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Whited v. Colvin

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Western Division

April 18, 2014

THOMAS EDWARD WHITED, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

ORDER REGARDING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

MARK W. BENNETT, District Judge.

This case is before me on a Report and Recommendation (R&R) from Judge Leonard Strand, filed on January 9, 2014 (docket no. 15). In the R&R, Judge Strand recommends that I affirm a decision by the Commissioner of Social Security (the Commissioner) denying plaintiff Thomas Whited (Whited) disability benefits under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 401 et seq. Whited timely filed objections to the R&R (docket no. 16). I adopt the recommendations in the R&R and affirm the Commissioner's decision.

In his R&R, Judge Strand concluded that substantial evidence supports the ALJ's decision to deny Whited benefits. I review this conclusion pursuant to the statutory standards found in 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1):

A judge of the court shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made. A judge of the court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge. The judge may also receive further evidence or recommit the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions.

28. U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b) (stating identical requirements); N.D. Ia. L.R. 72, 72.1 (allowing the referral of dispositive matters to a magistrate judge but not articulating any standards to review the magistrate judge's R&R). While examining these statutory standards, the United States Supreme Court explained:

Any party that desires plenary consideration by the Article III judge of any issue need only ask. Moreover, while the statute does not require the judge to review an issue de novo if no objections are filed, it does not preclude further review by the district judge, sua sponte or at the request of a party, under a de novo or any other standard.

Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 154 (1985). Thus, a district court may review de novo any issue in a magistrate judge's R&R at any time. Id. Usually, if a party files an objection to the magistrate judge's R&R, the district court must "make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). In the absence of an objection, the district court is not required "to give any more consideration to the magistrate's report than the court considers appropriate." Thomas, 474 U.S. at 150.

While Whited has filed objections to the R&R, they are incredibly general. In response to Judge Strand's detailed, 24-page R&R, Whited attempts three, conclusory objections:

I. The Report and Recommendation does not give Dr. McKay's opinion adequate weight in reporting that the Claimant would have a problem with heavy lifting and does not adequately address his incontinence.
II. The Report and Recommendation does not give Dr. Upadhay's opinion appropriate weight in considering the Claimant's mental impairments as evidenced by the Psychiatric Questionnaire completed by the doctor and submitted at Ar. 1223-31.
III. That the Report and Recommendation fails to properly apply Polaski factor ( Polaski v. Hecklar, 739 F.2d 1320, 1322 (8th Cir. 1984) in analyzing the case. In fact, the ALJ discredited the Claimant based upon his work history that demonstrated his substantial activity over the past 10 to 15 years. He uses his work history against him. (Report and Recommendation, p. 22)

(Docket no. 16, at 4). In support of these objections, Whited offers one sentence of argument: "Please refer to Argument in Plaintiff's Brief, pp. 14-23 filed July 26, 2013" (docket no. 16, at 4).

Whited's objections fail to comply with Local Rule 72.1, which states that "[a] party who objects to... a magistrate judge's report and recommendation must file specific, written objections to the... report and recommendation... " (emphasis added). Accord Fed.R.Civ.P. 72 (stating that "a party may serve and file specific written objections to the proposed findings and recommendations" (emphasis added)). Whited's objections are anything but specific. In essence, Whited asks that I reverse the Commissioner's decision for the reasons already argued to, and addressed by, Judge Strand. While Whited ostensibly takes issue with three conclusions in the R&R, he raises no specific deficiency in Judge Strand's analysis and offers no argument other than a general reference to 10 pages of his previous brief before Judge Strand. Whited's objections really just reiterate his arguments previously rejected by Judge Strand without offering any new analysis. I am left to guess: Where did Judge Strand err? And what record pages support Whited's objections? Even if I were to extrapolate a more detailed objection based on arguments from Whited's brief, I would simply be duplicating the work Judge Strand has already done, thus defeating the entire purpose of the R&R.

This potential duplication of effort is precisely why Whited's scant objections are akin to making no objection at all. I agree with the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals's ...


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