United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
JACQUELINE S. THACKER, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
Michael F. Urbanski Chief United States District Judge
social security disability appeal was referred to the
Honorable Robert S. Ballou, United States Magistrate Judge,
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), for proposed
findings of fact and a recommended disposition. The
magistrate judge filed a report and recommendation on January
24, 2018, recommending that plaintiffs motion for summary
judgment be denied, the Commissioner's motion for summary
judgment be granted and the Commissioner's final decision
be affirmed. Plaintiff Jacqueline S. Thacker has filed
objections to the report, the Commissioner has responded, and
this matter is now ripe for the court's consideration.
raised four primary arguments on summary judgment: (1) the
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) erred in failing to give
greater weight to the opinions of Dr. Nottingham and evaluate
all of his opinions; (2) the ALJ's credibility
findings are not supported by substantial evidence; (3) the
ALJ erred in finding Thacker's major depressive disorder
and generalized anxiety disorder not to be severe
impairments; and (4) the ALJ failed to properly consider her
obesity under Social Security Ruling 02-lp. The magistrate
judge, in his report, rejected these arguments and determined
that the ALJ's opinion is supported by substantial
evidence. In her objections, Thacker raises the same four
arguments, but reorganizes mem and couches them in terms of
errors made by the magistrate judge, rather than the ALJ.
purpose of magistrate judge review is to conserve judicial
resources. United States v. Midgette. 478
F.3d 616, 621 (4th Cir. 2007). To that end, the objection
requirement set forth in Rule 72(b) of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure is designed to "train the attention of
both the district court and the court of appeals upon only
those issues mat remain in dispute after the magistrate judge
has made findings and recommendations." Id.
(citing Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 147-48 (1985)).
An objecting party must do so "with sufficient
specificity so as reasonably to alert the district court of
the true ground for the objection." Id. at 622.
To conclude otherwise would defeat the purpose of requiring
objections. We would be permitting a party to appeal any
issue that was before the magistrate judge, regardless of the
nature and scope of objections made to the magistrate
judge's report. Either the district court would then have
to review every issue in the magistrate judge's proposed
findings and recommendations or courts of appeals would be
required to review issues that the district court never
considered. In either case, judicial resources would be
wasted and the district court's effectiveness based on
help from magistrate judges would be undermined.
district court must determine de novo any portion of
the magistrate judge's report and recommendation to which
a proper objection has been made. "The district court
may accept, reject, or modify' the recommended
disposition; receive further evidence; or return die matter
to the magistrate judge with instructions." Fed.R.Civ.P.
72(b)(3); accord 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)., If,
however, a party "'makes general or conclusory
objections that do not direct the court to a specific error
in the magistrate judge's proposed findings and
recommendations, '" de novo review is not
required. Diprospero v. Colvin. No.
5:13-cv-00088-FDW-DSC, 2014 WL 1669806, at *1 (W.D. N.C. Apr.
28, 2014) (quoting Howard Yellow Cabs. Inc. v. United
States. 987 F.Supp. 469, 474 (W.D. N.C. 1997) (quoting
Qrpiano v. Johnson. 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir.
1982))). "The court will not consider those objections
by the plaintiff that are merely conclusory or attempt to
object to the entirety of the Report, without focusing the
court's attention on specific errors therein."
Camper v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.T No.
4:08cv69, 2009 WL 9044111, at *2 (E.D. Va. May 6, 2009),
affd, 373 Fed.Appx. 346 (4th Cir.), cert-denied. 131
S.Ct. 610 (2010): see Midgette. 478 F.3d at 621
("Section 636(b)(1) does not countenance a form of
generalized objection to cover all issues addressed by the
magistrate judge; it contemplates that a party's
objection to a magistrate judge's report be specific and
particularized, as the statute directs the district court to
review only 'i those portions of the
report or specified proposed findings or
recommendations to which objection is
made.'"). Such general objections "have
the same effect as a failure to object, or as a waiver of
such objection." Moon v. BWX Technologies. 742
F.Supp.2d 827, 829 (W.D. Va. 2010), affd, 498 Fed.Appx. 268
(4th Cir. 2012); see also Thomas v. Am. 474 U.S.
140, 154 (1985) ("PIhe statute does not require the
judge to review an issue de novo if no objections are
arguments raised before the magistrate judge does not comply
with the requirement set forth in the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure to file specific objections. Indeed, objections
that simply reiterate arguments raised before the magistrate
judge are considered to be general objections to the entirety
of the report and recommendation. See Veney v.
Astrue. 539 F.Supp.2d 841, 844-45 (W.D. Va. 2008). As
the court noted in Veney:
Allowing a litigant to obtain de novo review of her entire
case by merely reformatting an earlier brief as an objection
"mak[es] the initial reference to the magistrate
useless. The functions of the district court are effectively
duplicated as both the magistrate and the district court
perform identical tasks. This duplication of time and effort
wastes judicial resources rather than saving them, and runs
contrary to the purposes of the Magistrates Act."
Howard [v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs.].
932 F.2d [505, ] ¶ 509 [(6th Cir. 1991)].
539 F.Supp.2d at 846. A plaintiff who reiterates her
previously-raised arguments will not be given "the
second bite at the apple she seeks;" instead, her
re-filed brief will be treated as a general objection, which
has the same effect as would a failure to object.
objections are, in large part, a reiteration of the arguments
she raised on summary judgment and are not the kind of
specific objections required by Rule 72(b). However, the
court has reviewed de novo those portions of the
magistrate judge's report to which Thacker properly
objected and finds the ALJ's decision is supported by
not the province of a federal court to make administrative
disability decisions. Rather, judicial review of disability
cases is limited to determining whether substantial evidence
supports the Commissioner's conclusion that the plaintiff
failed to meet her burden of proving disability. See Hays
v. Sullivan. 907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990);
see also Laws v. Celebrezze. 368 F.2d 640, 642 (4th
Cir. 1966). In so doing, the court may neither undertake a de
novo review of the Commissioner's decision nor re-weigh
the evidence of record. Hunter v. Sullivan, 993 F.2d
31, 34 (4th Cir. 1992). Evidence is substantial when,
considering the record as a whole, it might be deemed
adequate to support a conclusion by a reasonable mind,
Richardson v. Perales. 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971), or
when it would be sufficient to refuse a directed verdict in a
jury trial. Smith v. Chater, 99 F.3d 635, 638 (4th
Cir. 1996). Substantial evidence is not a "large or
considerable amount of evidence, " Pierce v.
Underwood. 487 U.S. 552, 565 (1988), but ...