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Bilotta v. Berryhill

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

September 12, 2019

ANTONIO BILOTTA, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER

          Frank D. Whitney, Chief United States District Judge.

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 12) and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 16). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636 (b)(1)(B), these motions were referred to the Magistrate Judge David Cayer for issuance of a Memorandum and Recommendation (“M & R”) for disposition (Doc. No. 19). The M & R respectfully recommends Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment be denied, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment be granted, and the Commissioner's decision be affirmed. After Plaintiff filed objections to the M & R (Doc. No. 20) and Defendant rested on the memorandum previously filed with this Court (Doc. Nos. 17, 21), this matter is now ripe for review.

         For the reasons set forth, the Court OVERRULES Plaintiff's objections (Doc. No. 20), ACCEPTS and ADOPTS the M & R (Doc. No. 19), DENIES Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 12), GRANTS Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 16), and AFFIRMS the Commissioner's decision.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff does not lodge any specific objections to the procedural history and factual background or standard of review. Having conducted a careful review of these portions of the M & R, the Court finds the M & R's treatment thereof is correct and supported by the record. See Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 72 advisory committee note) (holding when there is no objection, “a district court need not conduct a de novo review, but instead must ‘only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation”). Thus, the portions of the M & R titled “Procedural History” and “Standard of Review” are adopted and incorporated by reference as if fully set forth herein. (Doc. No. 19, p. 1-4). Because the procedural posture before this Court is different than that of the magistrate judge, the Court provides a short review of the applicable legal authority for reviewing an M & R.

         II. Standard of Review

         A. Review of the Commissioner's Determination

         Pursuant to the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and § 1383(c)(3), this Court's review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security is limited to: (1) whether substantial evidence supports the Commissioner's decision, Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 390, 401 (1971), and (2) whether the Commissioner applied the correct legal standards, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Hays v. Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990); Rhyne v. Astrue, 3:09-cv-412- FDW-DSC, 2011 WL 1239800, at *2 (W.D. N.C. Mar. 30, 2011). Furthermore, “it is not within the province of a reviewing court to determine the weight of evidence, nor is it the court's function to substitute its judgment for that of the Secretary if his decision is supported by substantial evidence.” Hays, 907 F.2d at 1456; see also Rhyne, 2011 WL 1239800 at *2.

         Substantial evidence is “more than a scintilla and [it] must do more than create a suspicion of the existence of a fact to be established. It means such relevant evidence that a reasonable mind would accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Smith v. Heckler, 782 F.2d 1176, 1179 (4th Cir.1986) (alteration in original) (quoting Richardson, 402 U.S. at 401). Thus, if this Court finds the Commissioner applied the correct legal standards and his decision is supported by substantial evidence, the Commissioner's determination may not be capriciously overturned.

         B. Review of the Memorandum and Recommendation

         In this case, the M & R recommended: (1) Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment be denied; (2) Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment be granted; and (3) the Commissioner's determination be affirmed. (Doc. No. 19, p. 1). The M & R found there was “substantial evidence to support the ALJ's evaluation of the record and his ultimate determination that Plaintiff was not disabled.” Id. at 7-9.

         The Federal Magistrate Act states a district court “shall 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); see also Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 200 (4th Cir. 1983). De novo review is not required, however, “when a party makes 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); see also Diamond, 416 F.3d at 315. Objections to an M & R must specifically identify portions of the report and the basis for those objections. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). Furthermore, “a general objection to a magistrate judge's findings is not sufficient-‘a party must object to the [magistrate's] finding or recommendation . . . with sufficient specificity so as reasonably to alert the district court of the true ground for the objection.'” United States v. Benton, 523 F.3d 424, 428 (4th Cir. 2008) (alteration in original) (quoting United States v. Midgette, 478 F.3d 616, 622 (4th Cir. 2007)). General objections include those that merely restate or reformulate arguments a party has made previously to a magistrate judge. See Jackson v. Astrue, No. 1:09-cv-467, 2011 WL 1883026 (W.D. N.C. May 17, 2011); Aldrich v. Bock, 327 F.Supp.2d 743, 747 (E.D. Mich. 2004) (“A general objection, or one that merely restates the arguments previously presented is not sufficient to alert the court to alleged errors on the part of the magistrate judge. An ‘objection' that does nothing more than state a disagreement with a magistrate's suggested resolution, or simply summarizes what has been presented before, is not an ‘objection' as that term is used in this context.”). “Examining anew arguments already assessed in the [M & R] would waste judicial resources; parties must explain why the [M & R] is erroneous, rather than simply rehashing their prior filings and stating the report's assessment was wrong.” Hendrix v. Colvin, No. 5:12-cv- 01353, 2013 WL 2407126, at *4 (D.S.C. June 3, 2013). “General or conclusive objections result not only in the loss of de novo review by the district court, but also in the waiver of appellate review.” Brock v. Colvin, No. 2:13-cv-0039-FDW-DSC, 2014 WL 5328651, at *3 (W.D. N.C. Oct. 20, 2014) (quoting Thompson v. Covenant Transp., Inc., No. 1:07-cv-275, 2008 WL 4372789, at *6 (W.D. N.C. Sept. 22, 2008)).

         III. Analysis

         Plaintiff objects to the M & R on three grounds: (1) the ALJ erred in not finding Bilotta is illiterate; (2) the ALJ cannot rely on vocational expert (“VE”) testimony in conflict with the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (“DOT”) without first obtaining an explanation; and (3) the Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”) ...


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