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Sabbia v. Commissioner of the Social Security Administration

November 16, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Elaine E. Bucklo United States District Judge


On May 11, 2009, plaintiff Dominic Sabbia, Sr. ("Sabbia") brought this suit pro se against the Commissioner ("the Commissioner") of the Social Security Administration ("SSA"), seeking review of the Commissioner's partial denial of his application for disability benefits under the Social Security Act ("the Act"), 42 U.S.C. § 401 et seq.*fn1 Sabbia's complaint also purports to challenge the Commissioner's denial of benefits to his children, Dominic Sabbia, Jr. and Nicole Sabbia, both of whom are adults and filed separate claims for benefits.

Since the filing of his complaint, Sabbia has submitted a profuse array of motions and other documents to the court. For example, he has filed several motions to enforce various subpoenas (docket entries #15, #19, #66, #67, and #86); several motions asking that his settlement offers be conveyed to the SSA (docket entries #16, #17, and #20); two motions for injunctive relief (docket entries #69 and #72); a motion to correct the record (docket entry #21); a motion excusing him and his children from appearing in person at court hearings (docket entry #22); a motion to bar the Commissioner from filing a motion for summary judgment (docket entry #62); a motion allowing him to reapply online for Social Security benefits (docket entry #82); and a motion for read-only access to the Federal Judiciary's PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) system (docket entry #81). In addition, he has filed his complaint on two occasions (docket entries #1 and #8) and in several later filings, he has sought to add further claims to his complaint (docket entries #51, #63, #64, #71, and #74). For his part, the Commissioner has filed a motion to strike Sabbia's children from Sabbia's complaint and to dismiss them as plaintiffs in the action.

This order disposes of the motions currently pending on the docket in this case. Due to the number of Sabbia's filings, this has been an extremely time-consuming task for the court. This is especially unfortunate because, as will become clear in what follows, almost all of Sabbia's filings are either unnecessary or lacking in merit (or both). Before proceeding to a discussion of the motions and other filings, therefore, the court feels it necessary to instruct Sabbia to discontinue his practice of indiscriminately filing documents with the court.

1. The Commissioner's Motion to Strike/Dismiss

I begin with the Commissioner's motion to strike Dominic Jr. and Nicole from Sabbia's complaint and to dismiss them as plaintiffs in the case. The motion is granted. As the Commissioner points out, Sabbia is not an attorney. Consequently, while he has the right to represent himself, see 28 U.S.C. § 1654, Sabbia has no right to represent the interests of others, including his children, see, e.g., Navin v. Park Ridge School Dist. 64, 270 F.3d 1147, 1149 (7th Cir. 2001) (parent was free to represent himself, but as a non-lawyer, had no authority to appear as his child's legal representative).

It is true that a small number of courts have recognized an exception to the general rule prohibiting a parent from representing his children in social security procedings. See, e.g., In Machadio v. Apfel, 276 F.3d 103 (2d Cir. 2002); Harris v. Apfel, 209 F.3d 413 (5th Cir. 2000). However, no such exception has been recognized in this Circuit; and those cases in which the exception has been recognized are inapposite here. Both Machadio and Harris involved custodial parents who were financially responsible for their children. The courts reasoned that because the parents had a personal stake in the outcome of their children's actions, they could be trusted to represent their children's interests. Machadio, 276 F.3d at 108; Harris, 209 F.3d at 416. That rationale is clearly inapplicable here, since both Dominic Jr. and Nicole are adults.

After the Commissioner filed his motion to strike, Sabbia filed documents signed by his children requesting that they be allowed to proceed pro se. Sabbia also filed separate complaints ostensibly brought by each of the children individually. Apparently believing that this had resolved the problem, Sabbia then moved to dismiss the Commissioner's motion to strike as moot. As a procedural matter, however, Dominic Jr. and Nicole must file their own complaints with the Clerk of Court. There is no procedure whereby they may file complaints as part of the docket in the present case.

Notably, even after Sabbia purported to file Dominic Jr.'s and Nicole's individual complaints, he has continued to assert that he is litigating the case on his children's behalf. It is therefore important for Sabbia to understand that he may not represent anyone other than himself in this case.*fn2

For the foregoing reasons, the Commissioner's motion to strike is granted and Dominic Jr. and Nicole are dismissed as plaintiffs in the case. Accordingly, I deny Sabbia's motion to dismiss the Commissioner's motion to strike. Since the children have been dismissed as plaintiffs, I also deny Sabbia's requests, scattered throughout many of his motions, that his case be consolidated with those of his children. And since in no event may Sabbia represent his children in this litigation, I likewise deny his motion to be appointed as the "receiver" in connection with their cases.

2. Motion for Settlement

During the course of the litigation, Sabbia has filed several motions asking the court to order the U.S. Attorney's Office to forward his settlement demands and offers to the Social Security Administration. These motions also request that the SSA be required to respond via email to his offers. These motions are denied.

To begin with, the Commissioner has indicated in his briefing on the motion to strike that he is fully aware of Sabbia's settlement offers. See Reply Br. at 4. The Commissioner has also made it abundantly clear that he has no interest in settling the litigation. Id. Thus, even if the court were inclined to grant Sabbia's request to have his settlement offers forwarded to the SSA, it would be unnecessary to do so.

However, Sabbia's motions for settlement are inappropriate and should not have been filed in the first place. Sabbia is responsible for conducting his own settlement negotiations with the Commissioner. Based on correspondence that Sabbia attached to certain of his motions, it is clear that he is aware of how to contact counsel for the Commissioner, and that he has attempted to do so on multiple occasions, apparently by fax, email, and ...

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