United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
HONORABLE JOHN C. COUGHENOUR
matter comes before the Court on Defendant's motion to
dismiss (Dkt. No. 6). Having thoroughly considered the
parties' briefing and the relevant record, the Court
hereby GRANTS the motion for the reasons explained herein.
November 2010, Plaintiff applied for disability insurance
benefits and supplemental security income from the Social
Security Administration (the “Administration”),
alleging that she was disabled and unable to work. (Dkt. No.
7-1 at 2-3.) Her application was denied, as was her
subsequent request for reconsideration. (Dkt. Nos. 7-1 at 4,
7-2 at 2.) In January 2012, Plaintiff had her case heard by
an administrative law judge (“ALJ”), who also
denied her claims. (Dkt. No. 7-4 at 2.) Plaintiff did not
appeal the ALJ's decision, which became administratively
final. (Dkt. No. 6 at 2.)
August 2015, Plaintiff filed a second application for
disability insurance benefits and supplemental security
income from the Administration. (Dkt. No. 7-5.) That
application was also denied. (Dkt. No. 7-5 at 2.) In November
2018, Plaintiff filed a request for review by an ALJ. (Dkt.
No. 7-7.) With that request still pending, Plaintiff filed
this lawsuit in King County Superior Court, alleging that
Defendant was discriminating against her. (Dkt. No. 1-1 at
3.) Defendant removed the case to this Court. (Dkt. No. 1 at
1.) Defendant now moves to dismiss Plaintiff's claim for
lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for failure to state
a claim upon which relief can be granted. (Dkt. No. 6.)
Plaintiff failed to file an opposition. Because of the
ambiguity of the complaint, the Court construes the complaint
as either requesting federal court review of her application
to the Administration or alleging discrimination by the
Administration. Each is addressed below.
Motion to Dismiss Legal Standard
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), a party may move to
dismiss a case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12. In a case involving a claim for social
security benefits, if a plaintiff fails to exhaust her
administrative remedies, the court lacks subject matter
jurisdiction to review the case. See Holcomb v.
Colvin, No. C13-5256-KLS, Dkt. No. 18 at 2 (W.D. Wash.
2014). The burden to prove exhaustion rests with the
plaintiff. See Id. (quoting Mathews v.
Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 329 (1976)).
Failure to Exhaust
alleges that the Court does not have jurisdiction to review
Plaintiff's claims because she has failed to exhaust the
administrative remedies available to her. To satisfy the
exhaustion requirement, a plaintiff must receive an
“initial determination regarding entitlement to
benefits, reconsideration of that determination, a hearing
before an [ALJ], and review by the Appeals Council of the
ALJ's decision.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.900(a);
Bass v. Soc. Sec. Admin., 872 F.2d 832, 833 (1988).
Only then can a plaintiff file for review by a district
court. 20 C.F.R § 404.900(a)(5).
has filed two separate applications with the Administration.
(See Dkt. Nos. 7-1, 7-6.) In her first application,
filed in 2010, Plaintiff fails at the fourth step of the
administrative remedies process. Plaintiff has presented no
evidence that she sought or obtained review from the Appeals
Council of the ALJ's decision. In her second application,
filed in 2015, Plaintiff fails at the third step of the
administrative remedies process. Although Plaintiff has filed
for review by an ALJ, (Dkt. No. 7-7), no hearing date has
been scheduled, and no final judgment has been entered in
that proceeding. Because Plaintiff has not exhausted the
administrative review process for either claim, the Court
lacks jurisdiction to review her case. For those reasons,
Defendant's motion to dismiss for failure to exhaust
administrative remedies is GRANTED.
20 C.F.R § 404.900(a)(6), a plaintiff may bypass
administrative exhaustion and seek direct judicial review if
she presents a colorable constitutional claim of a due
process violation. Califano v. Sanders, 430 U.S. 99,
108-09 (1977); Dexter v. Colvin, 731 F.3d 977,
980-81 (9th Cir. 2013). Plaintiff alleges in her complaint
that Defendant is discriminating against her. (Dkt. No. 1-1
at 3.) Plaintiff alleges that she is African-American,
female, aged 46, and suffering from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.
(Id.) Plaintiff does not provide any further details
as to Defendant's alleged discrimination. (See
id.) She does not identify any examples of
discrimination, nor does she identify the basis on which she
is being discriminated against. (See id.) Threadbare
recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by
mere conclusory statements, do not suffice to state a claim.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).
Plaintiff's statement that she has been discriminated
against is a mere conclusory statement, and is not supported
by any facts or allegations. See id. Plaintiff has
not presented a colorable constitutional claim of a due
process violation and because of this, Plaintiff is not
entitled to expedited review under 20 C.F.R. §
foregoing reasons, Defendant's motion to dismiss (Dkt.
No. 6) is GRANTED. Because it is not clear that amendment
would be futile, Plaintiff is permitted to file an amended
complaint within 21 days of the date this order is issued. If
she chooses to file an amended complaint, Plaintiff must
either: (1) allege specific facts showing that she has
exhausted her administrative remedies for either or both of
her Social Security applications or (2) allege specific facts
showing how the Administration ...