United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO
W. Christel United States Magistrate Judge
Thomas Horne, proceeding in forma pauperis with
retained counsel, filed this action allegedly challenging the
final decision of the Acting Commissioner of the Social
Security Administration (“Commissioner”), which
denied him disability insurance benefits (“DIB”).
See Dkt. 4. Currently before the Court is
Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, which requests the Court
dismiss this action pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). Dkt. 7, 8. Pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 636(c), Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 73, and
Local Rule MJR 13, the parties have consented to have this
matter heard by the undersigned Magistrate Judge.
See Dkt. 2.
Court concludes it lacks jurisdiction to review the
Commissioner's decision. Accordingly, the Court grants
Defendant's Motion to Dismiss.
filed this case challenging the final decision of the
Commissioner, which denied him DIB. Dkt. 4. On December 26,
2017, Defendant filed the Motion to Dismiss, asserting the
Court should dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(1). Dkt. 7. Plaintiff, who is represented by
counsel, did not file a response to the Motion to Dismiss.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), a party may move
for the dismissal of a case for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12. The court must
dismiss a complaint under Rule 12(b)(1) if, viewing the
factual allegations in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff, the underlying action: (1) does not arise under
the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States, or
does not fall within one of the other enumerated categories
of Article III Section 2 of the Constitution; (2) is not a
case or controversy within the meaning of the Constitution;
or (3) is not one described by any jurisdictional statute.
Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 198 (1962); see
also 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (federal question
considering a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss, the court
“may review any evidence, such as affidavits and
testimony, to resolve factual disputes concerning the
existence of jurisdiction.” McCarthy v. United
States, 850 F.2d 558, 560 (9th Cir. 2008) (citations
omitted), cert. denied 489 U.S. 1052 (1989). Federal
courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, and are presumed
to lack subject matter jurisdiction until the plaintiff
establishes otherwise. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co.
of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994) (citations omitted).
Therefore, the plaintiff bears the burden of proving the
existence of subject matter jurisdiction. Id.
Complaint, Plaintiff alleges he is challenging Administrative
Law Judge (“ALJ”) David Johnson's July 1,
2015 decision declining to reopen Plaintiff's previous
applications for benefits and dismissing his request for a
hearing. See Dkt. 4, 7. Defendant contends the
ALJ's decision was not a final decision subject to review
by this Court. Dkt. 7.
arising under the Social Security Act generally are not
subject to review unless they challenge a “‘final
decision of the Secretary made after a [statutorily mandated]
hearing.'” Dexter v. Colvin, 731 F.3d 977,
980 (9th Cir. 2013) (quoting Califano v. Sanders,
430 U.S. 99, 108 (1977)). The Commissioner may apply
administrative res judicata “to bar reconsideration of
a period with respect to which she has already made a
determination, by declining to reopen the prior
application.” Lester v. Chater, 81 F.3d 821,
827 (9th Cir. 1996). Once an administrative decision becomes
final, the Commissioner's decision to reopen a disability
claim is “purely discretionary.” Taylor v.
Heckler, 765 F.2d 872, 877 (9th Cir. 1985). Because a
discretionary decision is not a “final decision”
within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), the
Commissioner's refusal to reopen a decision “is not
a ‘final' decision subject to judicial
review.” Id. (citations omitted);
Lester, 81 F.3d at 827 (“As a general matter,
the Commissioner's refusal to reopen her decision as to
an earlier period is not subject to judicial
Court can review a decision to not reopen a prior application
if the “denial of a petition to reopen is challenged on
constitutional grounds.” Califano, 430 U.S. at
109. Additionally, the Court has jurisdiction over a decision
to not reopen “where the Commissioner considers
‘on the merits' the issue of the claimant's
disability during the already-adjudicated period.”
Lester, 81 F.3d at 827; see also Lewis v.
Apfel, 236 F.3d 503, 510 (9th Cir. 2001). If “such
a de facto reopening occurs, the Commissioner's decision
as to the prior period is subject to judicial review.”
Lester, 81 F.3d at 827. However, “where the
discussion of the merits is followed by a specific conclusion
that the claim is denied on res judicata grounds, the
decision should not be interpreted as re-opening the claim
and is therefore not reviewable.” Krumpelman v.
Heckler, 767 F.2d 586, 589 (9th Cir. 1985) (citing
McGowen v. Harris, 666 F.2d 60, 68 (4th Cir. 1981)).
the ALJ, applying the doctrine of res judicata,
denied Plaintiff's request for a hearing regarding his
April 7, 2014 application. Dkt. 8, p. 9. The ALJ noted that
Plaintiff previously filed applications for DIB and
supplemental security income (“SSI”), which were
denied on May 17, 2012. See id.; see also
Dkt. 9, Chung Dec., ¶ 4(a). The ALJ stated he compared
the evidence considered in reaching the May 2012
determination with the evidence relating to Plaintiff's
2014 claim. Dkt. 8, pp. 9-10. “Based on this
comparison, ” the ALJ found there was no new or
material evidence and determined the doctrine of res
judicata applied to Plaintiff's 2014 claim.
Id. at p. 10. “Because the doctrine of res
judicata applie[d], ” Plaintiff's request for
a hearing was denied. Id.
ALJ's July 2015 decision was a decision declining to
reopen Plaintiff's previous claims, this is not a
“final decision.” Plaintiff does not allege his
due process rights were violated. See Dkt. 4.
Additionally, Plaintiff does not assert, nor does the Court
find, the ALJ's decision was a “de facto
reopening.” See Dkt. 4. The Court notes
Plaintiff did not file a response to Defendant's Motion
to Dismiss. The Court concludes it does not have jurisdiction
to review ...