United States District Court, D. Nevada
MICHAEL K. DOUZAT, Plaintiff(s),
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant(s).
ORDER (DOCKET NO. 1)
J. KOPPE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
has requested authority pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 to
proceed in forma pauperis, (Docket No. 1), and
submitted a Complaint (Docket No. 1-1).
Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis
has submitted the affidavit required by § 1915(a)
showing an inability to prepay fees and costs or give
security for them. Docket No. 1. Accordingly, the request to
proceed in forma pauperis will be granted pursuant
to § 1915(a). The Court will now review Plaintiff's
Screening the Complaint
in forma pauperis is a privilege, not a right.
E.g., Williams v. Field, 394 F.2d 329, 332 (9th Cir.
1968). When a party seeks permission to pursue a civil case
in forma papueris, courts will screen the complaint
pursuant to federal statute. See 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e). In particular, the governing statute provides that
courts shall dismiss a case at any time if it determines
that, inter alia, it is frivolous or malicious, or
fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted.
See Id. A central function of this screening process
is to “discourage the filing of, and waste of judicial
and private resources upon, baseless lawsuits that paying
litigants generally do not initiate because of the cost of
bringing suit.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S.
319, 327 (1989).
civil cases in which the plaintiff seeks to proceed in
forma pauperis, courts require that the plaintiff comply
with the robust authority that complaints must provide
sufficient notice of the basis of the claims presented and
state a claim for relief. See, e.g., Watison v.
Carter, 668 F.3d 1108, 1112 (9th Cir. 2012). Complaints
are subject to the pleading standards set out in Rule 8.
Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 512
(2002). Although Rule 8 does not require detailed factual
allegations, the complaint must set forth the grounds of the
plaintiff's entitlement to relief and may not rest on
“labels and conclusions” or a “formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Courts
must accept as true all well-pled factual allegations
contained in the complaint, but the same requirement does not
apply to legal conclusions. Id. at 679. Mere
recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported only
by conclusory allegations, do not suffice. Id. at
678. Moreover, where the claims in the complaint have not
crossed the line from conceivable to plausible, the complaint
should be dismissed. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). When a court dismisses a complaint
under § 1915(e), the plaintiff should be given leave to
amend the complaint with directions as to curing its
deficiencies, unless it is clear from the face of the
complaint that the deficiencies could not be cured by
amendment. See Cato v. United States, 70 F.3d 1103,
1106 (9th Cir. 1995).
complaint in a social security appeal is not exempt from the
Section 1915(e) screening of in forma pauperis cases
generally. Hoagland v. Astrue, 2012 WL 2521753, *1
(E.D. Cal. June 28, 2012) (screening is required “even
if the plaintiff pursues an appeal of right, such as an
appeal of the Commissioner's denial of social security
disability benefits”); see also Lopez v.
Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1129 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc)
(“section 1915(e) applies to all in forma pauperis
complaints”). Moreover, although a complaint in a
social security appeal may differ in some ways from other
civil cases, it is also “not exempt from the general
rules of civil pleading.” Hoagland, 2012 WL
2521753, at *2. With respect to social security appeals
specifically, the undersigned and several other judges in
this District have outlined some of the basic requirements
for complaints to satisfy the Court's screening. First,
the plaintiff must establish that she has exhausted her
administrative remedies pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g),
and that the civil action was commenced within sixty days
after notice of a final decision. Second, the complaint must
indicate the judicial district in which the plaintiff
resides. Third, the complaint must state the nature of the
plaintiff's disability and when the plaintiff claims she
became disabled. Fourth, the complaint must contain a plain,
short, and concise statement identifying the nature of the
plaintiff's disagreement with the determination made by
the Social Security Administration and show that the
plaintiff is entitled to relief. See, e.g.,
Graves v. Colvin, 2015 WL 357121, *2 (D. Nev. Jan.
26, 2015) (collecting cases).
the fourth element above on which social security plaintiffs
most often stumble. “Every plaintiff appealing an
adverse decision of the Commissioner believes that the
Commissioner was wrong.” Hoagland, 2012 WL
2521753, at *3. A complaint merely stating that the
Commissioner's decision was wrong is plainly insufficient
to satisfy a plaintiff's pleading requirement. See,
e.g., Cribbet v. Comm'r of Social Security, 2012 WL
5308044, *3 (E.D. Cal. Oct. 29, 2012) (citing Brown v.
Astrue, 2011 WL 3664429, *2 (D.N.H. Aug. 19, 2011)).
