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Vondran v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

May 9, 2017

Amaria Vondran, Plaintiff,
Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.



         Plaintiff Amaria Vondran seeks a writ of mandamus to compel the Social Security Administration to issue her a social security number. She also alleges that the Social Security Administration denied her application for a social security number without a hearing, in violation of her procedural due process rights. Defendant, Nancy Berryhill, [1] Acting Commissioner of Social Security, moves to dismiss the complaint. For the following reasons, defendant's motion to dismiss is granted.[2]

         I. Legal Standards

         To survive a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain factual allegations that plausibly suggest a right to relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Courts must construe all factual allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiffs favor in considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, but courts need not accept legal conclusions or conclusory allegations. Id. at 680-82. Rule 12(b)(6) further limits consideration to “allegations set forth in the complaint itself, documents that are attached to the complaint, documents that are central to the complaint and are referred to in it, and information that is properly subject to judicial notice.” Williamson v. Curran, 714 F.3d 432, 436 (7th Cir. 2013). I take judicial notice of relevant regulations and procedures pertaining to the SSA and to the SSN application process, even if such regulations and procedures do not appear in the complaint. Fed.R.Evid. 201(b); see White v. Keely, 814 F.3d 883, 886 n.2 (7th Cir. 2016) (public records may be considered with a Rule 12(b)(6) motion).

         II. Background

         Vondran was born on May 25, 1992, “at home in Illinois” and she has lived in the United States her entire life. [6] ¶¶ 4, 11.[3]Vondran's parents were both born in the United States and they have never left the country. Id. ¶¶ 8-10. Each of her five siblings have SSNs. Id. ¶ 12. When Vondran was seventeen, she tried to obtain a social security number. Id. ¶ 14. Approximately one year later, Social Security Administration employees told Vondran's mother that they believed she kidnapped Vondran and brought her over the border from Mexico[4] Id. ¶ 15. “[Vondran]'s family was homeless and was scared to return to the Social Security Administration office because of fear that their children would be taken into custody of the Illinois Department of Human Services.” Id. ¶ 17. Thereafter, Vondran made several other attempts to obtain an SSN. Id. ¶ 18. In support of her most recent SSN application, Vondran provided the following evidence of her U.S. Citizenship: (1) a U.S.

         Department of State Birth Affidavit by her brother, Joshua Vondran, id. ¶ 28; (2) a Certificate of Dedication, id. ¶ 29; (3) a graduation announcement, id. ¶ 30; (4) a list of kindergarten graduates, id.; (5) a graduation certificate, id.; (6) a State of Illinois Delayed Record of Birth, id. ¶ 32; and (7) affidavits from her father, brother, sister, and two friends, id. ¶¶ 33-37. Yet again, the SSA denied Vondran's application for an SSN. Id. ¶ 38.

         Vondran filed a request for reconsideration, but the SSA denied it. Id. ¶¶ 39- 40. Next, Vondran requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge, which the SSA did not grant. Id. ¶¶ 41-43. Vondran still does not have an SSN; because of this, she cannot drive, gain employment, obtain medical insurance, or attend college. Id. ¶¶ 44-47.

         III. Analysis

         A. Jurisdiction

         Mandamus jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1361, is proper for claims under the Social Security Act that are procedural in nature. Burnett v. Bowen, 830 F.2d 731, 738 (7th Cir. 1987). Vondran says that the SSA has a “no process” policy for handling requests, like hers, to review a decision to deny an application for an SSN, to have a hearing, and other similar subsequent procedures. Her claim, therefore, is procedural in nature and jurisdiction over her writ of mandamus is proper.

         Although 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) generally limits judicial review to certain types of decisions by the Commissioner of Social Security, courts may nevertheless review constitutional challenges to agency action, so long as Congress has not manifested an intent to foreclose jurisdiction by “clear and convincing” evidence. Califano v. Sanders, 430 U.S. 99, 109 (1977); see also Bhd. of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen Gen. Comm. of Adjustment, Cent. Region v. Union Pac. R. Co., 522 F.3d 746, 751 (7th Cir. 2008) aff'd, 558 U.S. 67 (2009). Federal courts have jurisdiction over Vondran's constitutional claim.[5]

         B. Writ of Mandamus

         Mandamus is a drastic remedy that should only be invoked in “extraordinary situations.” Allied Chem. Corp. v. Daiflon, Inc., 449 U.S. 33, 34 (1980). A writ of mandamus should issue only if Vondran can show (1) a clear right to the relief sought, (2) defendant had a duty to do the act in question, and ...

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