United States District Court, D. Nevada
PATRICIA L. JAMES, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
SCREENING ORDER (IFP APP - ECF NO. 1)
A. LEEN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Patricia L. James has submitted an Application to Proceed
In Forma Pauperis (ECF No. 1) along with a proposed
Complaint (ECF No. 1-1). The Application and Complaint are
referred to the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1)(A) and LR IB 1-3 of the Local Rules of Practice.
Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis
James's Application includes the affidavit required by
§ 1915(a) showing an inability to prepay fees and costs
or give security for them. Accordingly, the request to
proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP”) will
be granted. The court will now review the Complaint.
Screening the Complaint
granting a request to proceed IFP, federal courts must screen
a complaint and any amended complaints before allowing a case
to move forward, issuing summonses, and requiring a
responsive pleading. Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122,
1129 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc). Courts are required to
dismiss an IFP action if the complaint fails to state a claim
upon which relief may be granted, is legally “frivolous
or malicious, ” or seeks money from a defendant who is
immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). The
standard for determining whether a plaintiff has failed to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted under §
1915 is the same as the standard under Rule 12(b)(6) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for failure to state a
claim. Watison v. Carter, 668 F.3d 1108, 1112 (9th
Cir. 2012). A screening under Rule 12(b)(6) is essentially a
ruling on a question of law. Navarro v. Block, 250
F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001).
properly pled complaint must provide “a short and plain
statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled
to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). To avoid dismissal, a
plaintiff must allege enough facts to state a claim for
relief that is plausible on its face. Bell Atlantic Corp.
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim has facial
plausibility when a plaintiff alleges factual content that
allows the court to make a reasonable inference that a
defendant is liable for the claim alleged. Teixeira v.
County of Alameda, 873 F.3d 670, 678 (9th Cir. 2017)
(quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009)). This plausibility standard is not a “
‘probability requirement, ' but it asks for more
than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted
unlawfully.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Although Rule 8(a) does
not require detailed factual allegations, it demands
“more than labels and conclusions.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
Ms. James's Complaint challenges a decision by the Social
Security Administration (“SSA”) denying her
disability insurance benefits and Supplemental Security
Income under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act.
See Compl. (ECF No. 1-1) at ¶ 3. To state a
valid benefits claim, a complaint must give a 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 factual allegations “to enable the opposing
party to defend itself effectively”). A plaintiff must
present 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 (2016); 2 Soc. Sec. Disab. Claims Prac. & Proc.
§§ 19:92-93 (2nd ed. 2015). To do so, a complaint
should state when and how a plaintiff
exhausted her administrative remedies with the SSA and the
nature of her disability, including the date she claims she
became disabled. The complaint should also contain a short
and concise statement identifying why the SSA's
decision was wrong and showing that the plaintiff is entitled
to relief. See Sabbia v. Comm'r Soc. Sec.
Admin., 669 F.Supp.2d 914, 918 (N.D. Ill. 2009),
aff'd by 433 Fed.Appx. 462 (7th Cir. 2011).
Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies
a plaintiff can sue the SSA in federal court, she must
exhaust her administrative remedies. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g);
Bass v. Social Sec. Admin., 872 F.2d 832, 833 (9th
Cir. 1989) (“Section 405(g) provides that a civil
action may be brought only after (1) the claimant has been
party to a hearing held by the Secretary, and (2) the
Secretary has made a final decision on the claim”).
Generally, if the SSA denies an application for disability
benefits, a claimant can request reconsideration of the
decision. If the claim is denied upon reconsideration, a
claimant may request a hearing before an Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”). If the ALJ denies the claim, a
claimant may request review of the decision by the Appeals
Council. If the Appeals Council declines to review the
ALJ's decision, a claimant may then request review by the
United States District Court. See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.981, 416.1481. A civil action for judicial
review must be commenced within 60 days after receipt of the
Appeals Council's notice of a final decision.
Id. See also 20 C.F.R. § 405.501. The
SSA assumes that the notice of final decision will be
received within five days of the date on the notice unless
shown otherwise; thus, an action commenced within 65 days is
presumed timely. The civil action must be filed in the
judicial district in which the plaintiff resides. 42 U.S.C.
§ 405 (g).
case, Ms. James alleges that on March 13, 2018, the Appeals
Council denied the request for review and the ALJ's
decision became the final decision of the Commissioner.
See Compl. ¶ 8. Thus, it appears she has
exhausted her administrative remedies. Ms. James timely
commenced this action as the Complaint was filed on May 16,
2018, and the Complaint indicates that she resides within the
District of Nevada. See Compl. ¶ 1.
Accordingly, she has satisfied these prerequisites for
Grounds for Ms. James's Appeal
Complaint seeks judicial review of the Commissioner's
decision 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 plaintiff has exhausted his
administrative remedies and timely filed a civil action.
However, judicial review of the Commissioner's final
decision is limited to determining whether: (1) there is
substantial evidence in the record as a whole to support the