United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
MICHAEL G. COOK, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS
J. BRYAN United States District Judge.
matter is before the Court on defendant Commissioner Nancy A.
Berryhill's motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction. Dkt. 9. Plaintiff Michael G. Cook has filed a
response. Dkt. 12-1. Because plaintiff has not exhausted his
administrative remedies nor raised a colorable constitutional
claim, this Court lacks jurisdiction to hear this matter. For
these reasons, defendant's motion to dismiss is granted.
first applied for Social Security disability insurance
benefits in 2009. See Dkt. 10 at Exhibit 7, p. 4.
The Commissioner denied plaintiff's application, and
plaintiff did not request reconsideration or a hearing.
applied for disability benefits again in 2012. See
id. at Exhibits 1, 3. The Commissioner denied this
application, and plaintiff requested a hearing before an
administrative law judge (“ALJ”). See
id. at Exhibit 3, p. 4. However, plaintiff then asked to
withdraw his request for a hearing, and the ALJ accordingly
dismissed the request for a hearing. See id.
Plaintiff then asked the Appeals Council to review the
dismissal. See id. at Exhibit 4. The Appeals Council
declined. See id.
then filed a third application for disability benefits in
2013. See id. at Exhibit 7, pp. 4-6. After the
application was denied, plaintiff requested a hearing before
an ALJ and asked the ALJ to reopen the first two
applications. See id. The ALJ declined to reopen the
earlier applications and dismissed plaintiff's request
for a hearing. See id. The Appeals Council denied
plaintiff's request for review of this aspect of the
ALJ's decision. See id. at Exhibit 8.
filed a complaint with this Court seeking judicial review.
See Dkt. 3. The Commissioner filed a motion to
dismiss, arguing that this Court is without subject matter
jurisdiction to hear this matter. See Dkt. 9;
see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1).
courts have limited jurisdiction and “possess only that
power authorized by Constitution and statute.”
Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of America, 511
U.S. 375, 377 (1994) (citations omitted). When presented with
a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction,
a plaintiff has the burden to demonstrate that this Court has
jurisdiction. See id.; see also Fed. R.
Civ. P. 12(b)(1). When presented with a motion to dismiss
pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), the Court favorably views
“the facts alleged to support jurisdiction.”
McNatt v. Apfel, 201 F.3d 1084, 1087 (9th Cir. 2000)
(citing Boettcher v. Sec. Health & Human Servs.,
759 F.2d 719, 720 (9th Cir. 1985)).
Court has statutory jurisdiction to review “any final
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security made after a
hearing.” 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Pursuant to the
relevant federal regulations, a claimant obtains a judicially
reviewable final decision only after completing all of the
required steps, including asking for reconsideration of an
initial determination, requesting a hearing, and requesting
review by the Appeals Council. See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.907, 404.929, 404.967. A claimant seeking
judicial review must either receive a decision by the Appeals
Council or notice from the Appeals Council that it has denied
the claimant's request for review. See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.981, 122.210(a).
the Court has jurisdiction pursuant to statute to review only
the final decision of the Social Security Administration made
after a hearing, a discretionary decision by the
Administration that is not a final decision may be subject to
an exception where the Commissioner's decision “is
challenged on constitutional grounds.” Evans v.
Chater, 110 F.3d 1480, 1482 (9th Cir. 1997) (citing
Califano v. Sanders, 430 U.S. 99, 109 (1977)); 42
U.S.C. § 405(g). The Ninth Circuit has “held that
‘the Sanders exception applies to any
colorable constitutional claim of due process violation that
implicates a due process right either to a meaningful
opportunity to be heard or to seek reconsideration of an
adverse benefits determination.'” Udd v.
Massanari, 245 F.3d 1096, 1099 (9th Cir. 2001) (quoting
Evans, 110 F.3d at 1483); see also Sanders,
430 U.S. at 107-09. According to the Ninth Circuit, a
“challenge that is not ‘wholly insubstantial,
immaterial, or frivolous' raises a colorable
constitutional claim.” Udd, 245 F.3d at 1099
(quoting Boettcher, 59 F.2d at 722).
stated by the Supreme Court, “[c]onstitutional
questions obviously are unsuited to resolution in
administrative hearing procedures and, therefore, access to
the courts is essential to the decision of such
questions.” Sanders, 430 U.S. at 109. The
Court noted the “well-established principle that when
constitutional questions are in issue, the availability of
judicial review is presumed.” Id. (citations
an individual's interest in social security benefits is a
property interest created by statute and protected by the
Fifth Amendment, if a claimant has properly raised a due
process claim with respect to the denial of such benefits,
this Court has jurisdiction over this matter. See
Sanders, 430 U.S. at 109; Mathew ...