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Michael T. v. Saul

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

July 23, 2019

MICHAEL T., [1] Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, [2] Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JEFFREY I. CUMMINGS MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Claimant brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to review the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying his applications for disability benefits. The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of a United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). (Dkt. 5.) This Court has jurisdiction to hear this matter pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). On April 30, 2019, the Commissioner filed a motion to dismiss (Dkt. 6.) The Court construes the Commissioner's motion to dismiss as a motion for summary judgment as required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(d) because the Commissioner has attached the declaration of Christianne Voegele (the Social Security Administration's Office of Appellate Operation's Chief of Court Case Preparation and Review Branch I) with attached exhibits (Dkt. 6-1), in support of its motion. For the reasons stated below, the Commissioner's motion is granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Claimant filed applications for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income on January 30, 2015. His applications were denied initially and on reconsideration. Claimant then requested a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), which was held on October 2, 2017. On January 24, 2018, the ALJ issued a written opinion denying Claimant's applications for benefits. (“Declaration of Christianne Voegele, Chief of Court Case Preparation and Review Branch I, Office of Appellate Operations, Social Security Administration, ” hereinafter “Voegele Decl.” (Dkt. 6-1 at Ex. 1.).)[3] Claimant filed a timely request for review with the Appeals Council.

         On December 19, 2018, the Appeals Council denied Claimant's request, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (Dkt. 6-1 at 24-29.) On that same date, the Appeals Council sent the notice of its decision by mail to Claimant, with a copy to his attorney. (Dkt. 6-1 at 24-29.) The notice provides:

Time to File a Civil Action
• You have 60 days to file a civil action (ask for court review).
• The 60 days start the day after you receive this letter. We assume you received this letter 5 days after the date on it unless you show us that you did not receive it within the 5-day period.
• If you cannot file for court review within 60 days, you may ask the Appeals Council to extend your time to file. You must have a good reason for waiting more than 60 days to ask for court review. You must make the request in writing and give your reason(s) in the request.

(Dkt. 6-1 at 25.) Claimant filed his complaint for judicial review on March 1, 2019. (Dkt. 1.)

         The Commissioner filed his motion to dismiss with Ms. Voegele's supporting declaration on April 30, 2019, arguing that Claimant filed the complaint after the 60-day deadline expired. (Dkt. 6.) Claimant filed his response to the Commissioner's motion on June 11, 2019. (Dkt. 10.) On June 26, 2019, the Court entered a minute order informing the parties that it would construe the motion as one for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d) and provided Claimant with until July 10, 2019 to submit any evidentiary material he desired to present to oppose the Commissioner's motion. (Dkt. 12.) Claimant did not submit any evidentiary material in opposition to the Commissioner's motion and this matter is now ripe for ruling.

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Standard

         Under the Social Security Act, a party seeking judicial review of a final unfavorable decision of the Commissioner may do so in the way of “a civil action commenced within sixty days after the mailing to him of notice of such decision or within such further time as the Commissioner of Social Security may allow.” 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); see also 20 C.F.R. § 422.210 (“Any civil action [for judicial review] must be instituted within 60 days after the Appeals Council's notice of denial of request for review…is received by the individual, institution, or agency, except that this time may be extended by the Appeals Council upon a showing of good cause.”). The sixty-day time limit is not jurisdictional, but constitutes a period of limitations that must be strictly construed. Pantaleo v. Sebelius, No. 10 C 50091, 2011 WL 2292962, at *1 (N.D.Ill. June 9, 2011) (citing Bowen v. New York City, 476 U.S. 467, 479 (1986)). The ...


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