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Gilchrist v. Saul

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Norfolk Division

August 28, 2019

FREDDIE GILCHRIST, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW SAUL, [1] Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          FINAL ORDER

          ROBERT G. DOUMAR SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court on the Report and Recommendation of the United States Magistrate Judge with respect to the parties' cross motions for summary judgment in the instant case. See ECF No. 19. For the reasons below, the Court hereby ADOPTS such Report and Recommendation, ECF No. 19; DENIES the plaintiffs motion for summary judgment, ECF No. 12; GRANTS the Commissioner's motion for summary judgment, ECF No. 16; and AFFIRMS the final decision of the Commissioner.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Freddie Gilchrist ("Plaintiff), proceeding pro se, brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1382(c)(3), seeking judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner"), which denied Plaintiffs claims for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") under Title II of the Social Security Act and for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. ECF No. 3.

         On October 2, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 12. On November 2, 2019, the Commissioner filed a Motion for Summary Judgment[2] and supporting memorandum, which also includes the Commissioner's response in opposition to Plaintiffs Motion. ECF Nos. 16, 17. On November 9, 2018, Plaintiff filed his response in opposition to the Commissioner's Motion. ECF No. 18. The parties' motions were then referred to United States Magistrate Judge Robert J. Krask pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and (C) and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b) for a report and recommendation. See ECF No. 10.

         On July 10, 2019, Judge Krask filed his Report and Recommendation, which recommends that that the Court (1) deny Plaintiffs motion for summary judgment; (2) grant the Commissioner's motion for summary judgment; and (3) affirm the final decision of the Commissioner. ECF No. 19 at 27. By receiving a copy of this Report and Recommendation, each party was advised of the right to file written objections to specific findings or recommendations made by Judge Krask in the report and was further advised that the district court would conduct a de novo review of any portions of such report to which timely objection is made. Id. at 28. On July 19, 2019, Plaintiff filed a purported objection to the Report and Recommendation, ECF No. 20, and the Commissioner filed a brief response thereto, ECF No. 21. Plaintiffs purported objection is now before the Court.

         II . STANDARD OF REVIEW

         After the magistrate judge's report and recommendation is filed with the Court, the district judge "shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which [proper] objection is made." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); see Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3). Upon review, the district judge "may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

         However, if a party makes only "general and conclusory objections that do not direct the court to a specific error in the magistrate's proposed findings and recommendations," de novo review is unnecessary. Allen v. Coll. of William & Mary, 245 F.Supp.2d 777, 788 (E.D. Va. 2003) (quoting Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982) (internal citations omitted)). Moreover, "[a] mere restatement of the arguments raised in the summary judgment filings does not constitute an objection for the purposes of district court review." Nichols v. Colvin, 100 F.Supp.3d 487, 497 (E.D. Va. 2015); see also Hartfield v. Colvin, No. 2:16-CV-431, 2017 WL 4269969, at *7 (E.D. Va. Sep. 26, 2017) ("The Court may reject perfunctory or rehashed objections . . . that amount to 'a second opportunity to present the arguments already considered by the Magistrate Judge.") (internal citation omitted). If no proper objection is made, the district court need only review the report and recommendation for clear error. See Diamond v. Colonial Life & Ace. Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff maintains that he became disabled in May 2014 due to injuries in his back, knees, and hips, and that he has been unable to work since that time. His summary judgment motion therefore seeks reversal of the June 21, 2017 decision of the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") denying him disability benefits.[3] However, Judge Krask found in his Report and Recommendation that substantial evidence supports the ALJ's finding that Plaintiff is not disabled because (1) substantial evidence shows that that Plaintiff had a residual functional capacity for light work, and (2) substantial evidence shows that Plaintiff was capable of returning to his past relevant work as a customer service representative and a general inspector, both of which are classified as a light work. ECF No. 19. Judge Krask therefore recommends that the Commissioner's decision denying Plaintiff disability benefits be affirmed. Id.

         In his purported objection to the Report and Recommendation, Plaintiff does not take issue with any specific findings or recommendations contained therein. Rather, Plaintiff claims that he "object[s] to the decision made by the Commissioner" and then restates the arguments he raised on summary judgment that (1) the ALJ's decision is not supported by substantial evidence, (2) that Plaintiff has been disabled since May 2014, and (3) that Plaintiff has been unable to work since that time. ECF No. 20. Plaintiff further claims that the Commissioner failed to "look[] at the full picture of [his] medical conditions, [which] are not going away and [are] getting worse[]." Id.

         As set forth above, Plaintiffs rehashing of arguments that he raised on summary judgment does qualify as an objection for purposes of this Court's review. Nichols, 100 F.Supp.3d at 497. Nor has Plaintiff identified any specific error in the Report and Recommendation to trigger such review. Therefore, the Court need only review the Report and Recommendation for clear error. Allen, 245 F.Supp.2d at 788. After reviewing same, along with the files and record of this case, the Court FINDS no clear error in the Report and Recommendation.

         IV. ...


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