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Tunu Shakari v. Commissioner of Social Security Michael Astrue

November 10, 2011

TUNU SHAKARI, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY MICHAEL ASTRUE, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Milton I. Shadur Senior United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Tunu Shakari ("Shakari") seeks judicial review, pursuant to Social Security Act ("Act") §405(g),*fn1 of the final decision of Commissioner of Social Security Michael Astrue ("Commissioner") that denied Shakari's claim for widow's insurance benefits ("Benefits"). Shakari has moved for summary judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P. ("Rule") 56. For the reasons stated here, her motion is denied, Commissioner's decision is affirmed and this action is dismissed with prejudice.

Procedural Background*fn2

Shakari, formerly known as Patricia Evans, filed an application for Benefits on December 26, 2006 (R. 17). On March 28, 2007 her application was initially denied, and it was again denied upon reconsideration (id. 17-18). After she filed a timely request for hearing, on May 28, 2009 Shakari appeared before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Michael McGuire (id. 12-14). ALJ McGuire's June 15, 2009 decision concluded that because Shakari had been convicted of voluntary manslaughter in connection with the death of the wage earner, her estranged husband Johnny Evans ("Evans"), she was not entitled to Benefits despite the fact that she had later been pardoned (id. 14).

Shakari's request for review of the ALJ's decision by the Appeals Council was denied on February 25, 2011 (R. 3-6). On April 21, 2011 Shakari filed her Complaint for judicial review by this Court.

Factual Background

Shakari was born on December 25, 1946 and was thus 62 years old at the time of the ALJ's decision (R. 17). She had married Evans in November 1971 (id. 42). Sometime thereafter Shakari separated from Evans and obtained a restraining order against him (id. 43).

On September 25, 1975 Evans came to Shakari's apartment in violation of the restraining order (R. 43). He beat Shakari with his fists, a dog chain and a pistol while their children and several of his friends watched (id. 44). He also stated that Shakari and the children belonged to him and that if he could not have them then no one else would either (id. 43).

Finally Shakari told Evans that she would consider letting him come back after their next court appearance, whereupon he gave her the gun and left the apartment (R. 44). Shakari went into the hallway outside the apartment to ensure that Evans was gone, but she discovered that he had not in fact left the building (id. 45). Instead he was "coming back up the stairs full speed" (id.). Shakari fired a single shot at Evans, killing him (id.).

Shakari was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to a term of two to six years' imprisonment (R. 31). On December 6, 1977, after Shakari had served eight months of her sentence, then Illinois Governor James Thompson commuted the sentence to time served and Shakari was released (id.). Governor Thompson officially pardoned Shakari on December 22, 1982, stating that she "is hereby acquitted and...restored to all her rights of citizenship which may have been forfeited by her conviction" (id. 29)--but the pardon was silent as to the reason it was granted (id.).

Standard of Review and Applicable Law

This Court reviews the ALJ's decision as Commissioner's final decision, considering its legal conclusions de novo (Haynes v. Barnhart, 416 F.3d 621, 626 (7th Cir. 2005)). Because factual determinations receive deferential review, courts "are not to reweigh the evidence or substitute [their] own judgment for that of the ALJ" and will affirm Commissioner's decision "if it is supported by substantial evidence" (id.). Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion" (Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (internal quotations marks omitted)).

As Haynes, 416 F.3d at 626 (internal quotation marks omitted) teaches:

In rendering a decision, the ALJ must build a logical bridge from the evidence to his conclusion [but] need not, however, provide a complete written evaluation ...


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