United States District Court, D. Maryland
Commissioner, Social Security Administration
Plaintiff and Counsel:
1, 2019, Plaintiff filed a complaint, pro se,
complaining of a decision by the Commissioner of the Social
Security Administration (“SSA”). ECF 1. The
Commissioner filed a Motion to Dismiss for lack of subject
matter jurisdiction, citing Plaintiff's failure to
exhaust his administrative remedies; alternatively, the
Commissioner seeks dismissal for improper venue. ECF 20.
Plaintiff filed a one-sentence response, asking that
“the defendant[']s request
for dismissal be denied.” ECF 22. I have carefully
reviewed the parties' filings, and no hearing is
necessary. Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For the reasons set
forth below, the Commissioner's Motion to Dismiss must be
motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction challenges a
court's authority to hear the matter brought by a
complainant. See Davis v. Thompson, 367 F.Supp.2d
792, 799 (D. Md. 2005). Generally, when a court considers a
motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, it
“may regard the pleadings as mere evidence on the issue
and may consider evidence outside the pleadings without
converting the proceeding into one for summary
judgment.” Velasco v. Gov't of Indonesia,
370 F.3d 392, 398 (4th Cir. 2004); see also Adams v.
Bain, 697 F.2d 1213, 1219 (4th Cir. 1982) (“A
trial court may consider evidence by affidavit, depositions,
or live testimony.”). In considering this motion, I
have considered the declaration of Angela Musick, the
Operations Supervisor in the Bowling Green, Kentucky Field
Office of the SSA, which the Commissioner filed along with
supporting documentation. ECF 20-2.
plaintiff carries the burden of establishing subject matter
jurisdiction. Lovern v. Edwards, 190 F.3d 648, 654
(4th Cir. 1999) (citing Thomas v. Gaskill, 315 U.S.
442, 446 (1942); Goldsmith v. Mayor of Balt., 845
F.2d 61, 63-64 (4th Cir. 1988)). However, a pro se
plaintiff's complaint should not be dismissed
“unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can
prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would
entitle him to relief.” Gordon v. Leeke, 574
F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1987) (quoting Haines v.
Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 521 (1972)) (quotation and
citation omitted). Pro se filings “however
unskillfully pleaded, must be liberally construed.”
Noble v. Barnett, 24 F.3d 582, 587 n.6 (4th Cir.
1994) (citing Vinnedge v. Gibbs, 550 F.2d 926, 928
(4th Cir. 1977)). Nevertheless, where a plaintiff has failed
to exhaust administrative remedies before bringing a claim,
the action should be dismissed under Rule 12(b)(1). See
Khoury v. Meserve, 268 F.Supp.2d 600, 607-08 (D. Md.
2003), aff'd 85 Fed.Appx. 960 (4th Cir. 2004).
received notice from the SSA dated November 29, 2018 that, as
of January 2019, his Supplemental Security Income payment
would be $771.00. Notice, ECF 1-1; see also Nov. 25,
2018 Notice, ECF 20-2, at 86 (same). He claims that this
amount is not “adequate money for living expenses,
” and he asks the Court to “grant [him] a living
expense check starting on date of release from Department of
Corrections on 4-15-2014.” Am. Compl. 1, ECF 7. Through
Ms. Musick's declaration, SSA has established that
Plaintiff has not filed a request for reconsideration of the
Notice or otherwise asked the SSA to address the amount of
benefits he receives. Musick Decl. ¶ 15.
Federal Government and its agencies, including SSA, are
immune from suit, absent a statute expressly permitting a
court to exercise jurisdiction. Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp.
v. Meyer, 510 U.S. 471, 475 (1994). Under the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 301 et. seq., United
States District Courts have the authority to review decisions
of the Commissioner of Social Security pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). The Act precludes judicial review absent a
“final decision, ” see Califano v.
Sanders, 430 U.S. 99, 108 (1977), and clarifies that the
remedy provided by 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) is exclusive:
“No findings of fact or decision of the Commissioner of
Social Security shall be reviewed by any person, tribunal, or
governmental agency except as herein provided.” 42
U.S.C. § 405(h). Social Security Administration
regulations define a “final decision” of the
Commissioner as an “initial determination” that
has been pursued through all steps of the administrative
review process. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.1400(a).
Indeed, the Supreme Court has long required parties to
exhaust administrative remedies before seeking relief from
the courts. See McCarthy v. Madigan, 503 U.S. 140,
144-45 (1992). The Social Security administrative review
process entails four steps: (1) an initial determination; (2)
reconsideration; (3) an Administrative Law Judge hearing and
decision; and (4) Appeals Council review or denial thereof.
20 C.F.R. § 416.1400(a)(1)-(4). Once a claimant has
completed that process, a “final decision” has
been issued, and the claimant may seek judicial review. 20
C.F.R. § 416.1400(a)(5). Appeal of a final decision
ordinarily must be “commenced within sixty days after
the mailing” to the claimant of notice of the decision.
42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
noted, the record does not reflect that Plaintiff asked for
reconsideration of the November 29, 2018 Notice, or pursued
any other type of administrative appeal. Musick Decl. ¶
15 & Exs.. Further, there were no decisions, of any sort,
mailed within sixty days of the filing of Plaintiff's
Complaint. See Id. Accordingly, this Court cannot
exercise jurisdiction over Plaintiff's appeal. 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g), (h); Califano, 430 U.S. at 108.
this Court could exercise jurisdiction over Plaintiff's
appeal, it would not be the proper venue. Venue properly lies
in the district where the plaintiff resides. See 42
U.S.C. § 405(g) (stating that an individual challenging
a “final decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security made after a hearing to which he was a party”
may bring a civil action “in the district court of
the United States for the judicial district in which the
plaintiff resides, or has his principal place of
business” (emphasis added)). Plaintiff is a
resident of Kentucky. See Compl. 2 (listing Glasgow,
Kentucky address); Am. Compl. 2 (same); Notice (addressed to
Plaintiff in Glasgow, Kentucky). Therefore, if the federal
courts had jurisdiction, this case nonetheless could not
proceed in this Court, which is in Maryland. See 42
U.S.C. § 405(g); see also 28 U.S.C. §
1406(a) (“The district court of a district in which is
filed a case laying venue in the wrong division or district
shall dismiss, or if it be in the interest of justice,
transfer such case to any district or division in which it
could have been brought.”).
reasons set forth herein, the Commissioner's Motion to
Dismiss, ECF 20, is GRANTED. The clerk is directed to CLOSE
the informal nature of this letter, it should be flagged as
an opinion. An implementing order follows.
Stephanie A. Gallagher, United ...