United States District Court, D. Nevada
NAIM R. COSTANDI, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
SCREENING ORDER (AM. COMPL. - ECF NO. 4)
A LEEN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
matter involves Plaintiff Naim R. Costandi's appeal and
request for judicial review of the Acting Commissioner of
Social Security, Defendant Nancy A. Berryhill's final
decision denying his claim for disability insurance benefits
under Title II of the Social Security Act (the
“Act”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-33. Mr.
Constandi has submitted an Amended Complaint (ECF No. 4) in
accordance with the court's Screening Order (ECF No. 2)
dismissing the original complaint with leave to amend. The
Amended Complaint is referred to the undersigned for
re-screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) and LR
IB 1-3 of the Local Rules of Practice.
granting a request to proceed in forma pauperis, a
federal court must additionally screen the complaint and any
amended complaints filed prior to a responsive pleading.
Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1129 (9th Cir. 2000)
(en banc) (§ 1915(e) “applies to all in forma
pauperis complaints”). The simplified pleading
standard set forth in Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure applies to all civil actions, with limited
exceptions. Alvarez v. Hill, 518 F.3d 1152, 1159
(9th Cir. 2008). For purposes of 28 U.S.C. § 1915's
screening requirement, a properly pled complaint must
therefore provide “a short and plain statement of the
claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2); see also Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Although Rule 8 does
not require detailed factual allegations, it demands
“more than labels and conclusions” or a
“formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of
action.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009) (citation omitted).
Mr. Constandi challenges a decision by the Social Security
Administration (“SSA”) denying his disability
insurance benefits of the Act. See Am. Compl. (ECF
No. 4) ¶ 3. To state a valid benefits claim, a complaint
must give the defendant fair notice of what the
plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.
Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011)
(noting that a complaint “must contain sufficient
allegations of underlying facts to give fair notice and to
enable the opposing party to defend itself
effectively”). Although this showing need not be made
in great detail, it must be presented in sufficient detail
for the court to understand the disputed issues so that it
can meaningfully screen the complaint. See 4 Soc.
Sec. Law & Prac. § 56:4 (2015).
Amended Complaint seeks judicial review of the
Commissioner's decision denying benefits and asks the
court to reverse that decision, or alternatively, to remand
this matter for a new hearing. A district court can affirm,
modify, reverse, or remand a decision if a plaintiff has
exhausted his administrative remedies and timely filed a
civil action. However, judicial review of the
Commissioner's decision to deny benefits is limited to
determining: (a) whether there is substantial evidence in the
record as a whole to support the findings of the
Commissioner; and (b) whether the correct legal standards
were applied. Morgan v. Comm'r Soc. Sec. Admin.,
169 F.3d 595, 599 (9th Cir. 1999).
review of the original complaint, the court determined that
Mr. Constandi failed to state a claim upon which relief can
be granted. See Screening Order (ECF No. 2). He did
not state the nature of the disability or allege when it
commenced. Id. Additionally, Constandi merely
alleged that the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits
was wrong but failed to indicate why the decision
was wrong. Id. The court found that a complaint
merely stating that the decision was wrong but failing to
describe the underlying reasons was insufficient to satisfy
Rule 8's pleading requirement. Id. (citing
Starr, 652 F.3d at 1216).
Amended Complaint alleges that Mr. Constandi has been
disabled since March 1, 2014, through the decision date of
January 13, 2017. See Am. Compl. (ECF No. 4) ¶
5. The Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) found
Constandi to have the severe impairment of ischemic heart
disease. Id. ¶ 9(a). Despite his severe
impairment, the ALJ found Constandi
to have the residual functional capacity for medium work
except he can lift 50 pounds occasionally and 25 pounds
frequently he can stand for six hours out of an eight-hour
workday; he can sit for six hours out of an eight-hour
workday; he can occasionally climb ladders, ropes, or
scaffold or crawl; he can frequently stoop, kneel, crouch,
and climb ramps and stairs; and he must avoid concentrated
exposure to extreme temperatures and hazards.
Id. ¶ 9(b). The ALJ further determined that
Constandi could perform his past relevant work. Id.
¶ 9(c). Mr. Constandi alleges that the ALJ's
decision lacks the support of substantial evidence in that
the ALJ erred by improperly rejecting a consultative
examiner's opinion, which precluded past relevant work
and warranted a disability finding. Id. ¶ 9(d).
The Amended Complaint contains sufficient allegations of
underlying facts to give the Defendant fair notice of Mr.
Constandi's disagreement with the SSA's final
determination. The court therefore finds that his Amended
Complaint states a claim for initial screening purposes.
IT IS ORDERED:
1. The Clerk of Court shall issue summons to the United
States Attorney for the District of Nevada and deliver the
summons and Amended Complaint (ECF No. 4) to the U.S. Marshal
2. The Clerk of the Court shall also issue summons to the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration and
Attorney General of the United States.
3. Mr. Constandi shall serve the Commissioner of the Social
Security Administration by sending a copy of the summons and
Amended Complaint by certified mail to: (1) Office of
Regional Chief Counsel, Region IX, Social Security
Administration, 160 Spear St., Suite 899, San Francisco,
California 94105-1545; and (2) the Attorney General of the
United States, Department of Justice, 950 Pennsylvania
Avenue, N.W., Room 4400, Washington, D.C. 20530.
4. Following the Defendant's filing of an answer, the
court will issue a scheduling order setting a ...