United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Rock Island Division
DARROW UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court are Plaintiff Jamie Cosenza's Motion to Hold
the Commissioner in Contempt, ECF No. 20; Plaintiff's
Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 23; Defendant's
Motion to Strike Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment,
ECF No. 29; and Plaintiff's Motion to Deny the
Defendant's Motion to Strike, ECF No. 30. On September
14, 2016, Magistrate Judge Hawley filed a Report and
Recommendation recommending that the motion to strike be
granted, and the motion for summary judgment stricken. Sep.
14, 2016 Report and Recommendation, ECF No. 31. On September
26, 2016, Cosenza filed an Objection to the Report and
Recommendation (“Obj.”), ECF No. 32. For the
reasons that follow, the Report and Recommendation is
ADOPTED. Defendant's Motion to Strike is GRANTED and the
motion for summary judgment STRICKEN. Cosenza's Motion to
Hold the Commissioner in Contempt is DENIED.
on behalf of her minor son (“Claimant”),
initiated a claim with the Social Security Administration for
supplemental social security income in 2011. After the claim
was denied by both an administrative law judge
(“ALJ”) and the Appeals Council, Cosenza filed
suit in District Court on June 4, 2014, seeking judicial
review of that final decision. Compl. 1-2, ECF No. 1. The
District Court, adopting Judge Hawley's Report and
Recommendation, remanded the case to the Social Security
Administration (“SSA”) and instructed the ALJ to
re-examine the record and clarify certain findings and
conclusions. July 24, 2015 Order 4-5, ECF No. 18. The Social
Security Administration's Appeals Council provided notice
to Cosenza that the case was remanded, and issued a remand
order directing the ALJ to “take any further action
needed” to decide the case. See Not. Remand,
ECF No. 20 at 24; Nov. 4, 2015 Appeals Council Order, ECF No.
20 at 24. The ALJ held a hearing on March 30, 2016, and
issued a decision unfavorable to Claimant on July 13, 2016.
Jul. 13, 2016 SSA Decision, ECF No. 24-1.
the federal court case had closed on August 11, 2015, Cosenza
filed a motion in the District Court on June 23, 2016 to hold
the SSA Commissioner in contempt of court, arguing that the
SSA purposefully failed to follow the District Court's
remand order. Contempt Mot. ECF No. 20. Cosenza also filed a
Motion for Summary Judgment on August 1, 2016. The motion
states that Cosenza had appealed Claimant's case to the
Appeals Council “to preserve the right to bring suit in
District Court.” Mot. Summ. J. 1, 6. The SSA moved to
strike the motion for summary judgment, arguing that the
Court did not have jurisdiction over the action because
Cosenza (1) had not exhausted administrative remedies on
Claimant's behalf, (2) had not received a final decision
subject to judicial review, and, in any case, (3) would need
to file a new civil action to do so. Mot. Strike Mot. Summ.
J. 1. Magistrate Judge Hawley's Report and
Recommendation, issued in response to the SSA's motion,
found that the District Court did not have jurisdiction to
review the ALJ's decision. Sep. 14, 2016 Report and
Recommendation 4. Cosenza then timely filed an Objection to
the Report and Recommendation, ECF No. 32, on September 26,
2016, which the Court considers below.
Administrative Exhaustion of Social Security Claim
magistrate judge makes a written Report and Recommendation in
a social security matter, the district court reviews de novo
any portion of his findings to which written objections have
been made. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b) (requiring the
district court judge, for dispositive matters, to
“determine de novo any part of the magistrate
judge's disposition that has been properly objected
to”). “The district judge may accept, reject, or
modify the recommended decision, receive further evidence, or
recommit the matter to the magistrate judge with
instructions." Id. Unobjected portions of the
record are reviewed only for clear error. Johnson v. Zema
Sys. Corp., 170 F.3d 734, 739 (7th Cir. 1999).
review in federal court of determinations made by the
Commissioner of Social Security is “limited.”
Griffith v. Callahan, 138 F.3d 1150, 1152 (7th Cir.
1998), overruled on other grounds by Johnson v.
Apfel, 189 F.3d 561 (7th Cir. 1999)). The scope of
judicial review in social security cases, pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 405, extends only to those decisions in which
the Commissioner has reached a final decision, 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g), and the findings of the agency are upheld if
supported by substantial evidence. Griffith, 138
F.3d at 1152.
careful analysis of the relevant Social Security regulations
and the record in this case, the Court finds that Judge
Hawley correctly concluded that the Court lacks jurisdiction.
In her Objections to the Report and Recommendation, Cosenza
argues on Claimant's behalf that the SSA abused its
discretion by not complying with the remand order issued by
the District Court, and that the SSA has otherwise failed to
“follow laws and administrative rules.” Obj. 3.
She further argues that due to the agency's alleged
noncompliance, the failure to exhaust administrative remedies
is not fatal to the District Court's consideration of her
claim. Id. 12. These arguments fail.
Cosenza indicated to the Court that she filed exceptions for
the Appeals Council to consider. The Magistrate Judge
correctly concluded that appeals process, laid out in 20
C.F.R. § 416.1484, had not yet yielded a final decision
for the Court to review, and that, regardless, the case was
terminated when the District Court remanded the case.
Shalala v. Schaefer, 509 U.S. 292, 296-97 (1993);
Richmond v. Chater, 94 F.3d 263, 269-70 (7th Cir.
1996). The Court has received no formal notice from Cosenza
or the Appeals Council indicating that the Council has
assumed jurisdiction, upheld the ALJ's second decision,
or taken action of any kind regarding her filed exceptions.
See § 416.1484(b)-(c). Further, § 405(g)
clearly states that a federal court's decision to remand
is a final judgment. § 405(g). See also
Shalala, 509 U.S. at 297-98 (holding that a
sentence-four remand “fits squarely” into the
definition of “final judgment”).
the ALJ's decision on remand was delayed, and it was
adverse to Claimant; however, Cosenza uses those facts to
insinuate that the decision was riddled with legal error and
noncompliant with procedural rules. Obj. 14-16. In its review
of the ...