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Hicks v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Statesville Division

March 27, 2014

SEAN M. HICKS, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.



THIS MATTER is before the Court on the Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. 11]; the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. 15]; the Magistrate Judge's Memorandum and Recommendation regarding the disposition of those motions [Doc. 17]; and the Plaintiff's Objections to the Memorandum and Recommendation [Doc. 22].


The Plaintiff Sean M. Hicks protectively filed applications for a period of disability, Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB"), and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") payments on December 23, 2009, claiming that he became disabled on December 15, 2004, due to the following impairments: diabetes; diabetic neuropathy in the hands, legs, and feet; depression; hypertension; and chronic knee and foot pain. [Administrative Transcript ("Tr.") at 136-41, 164, 168]. After his applications were denied both initially and upon reconsideration, the Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing. [Tr. 82-85, 91-97, 91-100]. Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Wendell M. Sims held a hearing on April 6, 2011, at which the Plaintiff, who was represented by counsel, and a vocational expert appeared and testified. [Tr. 30-50]. The ALJ issued his decision on May 13, 2011, finding that the Plaintiff was not disabled. [Tr. 19]. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, thus rendering the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. [Tr. 1-3]. Having exhausted his administrative remedies, the Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, commenced the present action seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

At the direction of the Court, the Plaintiff and the Defendant filed their respective motions for summary judgment. [Docs. 11, 15]. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and a specific Order of referral of the District Court, the Honorable David C. Keesler, United States Magistrate Judge, was designated to consider these pending motions and to submit to this Court a recommendation for their disposition.

On October 22, 2012, the Magistrate Judge filed a Memorandum and Recommendation in this case recommending that the Commissioner's decision be affirmed. [Doc. 17]. The parties were advised that any objections to the Magistrate Judge's Memorandum and Recommendation were to be filed in writing within fourteen (14) days of service. [Id.].

On November 8, 2012, counsel filed a Notice of Appearance on behalf of the Plaintiff. [Doc. 18]. That same day, Plaintiff's counsel filed a motion, seeking "additional time to move for the dismissal of motions previously filed, " including those upon which the Magistrate Judge already had issued his Memorandum and Recommendation. [Doc. 19]. Alternatively, Plaintiff's counsel requested an enlargement of time within which to file objections to the Memorandum and Recommendation. [Id.]. On November 13, 2012, the Court entered an Order denying Plaintiff's request for time to seek dismissal of the previously filed motions, but granted Plaintiff's request for an extension of time within which to file objections. [Doc. 20]. The Plaintiff timely filed his Objections on November 30, 2012. [Doc. 22]. The Defendant filed a response to those Objections on December 17, 2012. [Doc. 23].

On June 14, 2013, this matter was reassigned to the undersigned. Having been fully briefed, this matter is now ripe for disposition.


The Federal Magistrate Act requires a district court to "make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specific proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). In order "to preserve for appeal an issue in a magistrate judge's report, a party must object to the finding or recommendation on that issue with sufficient specificity so as reasonably to alert the district court of the true ground for the objection." United States v. Midgette , 478 F.3d 616, 622 (4th Cir. 2007). The Court is not required to review, under a de novo or any other standard, the factual or legal conclusions of the magistrate judge to which no objections have been raised. Thomas v. Arn , 474 U.S. 140, 150 (1985). Additionally, the Court need not conduct a de novo review where 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." Orpiano v. Johnson , 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982).


As noted by the Magistrate Judge in his Memorandum and Recommendation, the Plaintiff's pro se motion for summary judgment "presents a dozen vague and/or conclusory statements, none of which appear to be related to the relevant time period." [Doc. 17 at 6]. Further, the Plaintiff failed to file a supporting memorandum of law in contravention of the Court's prior Order [Doc. 8] and the Local Rules. [Doc. 17 at 6]. Despite these deficiencies, the Magistrate Judge proceeded to address the Plaintiff's arguments, to the extent that such arguments related to the ALJ's decision. Ultimately, the Magistrate Judge concluded that "the ALJ correctly assessed Plaintiff's [residual functional capacity], properly evaluated Plaintiff's subjective statements, and relied on substantial evidence to determine that Plaintiff was not disabled between December 15, 2004 and/or November 16, 2009, and December 31, 2009." [Id. at 8].

Although the Plaintiff characterizes his latest filing as objections to the Magistrate Judge's Memorandum and Recommendation, a review of the pleading demonstrates that the Plaintiff is in fact asking the Court to disregard the Memorandum and Recommendation in its entirety and allow him to argue his motion ...

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