“Similarly, a social security complaint that merely
parrots the standards used in reversing or remanding a case
is not sufficient to withstand a screening pursuant to
Section 1915(e).” Graves, 2015 WL 357121, at
*2 (citing Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678). Instead,
“[a] complaint appealing the Commissioner's denial
of disability benefits must set forth a brief statement of
facts setting forth the reasons why the
Commissioner's decision was wrong.”
Hoagland, 2012 WL 2521753, at *2 (collecting cases)
(emphasis added); see also Graves, 2015 WL 357121,
at *3 (finding complaint failed to state a claim when it
alleged only that “the Commissioner's decision to
deny [the plaintiff] benefits was wrong without any
indication as to why it was wrong other than a recitation of
the general standards that govern this Court's review of
that decision”); Harris v. Colvin, 2014 WL
1095941, *4 (C.D. Cal. Mar. 17, 2014) (finding complaint
failed to state a claim when it did not “specify . . .
the respects in which [the plaintiff] contends that the
ALJ's findings are not supported by substantial evidence
and/or that the proper legal standards were not
applied”); Gutierrez v. Astrue, 2011 WL
1087261, *2 (E.D. Cal. Mar. 23, 2011) (finding complaint
failed to comply with Rule 8's notice requirements when
it stated only that benefits were denied, but had not
“provided any substantive reasons” for appealing
that decision and had not “identified any errors in any
decision rendered by the Administrative Law Judge”).
The plaintiff must provide a statement identifying the basis
of the plaintiff's disagreement with the Social Security
Administration's determination and must make a showing
that the plaintiff is entitled to relief. While this showing
need not be made in great detail, it must be presented in
sufficient detail for the Court to understand the legal
and/or factual issues in dispute so that it can meaningfully
screen the complaint pursuant to § 1915(e). Cf.
Hoagland, 2012 WL 2521753, at *4 (the complaint should
avoid the advocacy and argumentation of the opening brief to
be submitted later, but must specifically set forth the facts
showing an entitlement to relief).
case, Plaintiff has filed a bare-bones, form complaint that
is plainly insufficient with respect to the third and fourth
elements outlined above. See, e.g., Macbrair v.
Colvin, 2016 U.S. Dist. Lexis 66082 (D. Nev. May 17,
2016); Shields v. Colvin, 2016 U.S. Dist. Lexis
62955 (D. Nev. May 11, 2016); Coleman v. Colvin,
2016 U.S. Dist. Lexis 57348 (D. Nev. Apr. 27, 2016);
Montoya v. Colvin, 2016 U.S. Dist. Lexis 30114 (D.
Nev. Mar. 8, 2016); Manneh v. Colvin, 2015 U.S.
Dist. Lexis 164317 (D. Nev. Dec. 7, 2015); Dearman v.
Colvin, 2015 U.S. Dist. Lexis 148862 (D. Nev. Oct. 28,
2015); Lopez v. Colvin, 2015 U.S. Dist. Lexis 145565
(D. Nev. Oct. 26, 2015); Schultz v. Colvin, 2015
U.S. Dist. Lexis 139163 (D. Nev. Oct. 9, 2015); Bernoudy
v. Colvin, 2015 U.S. Dist. Lexis 139795 (D. Nev. Oct. 9,
2015); Bogroff v. Colvin, 2015 U.S. Dist. Lexis
114552 (D. Nev. Aug. 27, 2015); Schwei v. Colvin,
2015 U.S. Dist. Lexis 75100 (D. Nev. June 9, 2015);
Aguila v. Colvin, 2015 U.S. Dist. Lexis 65292 (D.
Nev. May 19, 2015); Vandiver v. Colvin, 2015 U.S.
Dist. Lexis 65910 (D. Nev. May 19, 2015); Thacker v.
Colvin, 2015 U.S. Dist. Lexis 49632 (D. Nev. Apr. 14,
2015); Szelap v. Colvin, 2015 U.S. Dist. Lexis 14496
(D. Nev. Feb. 5, 2015).
addition, Plaintiff fails to demonstrate that this civil
action was commenced in a timely manner. Plaintiff states
that the Appeals Council denied his request for review on
October 27, 2016. Compl. at ¶ 8. This case was
filed on February 3, 2017, more than 60 days after that
denial. Docket No. 1. Plaintiff submits that on December 28,
2016, he petitioned the Appeals Council for a 30-day
extension of time to file a civil suit in federal court.
Compl. at ¶ 8. However, Plaintiff provides no
information as to the Appeals Council's response to that
petition. See Compl.
on the foregoing, IT IS ORDERED that:
Plaintiffs request to proceed in forma pauperis is
GRANTED with the caveat that the fees shall be paid if
recovery is made. At this time, Plaintiff shall not be
required to ...