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Colbert v. Saul

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

November 14, 2019

ROB COLBERT, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW SAUL, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          Patricia T. Morris United States Magistrate Judge

          OPINION AND ORDER: (1) OVERRULING PLAINTIFF'S OBJECTIONS (ECF NO. 17); (2) ADOPTING THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE PATRICIA T. MORRIS (ECF NO. 16); (3) DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF NO. 10); (4) GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF NO. 15); and (5) AFFIRMING THE FINDINGS OF THE COMMISSIONER

          Paul D. Borman, United States District Judge.

         On August 27, 2019, Magistrate Judge Patricia T. Morris issued a Report and Recommendation (R&R) addressing the cross-motions for summary judgment in this action. (ECF No. 16, R&R.) In the R&R, Magistrate Judge Morris recommended that the Court deny Plaintiff's February 18, 2019 Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 10), grant Defendant's May 16, 2019 Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 15), and affirm the findings of the Commissioner.

         Now before the Court are Plaintiff's Objections to the R&R. (ECF No. 17, Objections.) Defendant filed a timely Response. (ECF No. 18, Response.) Having conducted a de novo review of the parts of the Magistrate Judge's R&R to which objections have been filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), the Court will reject Plaintiffs Objections, adopt the Magistrate Judge's R&R, and affirm the findings of the Commissioner.

         I. Background

         The Court has reviewed the Magistrate Judge's extensive summary of the background of this case in light of the record and finds that it is accurate. (ECF No. 16, R&R, PgID 937-38, 941-61.) In addition, plaintiff has not specifically objected to the background section of the R&R. Therefore, the Court adopts the background section in full. (Id.)

         II. Standard of review

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b) and 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), the Court conducts a de novo review of the portions of the Magistrate Judge's R&R to which a party has filed “specific written objections” in a timely manner. Lyons v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 351 F.Supp.2d 659, 661 (E.D. Mich. 2004). A district court “may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge.” Id. Only those objections that are specific are entitled to a de novo review under the statute. Mira v. Marshall, 806 F.2d 636, 637 (6th Cir. 1986). “The parties have the duty to pinpoint those portions of the magistrate's report that the district court must specially consider.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). A general objection, or one that merely restates arguments previously presented, does not sufficiently identify alleged errors on the part of the magistrate judge. An “objection” that does nothing more than disagree with a magistrate judge's determination “without explaining the source of the error” is not a valid objection. Howard v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 932 F.2d 505, 509 (6th Cir. 1991).

         The Court's review of the findings of the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) is limited to determining whether those findings are supported by substantial evidence and made pursuant to proper legal standards. See Rogers v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 241 (6th Cir. 2007) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 405(h)); see also Cutlip v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 25 F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir. 1994). Substantial evidence is “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Kyle v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 609 F.3d 847, 854 (6th Cir. 2010). It is “more than a scintilla of evidence but less than a preponderance.” McGlothin v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 299 Fed.Appx. 516, 522 (6th Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks omitted). “If the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence, [the court] must defer to that decision, ‘even if there is substantial evidence in the record that would have supported an opposite conclusion.' ” Colvin v. Barnhart, 475 F.3d 727, 730 (6th Cir. 2007) (quoting Longworth v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 402 F.3d 591, 595 (6th Cir. 2005)).

         As to whether proper legal criteria were followed, a decision of the Social Security Administration (SSA) supported by substantial evidence will not be upheld “where the SSA fails to follow its own regulations and where that error prejudices a claimant on the merits or deprives the claimant of a substantial right” Bowen v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 478 F.3d 742, 746 (6th Cir. 2007) (citing Wilson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 378 F.3d 541, 546-47 (6th Cir. 2004)).

         This Court does not “try the case de novo, nor resolve conflicts in the evidence, nor decide questions of credibility.” Cutlip, 25 F.3d at 286. “It is of course for the ALJ, and not the reviewing court, to evaluate the credibility of witnesses, including that of the claimant.” Rogers, 486 F.3d at 247; see also Cruse v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 502 F.3d 532, 542 (6th Cir. 2007) (noting that the “ALJ's credibility determinations about the claimant are to be given great weight, ‘particularly since the ALJ is charged with observing the claimant's demeanor and credibility' ”) (quoting Walters v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 127 F.3d 525, 531 (6th Cir. 1997)).

         III. Analysis

         Plaintiff has submitted two objections to Magistrate Judge Morris's R&R. First, he argues that the ALJ's decision was not supported by substantial evidence. (ECF No. 17, Objections, PgID 995-98.) Second, he argues that the Magistrate erred in upholding the ALJ's residual functional capacity (RFC) determination that Mr. Colbert could perform light work despite needing a cane for ambulation. (Id. at PgID. 998-99.) Both of these objections fail to pinpoint a “specific deficiency” in the R&R and will be rejected. Cf. Schmidt v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., No. 14-13885, 2016 WL 491711, at *2 (E.D. Mich. Feb. 2, 2016) (“Defendants objections advance the same arguments that [the Magistrate Judge] has already rejected without pointing to a specific deficiency in the Magistrate Judge's reasoning.”).

         Both objections are “essentially reiterations” of arguments that Mr. Colbert presented to Magistrate Judge Morris in his summary judgment brief. (Compare ECF No. 17, Objections, PgID 996-99 with ECF No. 10, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, PgID 859-60, 864-66.) In fact, Mr. Colbert re-uses entire passages from his summary judgment brief in his objections to the Magistrate Judge's report. (See ECF No. 17, Objections, PgID 997-98, 998-99; ECF No. 10, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, PgID 864, 865, 866.) This approach to raising objections is “not appropriate or sufficient.” Pastorino v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., No. 15-10918, 2016 WL 787132, at 1 (E.D. Mich. Feb. 29, 2016). The party objecting to an R&R has a duty to “pinpoint” the specific portions of the report that he or she believes was wrongly decided. Mira, 806 F.2d at 637. When the objecting party presents the same arguments to the magistrate and then to the district court, without identifying a specific error committed by the magistrate ...


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