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Hoover v. Colvin

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

December 6, 2013

AMY HOOVER, on behalf of Nathan Wright, deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

Merrill Schneider, Schneider Kerr Law Offices, P.O. Box 14490, Portland, OR 97293. Attorney for Plaintiff.

S. Amanda Marshall, United States Attorney, and Adrian L. Brown, Assistant United States Attorney, United States Attorney's Office, District of Oregon, 1000 S.W. Third Avenue, Suite 600, Portland, OR 97204; Courtney M. Garcia, Special Assistant United States Attorney, Office of the General Counsel, Social Security Administration, 701 Fifth Avenue, Suite 2900 M/S 221A, Seattle, WA 98104. Attorneys for Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

MICHAEL H. SIMON, District Judge.

Defendant Commissioner of Social Security ("the Commissioner") moves to dismiss this case pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). Dkt. 10. Because the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, Defendant's motion is GRANTED and the case is DISMISSED.

STANDARDS

The federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. Gunn v. Minton, 133 S.Ct. 1059, 1064 (2013). As such, a court is to presume "that a cause lies outside this limited jurisdiction, and the burden of establishing the contrary rests upon the party asserting jurisdiction." Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994) (citations omitted); see also Robinson v. United States, 586 F.3d 683, 685 (9th Cir. 2009); Safe Air for Everyone v. Meyer, 373 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 2004). A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) for lack of "subject-matter jurisdiction, because it involves a court's power to hear a case, can never be forfeited or waived." United States v. Cotton, 535 U.S. 625, 630 (2002). An objection that a particular court lacks subject matter jurisdiction may be raised by any party, or by the court on its own initiative, at any time. Arbaugh v. Y&H Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 506 (2006); Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). The Court must dismiss any case over which it lacks subject matter jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3).

A Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction may be either "facial" or "factual." See Safe Air for Everyone, 373 F.3d at 1039. A facial attack on subject matter jurisdiction is based on the assertion that the allegations contained in the complaint are insufficient to invoke federal jurisdiction. Id. "A jurisdictional challenge is factual where the challenger disputes the truth of the allegations that, by themselves, would otherwise invoke federal jurisdiction.'" Pride v. Correa, 719 F.3d 1130, 1133 n.6 (2013) (quoting Safe Air for Everyone, 373 F.3d at 1039)). When a defendant factually challenges the plaintiff's assertion of jurisdiction, a court does not presume the truthfulness of the plaintiff's allegations and may consider evidence extrinsic to the complaint. See Terenkian v. Republic of Iraq, 694 F.3d 1122, 1131 (9th Cir. 2012); Robinson, 586 F.3d at 685; Safe Air for Everyone, 373 F.3d at 1039. A factual challenge can attack the substance of a complaint's jurisdictional allegations despite their formal sufficiency. Dreier v. United States, 106 F.3d 844, 847 (9th Cir. 1996).

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Amy Hoover ("Hoover"), on behalf of Nathan Wright (deceased), filed a claim for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") on March 12, 2009. Dkt. 11 at 3. Hoover's DIB claim was denied initially on May 5, 2009. Id. Hoover did not timely appeal the initial determination. Therefore, that determination became the final decision of the Commissioner.

Hoover subsequently filed a renewed claim for DIB. Those claims were denied initially and on reconsideration. Id. On January 11, 2012, an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), citing res judicata, denied Hoover's request for a hearing to review the denial of benefits, and dismissed the case. Id. at 4. The ALJ found that res judicata applied because the period of disability alleged in the renewed claims was entirely within the period alleged in the initial claims, and because Hoover presented no new, material evidence to support a finding of disability. Id. at 35-36. The Appeals Council denied Hoover's request for review of the ALJ's dismissal; thereafter, Hoover commenced this action seeking review of the ALJ's dismissal of Hoover's request for a hearing. Id. at 4-5.

DISCUSSION

The Commissioner moves to dismiss Hoover's complaint, arguing that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over Hoover's claim. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). The Court agrees.

Section 405(g) of Title 42 of the United States Code constrains federal courts' subject matter jurisdiction over social security cases, limiting judicial review to "final decision[s] of the Commissioner of Social Security made after a hearing." 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); see Johnson v. Shalala, 2 F.3d 918, 921 (9th Cir. 1993). If the requirements of § 405(g) are not satisfied, the Court has subject matter jurisdiction only if a claimant asserts a "colorable constitutional claim." Califano v. Sanders, 430 U.S. 99, 109 (1977).

A constitutional claim is "colorable if it is not wholly insubstantial, immaterial, or frivolous." Rolen v. Barnhart, 273 F.3d 1189, 1191 (9th Cir. 2001) (citation and quotation marks omitted). Although it is not necessary for a constitutional claim to be meritorious in order to be colorable, "[t]he mere allegation of a due process violation is not sufficient to raise a colorable constitutional claim to provide subject matter jurisdiction." Anderson v. Babbitt, 230 F.3d 1158, 1163 (9th Cir. 2000) ...


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