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Marilyn R. v. Saul

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Rock Island Division

September 13, 2019

MARILYN R. Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW SAUL, [1] Defendant.

          ORDER

          SARA DARROW, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Marilyn R. filed an application for disability insurance benefits. The Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) (“the Commissioner”) denied her application. Marilyn seeks judicial review of this decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Compl., ECF No. 1. Before the Court are Marilyn's Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 10, the Commissioner's Motion for Summary Affirmance, ECF No. 14, and Magistrate Judge Jonathan Hawley's Report and Recommendation (“R&R”), ECF No. 17, which recommends denying Marilyn's motion and granting the Commissioner's motion. For the reasons that follow, the R&R is ADOPTED. Marilyn's Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED and the Commissioner's Motion for Summary Affirmance is GRANTED.

         I. Report and Recommendation

         When a magistrate judge considers a pretrial matter dispositive of a party's claim or defense, he must enter a recommended disposition. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(1). Parties may object within fourteen days of being served with a copy of the recommended disposition. Id. 72(b)(2).

         The district judge considers de novo the portions of the recommended disposition that were properly objected to, and may accept, reject, or modify the recommended disposition, or return it to the magistrate judge for further proceedings. Id. 72(b)(3). If no objection, or only partial objection, is made, the district judge reviews the unobjected portions of the recommendation for clear error. Johnson v. Zema Sys. Corp., 170 F.3d 734, 739 (7th Cir. 1999).

         Here, Marilyn filed objections to the R&R, but they were filed more than fourteen days after the R&R was entered. See Objections, ECF No. 18. The deadline for filing objections to a magistrate judge's recommended disposition is not jurisdictional, however, so the Court is not barred from considering Marilyn's objections. See Kruger v. Apfel, 214 F.3d 784, 786-87 (7th Cir. 2000). Although she provides no explanation for not meeting the deadline, the objections were only two days late and no prejudice would result from the Court's consideration of the late objections. See Id. at 787 (noting that courts should consider whether the late objections caused any prejudice to the opposing party and whether the objections were filed “egregiously late” (quoting Hunger v. Leininger, 15 F.3d 664, 668 (7th Cir. 1994))). Therefore, the Court will consider Marilyn's objections.

         The R&R sets forth the relevant procedural background, including an overview of the administrative law judge's (“ALJ”) decision, so the Court will not repeat that discussion here. See R&R 1-9. It also sets forth the three arguments Marilyn makes in her summary judgment motion:

1) as a matter of law, the agency denial which is the final agency action, the ALJ's unfavorable decision, is not valid and must be vacated because the ALJ was not properly appointed and therefore lacked legal authority to decide the case; 2) in determining Marilyn's RFC, the Defendant's ALJ did not follow correct legal standards evaluating expert medical opinion evidence, and as a result, her decision is not supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole, and is actually inconsistent with the record evidence; and 3) the Defendant's ALJ failed to credit Marilyn's statements, including sworn statements, and did not explain good reasons.

Id. at 9. Judge Hawley recommends rejecting all three arguments and affirming the ALJ's decision. Id. at 23.

         Marilyn has three objections to the R&R. First, she objects to Judge Hawley's finding that she forfeited her challenge to the ALJ's appointment. Objections 1-2.

         Second, she objects to Judge Hawley's conclusion that the ALJ did not reversibly err in considering the medical opinion evidence. Id. at 2-3. And third, she objects to Judge Hawley's conclusion that the ALJ did not reversibly err in discounting her statements about her limitations. Id. at 3-4. The Court considers these issues de novo. The Court has reviewed the remainder of the R&R for clear error and found none.

         II. Analysis

         The court reviews a decision denying benefits to determine only whether the ALJ applied the correct legal standard and whether substantial evidence supports the ALJ's decision. Barnett v. Barnhart, 381 F.3d 664, 668 (7th Cir. 2004). Substantial evidence means “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” McKinzey v. Astrue, 641 F.3d 884, 889 (7th Cir. 2011) (quotation marks omitted). On review, the court cannot reweigh the evidence, decide questions of credibility, or substitute its own judgment, but must “nonetheless conduct a critical review of the evidence.” Id. The ALJ does not have “to provide a complete and written evaluation of every piece of testimony and evidence, but must build a logical bridge from the evidence to his conclusion.” Minnick v. Colvin, 775 F.3d 929, 935 (7th Cir. 2015) (quotation marks omitted). The court must “be able to trace the path of the ALJ's reasoning from evidence to conclusion.” Aranda v. Berryhill, 312 F.Supp.3d 685, 689 (N.D. Ill. 2018). If the ALJ's decision lacks adequate discussion of the issues, the court must remand for further proceedings. Villano v. Astrue, 556 F.3d 558, 562 (7th Cir. 2009). If the ALJ's errors are harmless, however, the court will not remand. See, e.g., McKinzey, 641 F.3d at 892 (“[A]dministrative error may be harmless: we will not remand a case to the ALJ for further specification where we are convinced that the ALJ will reach the same result.”); Musgrove v. Berryhill, No. 17 CV 50117, 2018 WL 1184734, at *5 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 7, 2018) (“The harmless error analysis looks to evidence in the record to see if the court can predict with great confidence what the result will be on remand.”).

         a. ...


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