United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division
NEVONDAY D. SIMMONS Plaintiff,
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security Defendant.
KENNETH D. BELL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
MATTER comes before the Court on the parties'
cross Motions for Summary Judgment, (Doc. Nos. 13, 14); the
Magistrate Judge's Memorandum and Recommendation
("M&R"), recommending that this Court uphold
the decision of the Commissioner, (Doc. No. 18);
Plaintiff's Objection to the M&R, (Doc. No. 21);
Defendant's Response to Plaintiff's Objection, (Doc.
No. 22); and the parties' briefs and exhibits in support.
The motions are ripe for adjudication.
party has objected to the Magistrate Judge's statement of
the factual and procedural background of this case.
Therefore, the Court adopts the facts as set forth in the
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Review of the Magistrate Judge's M&R
district court may assign dispositive pretrial matters to a
magistrate judge for "proposed findings of fact and
recommendations." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) and (B).
The Federal Magistrate Act provides that "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." Id. at §
636(b)(1)(C); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3); Camby v. Davis,
718 F.2d 198, 200 (4th Cir. 1983). However, "when
objections to strictly legal issues are raised and no factual
issues are challenged, de novo review of the record may be
dispensed with." Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d
44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982). De novo review is also not required
"when a party makes general or conclusory objections
that do not direct the court to a specific error in the
magistrate judge's proposed findings and
Review of a Final ALJ Decision under the Social Security
Court must decide whether substantial evidence supports the
final decision of the Commissioner and whether the
Commissioner fulfilled his lawful duty in his determination
that Plaintiff was not disabled under the Social Security Act
(SSA). See 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and
SSA, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and § 1383(c)(3), limits
this Court's review of a final decision of the
Commissioner 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. Hays v.
Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990); see
also Hunter v. Sullivan, 993 F.2d 31, 34 (4th Cir. 1992)
(per curiam). The district court does not review a final
decision of the Commissioner de novo. Smith v.
Schweiker, 795 F.2d 343, 345 (4th Cir. 1986); King
v. Califano, 599 F.2d 597, 599 (4th Cir. 1979);
Blalock v. Richardson, 483 F.2d 773, 775 (4th Cir.
1972). As the SSA provides, "[t]he findings of the
[Commissioner] as to any fact, if supported by substantial
evidence, shall be conclusive." 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
In Smith v. Heckler, the Fourth Circuit noted that
"substantial evidence" has been defined as being
"more than a scintilla and [do]ing more than creat[ing]
a suspicion of the existence of a fact to be established. It
means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion." 782 F.2d
1176, 1179 (4th Cir. 1986) (quoting Perales, 402
U.S. at 401); see also Seacrist v.Weinberger, 538
F.2d 1054, 1056-57 (4th Cir. 1976) ("We note that it is
the responsibility of the [Commissioner] and not the courts
to reconcile inconsistencies in the medical evidence….
Fourth Circuit has long emphasized that it is not for a
reviewing court to weigh the evidence again, nor to
substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner,
assuming the Commissioner's final decision is supported
by substantial evidence. Hays, 907 F.2d at 1456;
see also Smith v. Schweiker, 795 F.2d at 345;
Blalock, 483 F.2d at 775. Indeed, this is true even
if the reviewing court disagrees with the outcome-so long as
there is "substantial evidence" in the record to
support the final decision below. Lester v.
Schweiker, 683 F.2d 838, 841 (4th Cir. 1982).
makes an objection to the M&R that the Magistrate Judge
ignores the ALJ's pattern of “cherry-picking”
the evidence to support his findings of moderate limitations
at Step 3. After conducting a de novo review of the M&R,
Plaintiff's objection thereto, and the record, the Court
agrees with the M&R's analysis.
2 of Listing 12.05B is met if an individual has extreme
limitation in one or a marked limitation in two of the
following functional domains (a) understanding, remembering,
or applying information; (b) interacting with others; (c)
concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace; and (d)
adapting or managing oneself. 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. Papp.
1 § 12.05B. Under the regulations, a limitation is
"moderate" if the individual's ability to
function independently, appropriately, effectively and on a
sustained basis in that domain is "fair." 20 C.F.R.
pt. 404, subpt. Papp. 1 § 12.00F.2.c. A limitation is
"marked" if such functioning is "seriously
limited," id. at§ 12.00F.2.d, and
"extreme" if the individual cannot function in the
domain at all, id. at§ 12.00F.2.e. The ALJ
found that Plaintiff had a moderate limitation in each of
those domains and therefore did not meet the Listing.