United States District Court, D. Maryland
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS
STEPHANIE A. GALLAGHER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
to Standing Order 2014-01, the above-referenced case has been
referred to me for review of the parties' dispositive
motions and to make recommendations pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 301.5(b)(ix). [ECF No. 4].
I have reviewed the Motion to Dismiss filed by the Social
Security Administration (“SSA”) [ECF No. 9].
Plaintiff Pamela Snowden, who appears pro se, has
not filed an Opposition. I find that no hearing is necessary.
See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons set
forth below, I recommend that the SSA's motion be granted
and the complaint be dismissed.
November 30, 2015, Ms. Snowden filed for Supplemental
Security Income benefits. [ECF No. 9-2 ¶ 3(a)]. Her
application was denied initially and upon reconsideration.
[ECF No. 9-2 Exs. 1, 2]. Ms. Snowden filed a request for a
hearing. [ECF No. 9-2 Ex. 3]. The SSA mailed a Notice of
Hearing to Ms. Snowden and her attorney, which reminded Ms.
Snowden that failure to appear at the scheduled hearing on
October 5, 2017 without good cause could result in dismissal
of her request for hearing. [ECF No. 9-2 Ex. 4]. The Notice
of Hearing also asked Ms. Snowden to return an enclosed
Acknowledgement of Receipt, which she signed, dated, and
returned by mail, after checking a box stating that she would
be present at the time and place shown on the Notice. [ECF
No. 9-2 Ex. 5]. The SSA sent Ms. Snowden and her attorney a
reminder of the hearing date and time on September 22, 2017.
[ECF No. 9-2 Ex. 6].
Snowden and her attorney failed to appear at the hearing. On
October 11, 2017, the SSA mailed Ms. Snowden a Request to
Show Cause for Failure to Appear. [ECF No. 9-2 Ex. 7] After
Ms. Snowden failed to respond to the notice within ten days
as required, the ALJ issued an order of dismissal on November
1, 2017. [ECF No. 9-2 Ex. 8]. Six days later, on November 7,
2017, Ms. Snowden requested review of the ALJ's order of
dismissal, citing her inability to read the letters from the
SSA as her reason for missing the hearing. [ECF No. 9-2 Ex.
9]. The Appeals Council denied the request for review on
April 20, 2018. [ECF No. 9-2 Ex. 10]. Ms. Snowden filed the
instant action on June 21, 2018. [ECF No. 1].
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.” Richmond, Fredericksburg &
Potomac R.R. v. United States, 945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th
Cir. 1991) (citing Trentacosta v. Frontier Pac. Aircraft
Indus., 813 F.2d 1553, 1558 (9th Cir. 1987)). 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.” Id. (citing
Adams v. Bain, 697 F.2d 1213, 1219 (4th Cir. 1982);
Trentacosta, 813 F.2d at 1558).
argues that this Court lacks jurisdiction over Ms.
Snowden's appeal because she failed to exhaust her
administrative remedies and is not appealing from a final
decision. D. Mot. 1. Under sections 205(g) and 205(h) of the
Social Security Act, an individual may only obtain judicial
review of the Commissioner's “final” decision
after a hearing before the SSA. 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 the SSA to define by regulation. Weinberger v.
Salfi, 422 U.S. 749, 766 (1975). Section 405(g) of the
Social Security Act provides that “[a]ny individual,
after any final decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security 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. Snowden's
case, no hearing was ever held. The ALJ dismissed Ms.
Snowden's hearing request pursuant to 20 C.F.R. §
416.1457(b), because she failed to appear for her hearing and
did not timely show good cause for missing the hearing. [ECF
No. 9-2 Ex. 8].
a similar issue, the Fourth Circuit has held that an Appeals
Council's dismissal of an untimely request for review did
not constitute a final decision, because the claimant did not
exhaust her administrative remedies in failing to properly
request review of her 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. (quoting Smith v. Heckler, 761 F.2d
516, 518 (8th Cir. 1985)). Moreover, in a case comparable to
the instant one, the Fifth Circuit held that a federal court
does not have jurisdiction over the appeal of an 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”); Doe v. Sec. Health & Human
Servs., 744 F.2d 3, 4-5 (1st Cir. 1984) (reasoning that
the agency's dismissal of a hearing request was not
“the type of final decision Congress intended routinely
to subject to judicial review”). I concur with the
reasoning in those decisions. Because Ms. Snowden's
appeal was dismissed on procedural grounds due to her failure
to appear at her hearing without timely showing good cause,
she failed to exhaust her administrative remedies, and,
therefore, this Court lacks jurisdiction to hear her
reasons set forth above, I respectfully recommend that the
Court GRANT Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, [ECF No. 9]
and order the Clerk to CLOSE this case.
objections to this Report and Recommendations must be served
and filed within fourteen (14) days, pursuant to Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 72(b)(2) and Local Rule 301.5(b).