United States District Court, D. Maryland
STEPHANIE A. GALLAGHER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
March 6, 2018, Plaintiff Kristina Helmlinger, who proceeds
pro se, petitioned this Court to review the denial
of her claims for benefits. [ECF No. 1]. The Social Security
Administration (“SSA”) filed a Motion to Dismiss
for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), on the grounds that Ms.
Helmlinger failed to exhaust her administrative remedies
prior to filing her complaint. [ECF No. 12]. On June 7, 2018,
the Clerk's Office mailed a Rule 12/56 letter to Ms.
Helmlinger to explain the potential consequences of failing
to respond to the SSA's Motion to Dismiss. [ECF No. 13].
Nevertheless, Ms. Helmlinger did not file a response. I find
that no hearing is necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D.
Md. 2016). For the reasons explained below, I will grant the
SSA's Motion to Dismiss.
September 21, 2012, Ms. Helmlinger filed for benefits. [ECF
No. 12-2 at 3 ¶ 3(a)]. Her claims were denied initially
and on reconsideration. Id. At Ms. Helmlinger's
request, the Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) scheduled a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). Id. at
3 ¶ 3(b). On August 24, 2016, an ALJ dismissed Ms.
Helmlinger's request for a hearing because Ms. Helmlinger
failed to appear for the hearing. Id. After Ms.
Helmlinger requested review, the Appeals Council remanded the
case to an ALJ, finding that Ms. Helmlinger's mental
impairments and unrepresented status warranted another
opportunity for a hearing. Id.; see also
[ECF No. 12-2 at 24].
March 30, 2018, an ALJ again dismissed Ms. Helmlinger's
request for hearing, because she again did not appear at the
appointed hearing time. Id. at 3 ¶ 3(c). Prior
to dismissal, on Feburary 26, 2018, the ALJ sent Ms.
Helmlinger a Notice to Show Cause for her failure to appear,
but Ms. Helmlinger did not respond. Id. at 30.
Although she was not participating in the administrative
proceedings during this time, as noted above, Ms. Helmlinger
filed the instant action in this Court on March 6, 2018. [ECF
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) governs motions to dismiss
for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(1). While the plaintiff bears the burden of proving
that a court has jurisdiction over the claim or controversy
at issue, a Rule 12(b)(1) motion should be granted
“only if the material jurisdictional facts are not in
dispute and the moving party is entitled to prevail as a
matter of law.” Ferdinand-Davenport v.
Children's Guild, 742 F.Supp.2d 772, 777 (D. Md.
2010); see also Evans v. B.F. Perkins Co., a Div. of
Standex Int'l Corp., 166 F.3d 642, 647 (4th Cir.
1999). In a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction, the pleadings should be regarded as “mere
evidence on the issue, ” and courts may “consider
evidence outside the pleadings without converting the
proceeding to one for summary judgment.”
Evans, 166 F.3d at 647.
argues that this Court lacks jurisdiction over Ms.
Helmlinger's appeal because she failed to exhaust her
administrative remedies and is not appealing from a final
decision. Under sections 405(g) and 405(h) of the Social
Security Act, an individual may only obtain judicial review
of the SSA's “final” decision after she has
exhausted all administrative remedies. 42 U.S.C. §§
405(g)-(h). Because there is no formula for determining
whether a decision is final, the meaning of that term is left
to federal and state agencies to define by regulation.
Weinberger v. Salfi, 422 U.S. 749, 766 (1975).
Section 405(g) of the Social Security Act provides that
“any individual, after any final decision of the
Commission made after a hearing to which he was a party . . .
may obtain a review of such decision by a civil
action[.]” 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). In Ms.
Helmlinger's case, no hearing was ever held. The ALJ
dismissed Ms. Helmlinger's claim pursuant to 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.1457(b), because she failed to appear for her
a similar issue, the Fourth Circuit has held that the Appeals
Council's refusal to review an ALJ's dismissal of an
untimely request for review did not constitute a final
decision, because the claimant did not exhaust his
administrative remedies in failing to properly request review
of his case. Adams v. Heckler, 799 F.2d 131, 133
(4th Cir. 1986). The Fourth Circuit reasoned that
“[s]uch action does not address the merits of the
claim, and thus cannot be considered appealable[.]”
Id. (citing Smith v. Heckler, 761 F.2d 516,
518 (8th Cir. 1985)). Moreover, the Fifth Circuit held that a
federal court does not have jurisdiction over the appeal of
the Appeals Council's decision to uphold an ALJ's
dismissal of a request for a hearing, where dismissal
occurred due to the claimant's failure to appear.
Brandyburg v. Sullivan, 959 F.2d 555, 558-59 (5th
Cir. 1992). The Fifth Circuit reasoned that “dismissal
on procedural grounds at the administrative stage . . .
deprives the district court of jurisdiction under section
405(g).” Id. at 562; see also Estate of
Lego v. Leavitt, 244 Fed.Appx. 227, 232 (10th Cir. 2007)
(recognizing that “district courts lack jurisdiction to
review an ALJ's procedural dismissal under §
416.1457”). I concur with the reasoning in those
decisions. Because Ms. Helmlinger's appeal was dismissed
on procedural grounds due to her failure to appear at her two
scheduled hearings, this Court lacks jurisdiction to hear her
foregoing reasons, the SSA's Motion to Dismiss, [ECF No.
12], is GRANTED, and the Clerk is directed to CLOSE this
case. A separate order follows.