United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Cedar Rapids Division
RANDALL E. KNIGHT, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
ORDER ON REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
Leonard T. Strand, Chief Judge
case is before me on a Report & Recommendation (R&R)
by the Honorable Kelly K.E. Mahoney, United States Magistrate
Judge. Doc. No. 20. Judge Mahoney recommends that I affirm
the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (the
Commissioner) denying plaintiff Randall Knight's
application for supplemental security income (SSI) benefits
under Title XVI of the Social Security Act,
42U.S.C.§§1381, et seq. (Act). Neither party has
objected to the R&R. The deadline for such objections has
Judicial Review of the Commissioner's Decision
Commissioner's decision must be affirmed "if it is
supported by substantial evidence on the record as a
whole." Pelkey v. Barnhart, 433 F.3d 575, 577
(8th Cir. 2006); see 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)
("The findings of the Commissioner of Social Security as
to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be
conclusive . . . ."). "Substantial evidence is less
than a preponderance, but enough that a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Lewis
v. Barnhart, 353 F.3d 642, 645 (8th Cir. 2003). The
Eighth Circuit explains the standard as "something less
than the weight of the evidence and [that] allows for the
possibility of drawing two inconsistent conclusions, thus it
embodies a zone of choice within which the [Commissioner] may
decide to grant or deny benefits without being subject to
reversal on appeal." Gilbert son v. Shalala, 30
F.3d 934, 939 (8th Cir. 1994).
determine whether the Commissioner's decision meets this
standard, the court considers "all of the evidence that
was before the ALJ, but it [does] not re-weigh the
evidence." Wester v. Barnhart, 416 F.3d 886,
889 (8th Cir. 2005). The court considers both evidence which
supports the Commissioner's decision and evidence that
detracts from it. Kluesner v. Astrue, 607 F.3d 533,
536 (8th Cir. 2010). The court "must search the record
for evidence contradicting the [Commissioner's] decision
and give that evidence appropriate weight when determining
whether the overall evidence in support is substantial."
Baldwin v. Barnhart, 349 F.3d 549, 555 (8th Cir.
2003) (citing Cline v. Sullivan, 939 F.2d 560, 564
(8th Cir. 1991)).
evaluate the evidence in an appeal of a denial of benefits,
the court must apply a balancing test to assess any
contradictory evidence. Sobania v. Sec'y of Health
& Human Servs., 879 F.2d 441, 444 (8th Cir. 1989).
The court, however, does not "reweigh the evidence
presented to the ALJ, " Baldwin, 349 F.3d at
555 (citing Bates v. Chater, 54 F.3d 529, 532 (8th
Cir. 1995)), or "review the factual record de
novo." Roe v. Chater, 92 F.3d 672, 675 (8th
Cir. 1996) (citing Naber v. Shalala, 22 F.3d 186,
188 (8th Cir. 1994)). Instead, if, after reviewing the
evidence, the court "find[s] it possible to draw two
inconsistent positions from the evidence and one of those
positions represents the Commissioner's findings, [the
court] must affirm the [Commissioner's] denial of
benefits." Kluesner, 607 F.3d at 536 (quoting
Finch v. Astrue, 547 F.3d 933, 935 (8th Cir. 2008)).
This is true even if the court "might have weighed the
evidence differently." Culbertson, 30 F.3d at
939 (quoting Browning v. Sullivan, 958 F.2d 817, 822
(8th Cir. 1992)). The court may not reverse the
Commissioner's decision "merely because substantial
evidence would have supported an opposite decision."
Baker v. Heckler, 730 F.2d 1147, 1150 (8th Cir.
1984); see also Goffv. Barnhart, 421 F.3d 785, 789
(8th Cir. 2005) ("[A]n administrative decision is not
subject to reversal simply because some evidence may support
the opposite conclusion.").
Review of Report and Recommendation
district judge must review a magistrate judge's R&R
under the following standards:
Within fourteen days after being served with a copy, any
party may serve and file written objections to such proposed
findings and recommendations as provided by rules of court. 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). Thus, when a party objects to any portion of an
R&R, the district judge must undertake a de novo review
of that portion.
portions of an R&R to which no objections have been made
must be reviewed under at least a "clearly
erroneous" standard. See, e.g., Grinder v.
Gammon, 73 F.3d 793, 795 (8th Cir. 1996) (noting that
when no objections are filed "[the district court judge]
would only have to review the findings of the magistrate
judge for clear error").As the Supreme Court has
explained, "[a] finding is 'clearly erroneous'
when although there is evidence to support it, the reviewing
court on the entire evidence is left with the definite and
firm conviction that a mistake has been committed."
Anderson v. City of Bessemer City, 470 U.S.
564, 573 (1985) (quoting United States v. U.S. Gypsum
Co., 333 U.S. 364, 395 (1948)). However, a district
judge may elect to review an R&R under a more-exacting
standard even if no objections are filed:
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