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Munson v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

September 30, 2019

Helena Munson, Plaintiff,
Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          David R. Grand, Mag. Judge.



         Before the Court is Magistrate Judge David R. Grand's Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) (ECF No. 24) recommending that the Court grant Defendant Commissioner of Social Security's (the “Government”) motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 23), deny Plaintiff Helena Munson's motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 21), and affirm the Administrative Law Judge's (“ALJ”) decision. Munson submitted four objections to the R&R (ECF No. 28), and the Government responded. (ECF No. 31.) For the reasons set forth below, Munson's objections are overruled, and the R&R is adopted in full.

         I. Background

         The Court has carefully reviewed the R&R and is satisfied that it is a thorough account of the relevant portions of the record. The factual and procedural background from the R&R are incorporated as if fully set forth herein.

         II. Legal Standard

         A party may object to a magistrate judge's report and recommendation on dispositive motions, and a district judge must resolve proper objections under a de novo standard of review. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B)-(C); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(1)-(3). “For an objection to be proper, Eastern District of Michigan Local Rule 72.1(d)(1) requires parties to specify the part of the order, proposed findings, recommendations, or report to which [the party] objects and to state the basis for the objection.” Pearce v. Chrysler Group LLC Pension Plan, 893 F.3d 339, 346 (6th Cir. 2018) (internal citations omitted). Objections that restate arguments already presented to a magistrate judge are improper, Coleman-Bey v. Bouchard, 287 Fed.Appx. 420, 422 (6th Cir. 2008) (citing Brumley v. Wingard, 269 F.3d 629, 647 (6th Cir. 2001)), as are those that dispute the general correctness of the report and recommendation. Miller v. Currie, 50 F.3d 373, 380 (6th Cir. 1995).

         Moreover, objections must be clear so that the district court can “discern those issues that are dispositive and contentious.” Id. (citing Howard v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 932 F.2d 505, 509 (6th Cir. 1991)); see also Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 147 (1985) (explaining that objections must go to “factual and legal” issues “at the heart of the parties' dispute”). In sum, Munson's objections must be adequately clear and specific so that the Court can squarely address them on the merits. See Pearce, 893 F.3d at 346.

         The Supreme Court recently addressed the standard the district court must apply when conducting its de novo review. In Biestek v. Berryhill, 139 S.Ct. 1148, 1154 (2019), the Court explained that the phrase “substantial evidence” is a “term of art.” Id. (internal citations omitted). “Under the substantial-evidence standard, a court looks to an existing administrative record and asks whether it contains ‘sufficien[t] evidence' to support the agency's factual determinations.” Id. (internal citations omitted). “And whatever the meaning of ‘substantial' in other contexts, the threshold for such evidentiary sufficiency is not high. Substantial evidence . . . is ‘more than a mere scintilla.'” Id. (internal citations omitted). Specifically, “[i]t means-and means only-'such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'” Id. (internal citations omitted).

         III. Analysis

         A. Objection 1

         In her first objection, Munson argues that “[t]he Magistrate Judge incorrectly stated that plaintiff challenges the ALJ's finding that she engaged in SGA [Substantial Gainful Activity] ¶ 2011.” (ECF No. 28, PageID.1663 (citation omitted).) The applicable regulation provides that a disability is determined through the application of a five-step sequential analysis. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A); 1382c(a)(3)(A). In step one, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful activity (“SGA”). Id.; and see Heston v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 245 F.3d 528 (6th Cir. 2001) (citing 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520).

         As set forth in the R&R, this case has a lengthy procedural history and has resulted in four ALJ hearings. The first was before ALJ Daniel Dadabo, the second and third were before ALJ Richard Sasena, and the most recent was before ALJ Anthony Smereka. (Tr. 69-80; 620; 1340; 1365-1417.) In Munson's motion for summary judgment, she addresses decisions from ALJ Dadabo and ALJ Sanesa, who both found that Munson did not engage in SGA during the relevant time period. (ECF No. 21, PageID.1566.) She contrasts these rulings with ALJ Smereka's finding that she did engage in SGA during the relevant time period. (Id.)

         In essence, Munson argues that the Magistrate Judge was incorrect in his interpretation of the issues presented in her memorandum in support of her motion for summary judgment. Yet, she does not appear to seek de novo review by this Court-indeed, she did not want this issue analyzed by the Magistrate Judge in the first place.

         The relief sought by Munson regarding SGA is vague and the Magistrate Judge's interpretation of her motion for summary judgment was reasonable. Thus, Munson's first objection is overruled.

         B. ...

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