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Griffin v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

March 15, 2017

CATRINA L. GRIFFIN, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

         OPINION AND ORDER ADOPTING IN PART MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION; GRANTING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT; DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT; AND REMANDING TO THE COMMISSIONER FOR FURTHER CONSIDERATION

          MARIANNE O. BATTANI United States District Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Before the Court are Plaintiff Catrina L. Griffin's objections to the Magistrate Judge's Report & Recommendation (“R&R”). (Doc. 21). Magistrate Judge R. Steven Whalen considered the parties' cross motions for summary judgment and, on February 2, 2017, entered an R&R. (Doc. 20). In the R&R, Magistrate Judge Whalen recommended that the Court grant the Commissioner's motion for summary judgment and deny Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, the Court ADOPTS IN PART the R&R, GRANTS IN PART Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 14), DENIES the Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 18), and REMANDS to the Commissioner for further consideration.

         II. STATEMENT OF FACTS

         As the parties have not objected to the R&R's summary of the facts and procedural history, the Court adopts that portion of the R&R. (See Doc. 20, pp. 1-17).

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A. Objections to a Magistrate Judge's R&R

         A district court must conduct a de novo review of the portions of a magistrate judge's report and recommendation to which a party objects. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The district “court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate” judge. Id. The requirement of de novo review “is a statutory recognition that Article III of the United States Constitution mandates that the judicial power of the United States be vested in judges with life tenure.” United States v. Shami, 754 F.2d 670, 672 (6th Cir. 1985). Accordingly, Congress enacted 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) to “insure[ ] that the district judge would be the final arbiter” of a matter referred to a magistrate. Flournoy v. Marshall, 842 F.2d 875, 878 (6th Cir. 1987).

         The Sixth Circuit has made clear that “[o]verly general objections do not satisfy the objection requirement.” Spencer v. Bouchard, 449 F.3d 721, 725 (6th Cir. 2006). Only specific objections are entitled to de novo review; vague and conclusory objections amount to a complete failure to object as they are not sufficient to pinpoint those portions of the R&R that are legitimately in contention. Mira v. Marshall, 806 F.2d 636, 637 (6th Cir.1986) (per curiam). “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). "‘[O]bjections disput[ing] the correctness of the magistrate's recommendation but fail[ing] to specify the findings . . . believed [to be] in error' are too general.” Spencer, 449 F.3d at 725 (quoting Miller, 50 F.3d at 380).

         B. Standard of Review Applicable to Social Security Cases

         This Court has jurisdiction to review the Commissioner's final administrative decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Judicial review is limited to determining whether the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence and was made pursuant to proper legal standards. Rogers v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 241 (6th Cir. 2007). Substantial evidence is "more than a scintilla of evidence but less than a preponderance; it is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). If the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence, "it must be affirmed even if the reviewing court would decide the matter differently and even if substantial evidence also supports the opposite conclusion." Cutlip v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 25 F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir. 1994) (internal citations omitted).

         When reviewing the Commissioner's factual findings for substantial evidence, the Court is limited to an examination of the record and must consider that record as a whole. Wyatt v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 974 F.2d 680, 683 (6th Cir. 1992). There is no requirement, however, that either the Commissioner or this Court discuss every piece of evidence in the administrative record. Kornecky v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 167 F.App'x 496, 508 (6th Cir. 2006). Further, this Court does "not try the case de novo, resolve conflicts in evidence, or decide questions of credibility." Bass v. McMahon, 499 F.3d 506, 509 (6th Cir. 2007).

         IV. ...


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