United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS
A. TSUCHIDA CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Plaintiff Maxwell Kinsley brings this action against the
Commissioner of Social Security, for judicial review of a
decision by the Commissioner. The Commissioner moves to
dismiss this action based on Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) or, in the
alternative, under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Dkt. 9. Counsel for
the Commissioner called and emailed Plaintiff in an attempt
to confer on this motion, but received no response. Dkt. 9,
p.1. Plaintiff filed no response to the motion to dismiss.
considered the motion, Plaintiff's failure to respond,
and remaining record, the Court concludes it lacks subject
matter jurisdiction and therefore, the Commissioner's
motion to dismiss should be granted and this
case should be dismissed with prejudice.
complaint is related to his applications for Title II and
Title XVI benefits under the Social Security Act. Dkt. 3, p.
2. He asks that the court award disability benefits or remand
for further administrative proceedings. Id., p. 4.
applied for benefits in November 2012. Dkt. 9, Exh. 2,
Declaration of Christianne Voegele, Chief of Court Case
Preparation in the Office of Appellate Operations, pp. 2-3.
Over the next six years, Plaintiff obtained two ALJ decisions
that were each remanded by the Appeals Council. Id.,
Exh. 1, pp. 3-6. Ultimately, on remand from the Appeals
Council in November 2018, a new ALJ dismissed Plaintiff's
request for a hearing due to Plaintiff's failure to
appear. Id., Exh. 1, p. 5. Plaintiff requested
review of this decision from the Appeals Council, but he
sought this review after the 60-day deadline. Id. In
April 2019, the Appeals Council dismissed Plaintiff's
request for review. Id., p. 6.
may file a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(1) challenging the subject matter
jurisdiction of the Court. “Federal courts are courts
of limited jurisdiction.” Kokkonen v. Guardian Life
Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). As such, they
may only review cases as authorized by either the
Constitution or a federal statute. Id. “If
jurisdiction is lacking at the outset, the district court has
no power to do anything with the case except dismiss
[it].” Morongo Band of Mission Indians v.
California Bd. of Equalization, 858 F.2d 1376, 1380 (9th
Cir. 1988) (quotation omitted).
has limited federal courts' jurisdiction over
determinations by the Social Security Administration
(“SSA”). Under the Social Security Act, federal
courts may only review a “final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security made after a hearing.”
42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Although the Social Security Act
does not define the term “final decision, ” the
Commissioner has done so by regulation. Weinberger v.
Salfi, 422 U.S. 749, 751 (1975) (recognizing power of
Commissioner to define “final decision”); see
also 42 U.S.C. § 405(a) (outlining
Commissioner's powers). Under the applicable regulations,
a claimant must first complete the SSA's administrative
review process before he can obtain a judicially reviewable
final decision. 20 C.F.R. § 416.1400(a)(1)-(5)
(enumerating the four steps in the administrative review
process); Califano v. Sanders, 430 U.S. 99, 108
(1977) (Section 405(g) “clearly limits judicial review
to ... a ‘final decision' of the [Commissioner]
made after a hearing.”). “A final decision has
two elements: (1) presentment of the claim to the
Commissioner, and (2) complete exhaustion of administrative
remedies.” Kildare v. Saenz, 325 F.3d 1078,
1082 (9th Cir. 2003). Without a final agency decision, a
district court has no subject-matter jurisdiction. 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g) and 1383(c); 20 C.F.R. §
416.1400(a)(5); Sanders, 430 U.S. at 108-09.
SSA's prescribed administrative remedies consist of the
following four steps: First, the SSA provides the claimant
with an initial determination. 20 C.F.R. § 416.1400(a)
(1). Second, if the claimant is dissatisfied with the initial
determination, he may ask the SSA to reconsider it. 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.1400(a)(2). Third, if the claimant is dissatisfied
with the reconsidered decision, he may request a hearing
before an ALJ. 20 C.F.R. § 16.1400(a)(3). And finally,
if the claimant is not satisfied with the ALJ's decision,
he may request that the SSA's Appeals Council review the
ALJ's decision. 20 C.F.R. § 416.1400(a)(4). The
Appeals Council may either grant review or deny the request
and allow the ALJ's decision to stand as the final
decision of the Commissioner. 20 C.F.R. § 416.1467.
is no final decision subject to federal judicial review
unless and until all four steps of the administrative review
process have been completed. 20 C.F.R. § 416.1400(a)
(5). If the claimant fails to complete all four steps of the
administrative review process, the SSA's initial
determination is binding and the claimant may not seek
judicial review in the federal courts. See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 416.1405, 416.1421, 416.1455, 416.1481.
Plaintiff failed to complete all four steps of the
administrative review process. In January 2018, the ALJ
dismissed Plaintiff's request for a hearing because
Plaintiff failed to appear. Dkt. 9, Ex. 2, Voegele Dec., p.
5, Exh. 33 (Notice of Dismissal). Because Plaintiff did not
obtain a “final decision of the Commissioner made after
a hearing to which he was a party, ” as required by 42
U.S.C. § 405(g), he has plainly not exhausted his
administrative remedies. Without a final ...