United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
DAN R. HUBBARD, III, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER OVERRULING PLAINTIFF’S
OBJECTIONS AND ADOPTING MAGISTRATE JUDGE’S REPORT AND
MARIANNE O. BATTANI UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court are objections (Dkt. 18) filed by Plaintiff Dan R.
Hubbard, III, to a June 10, 2019 Report and Recommendation
(“R & R”) issued by Magistrate Judge
Elizabeth A. Stafford (Dkt. 17). In the R & R, the
Magistrate Judge recommends that the Court deny
Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment (Dkt. 15),
grant the Defendant Commissioner of Social Security’s
motion for summary judgment (Dkt. 16), and affirm the
challenged decision of the Defendant Commissioner. For the
reasons discussed below, the Court OVERRULES
Plaintiff’s objections and ADOPTS the
Magistrate Judge’s R & R in its entirety.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
party has objected to the Magistrate Judge’s statement
of the procedural history and background facts of this case
regarding Plaintiff’s application for supplemental
security income (“SSI”) benefits. Nor do they
object to the Magistrate Judge’s summary of the
administrative proceedings and findings of the Administrative
Law Judge (“ALJ”) on Plaintiff’s claim for
benefits. Accordingly, the Court adopts these unchallenged
portions of the R & R.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
district court must conduct a de novo review of any
portion of a magistrate judge’s R & R 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.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). 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 matters referred to a magistrate judge. Flournoy v.
Marshall, 842 F.2d 875, 878 (6th Cir. 1988).
Court must affirm the decision of the Defendant Commissioner
so long as “it is supported by substantial evidence and
was made pursuant to proper legal standards.”
Rogers v. Commissioner of Social Security, 486 F.3d
234, 241 (6th Cir. 2007). “Substantial evidence is
defined as 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.”
Rogers, 486 F.3d at 241 (internal quotation marks
and citation 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. Secretary of
Health & Human Services, 25 F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir.
1994) (citations omitted).
determining whether the Defendant Commissioner’s
factual findings are supported by substantial evidence, the
Court confines its examination to the administrative record
considered as a whole. Wyatt v. Secretary of Health &
Human Services, 974 F.2d 680, 683 (6th Cir. 1992). There
is no requirement, however, that either the Commissioner or
this Court must discuss every piece of evidence in the
record. Kornecky v. Commissioner of Social Security,
No. 04-2171, 167 Fed.Appx. 496, 508 (6th Cir. Feb. 9, 2006).
Further, in reviewing the Defendant Commissioner’s
resolution of Plaintiff’s claim for benefits, 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).
advances two objections to the R & R, each of which
essentially reiterates an argument raised in his underlying
motion for summary judgment. First, he challenges the
Magistrate Judge’s determination that the Court lacks
jurisdiction to consider whether the ALJ complied with the
Appeals Council’s April 13, 2016 order of remand. Next,
he contends that the Magistrate Judge erred in finding that
the ALJ’s decision is supported by substantial
evidence. The Court addresses each of these objections in
Objection No. 1
April 13, 2016 order, the Appeals Council remanded
Plaintiff’s claim for benefits to the ALJ for further
administrative proceedings, instructing the ALJ to
consolidate Plaintiff’s claim files, further consider
certain materials in the record, further evaluate
Plaintiff’s impairments and limitations, and obtain
additional evidence from a vocational expert. (See
Admin. Record at 661-62.) In his underlying motion for
summary judgment, Plaintiff argued that the ALJ failed to
comply with these directives, and that the ALJ’s
decision therefore should be set aside as issued in violation
of the Appeals Council’s order of remand and a Social
Security regulation mandating that an ALJ “shall take
any action that is ordered by the Appeals Council.” 20
C.F.R. § 404.977(b). In the R & R, however, the
Magistrate Judge declined to address the merits of this
challenge, and instead held that the Court “lacks
jurisdiction to review the ALJ’s compliance with the
remand order.” (R & R at 8.) Plaintiff now objects
to this jurisdictional ruling, contending that the
Court’s refusal to review the ALJ’s compliance
with the Appeals Council’s order of remand would make
it impossible to enforce the Defendant Commissioner’s
“clear, non-discretionary duty to follow . . . his own
administrative regulations.” Buchanan v.
Apfel, 249 F.3d 485, 492 (6th Cir. 2001).
observed in the R & R, the Sixth Circuit has not yet
addressed the question whether the federal courts have the
authority to review an ALJ’s alleged failure to comply
with an Appeals Council order of remand, but the
“overwhelming majority of [district] courts in this
circuit” have concluded that they lack this authority.
(R & R at 7-8 (internal quotation marks and citations
omitted).) In his objections to the R & R, Plaintiff
urges the Court to adopt the minority view on this ...