 2015

ORINTHIA BURGESON, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF’S OBJECTIONS AND ADOPTING THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE’S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

ROBERT H. CLELAND, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

On February 24, 2015, Magistrate Judge Mona K. Majzoub issued a Report and Recommendation in the above-captioned matter, recommending that the court grant Defendant Commissioner of Social Security’s motion for summary judgment, and deny Plaintiff Orinthia Burgeson’s motion for summary judgment. On March 10, 2015, Plaintiff filed timely objections to the magistrate judge’s report and recommendation.

Defendant filed a response on March 24, 2015. The court will deny Plaintiff’s objections, adopt the report and recommendation, grant Defendant’s motion for summary judgment, and deny Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment.

I. STANDARD

A. Substantial Evidence Standard

Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), the findings of fact of the Commissioner are conclusive if supported by substantial evidence. When the Appeals Council declines review, “the decision of the ALJ becomes the final decision of the [Commissioner].” Casey v. Sec’y of Health and Human Servs., 987 F.2d 1230, 1233 (6th Cir. 1993) (per curiam). Judicial review when the Appeals Council declines to hear an appeal of the denial of benefits is limited to the record and evidence before the ALJ. Cotton v. Sullivan, 2 F.3d 692, 696 (6th Cir. 1993). Thus, in this case, the court’s review of the ALJ’s decision “is limited to determining whether the [ALJ’s] findings are supported by substantial evidence and whether [he] employed the proper legal standards in reaching [his] conclusion.” Brainard v. Sec’y of Health and Human Servs., 889 F.2d 679, 681 (6th Cir. 1989) (citing Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)).

The court’s review of the record for substantial evidence is quite deferential to the ALJ’s evaluation of the facts. The court must uphold the ALJ’s finding if supported by substantial evidence. “Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla of evidence but less than a preponderance and is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Brainard, 889 F.2d at 681. “Substantial evidence exists when a reasonable mind could accept the evidence as adequate to support the challenged conclusion, even if that evidence could support a decision the other way.” Casey, 987 F.2d at 1233. Moreover, the court bases its review on the entire record, not just what the ALJ cited. Heston v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 245 F.3d 528, 535 (6th Cir. 2001) (“Judicial review of the Secretary’s findings must be based on the record as a whole. Both the court of appeals and the district court may look to any evidence in the record, regardless of whether it has been cited by the Appeals Council.”).

B. Timely Objections and De Novo Review

The filing of timely objections requires the court to “make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified findings or recommendations to which objection is made.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). See United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667 (1980); United States v. Walters, 638 F.2d 947 (6th Cir. 1981). This de novo review, in turn, requires this court to re-examine all the relevant evidence previously reviewed by the magistrate to determine whether the recommendation should be accepted, rejected, or modified in whole or in part. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The court may “receive further evidence” if desired. Id.

A general objection, or one that merely restates the arguments previously presented, is not sufficient to alert the court to alleged errors on the part of the magistrate judge. An “objection” that does nothing more than state a disagreement with a magistrate’s suggested resolution, or simply summarizes what has been presented before, is not an objection as that term is used in this context. Howard v. Sec’y of Health and Human Servs., 932 F.2d 505, 508 (6th Cir. 1991) (“It is arguable in this case that Howard's counsel did not file objections at all . . . [I]t is hard to see how a district court reading [the ‘objections’] would know what Howard thought the magistrate had done wrong.”); Slater v. Potter, 28 F. App’x 512, 513 (6th Cir. 2002) (“The filing of vague, general, or conclusory objections does not meet the requirement of specific objections and is tantamount to a complete failure to object.”). “The objections must be clear enough to enable the district court to discern those issues that are dispositive and contentious.” Miller v. Currie, 50 F.3d 373, 380 (6th Cir. 1995) (citing Howard, 932 F.2d at 509).

A party who files timely objections to a magistrate’s report in order to preserve the right to appeal must be mindful of the purpose of such objections: to provide the district court “with the opportunity to consider the specific contentions of the parties and to correct any errors immediately.” Walters, 638 F.2d at 949-50. The Supreme Court upheld this rule in Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140 (1985), a habeas corpus case. The Supreme Court noted that “[t]he filing of objections to a magistrate’s report enables the district judge to focus attention on those issues--factual and legal--that are at the heart of the parties’ dispute.” Id. at 147 (footnote omitted).

Further, “[o]nly those specific objections to the magistrate’s report made to the district court will be preserved for appellate review; making some objections but failing to raise others will not preserve all the objections a party may have.” Smith v. Detroit Fed’n of Teachers, Local 231, 829 F.2d 1370, 1373 (6th Cir. 1987).

II. DISCUSSION

Plaintiff filed a six-page document entitled “Plaintiff’s Objection to Report and Recommendation.” Plaintiff failed to number or label her objections. Therefore, the court will address what appear to be Plaintiff’s three objections. The court has considered each of these ...


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