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Boland v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

September 18, 2018

John F. Boland
v.
Commissioner of Social Security

          ORDER

          Landya McCafferty United States District Judge

         John Boland seeks judicial review, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), of the decision of the Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, denying his application for disability insurance benefits. Boland moves to reverse the Acting Commissioner's decision, and the Acting Commissioner moves to affirm. Separately, the Acting Commissioner moves to strike Boland's response to her surreply, and Boland moves for leave to file his response nunc pro tunc to the Acting Commissioner's surreply. For the reasons discussed below, Acting Commissioner's motion to strike is granted, Boland's motion for leave to file his response is denied, and the decision of the Acting Commissioner is reversed.

         I. Boland's Response to the Acting Commissioner's Surreply

         On January 25, 2018, Boland filed a reply to the Acting Commissioner's motion for an order affirming her decision. See doc. no. 14. On January 30, 2018, the Acting Commissioner filed a surreply. See doc. no. 16. On February 7, 2018, Boland filed a response to the Acting Commissioner's surreply. See doc. no. 19.

         On February 9, 2018, the Acting Commissioner moved to strike Boland's response to her surreply, arguing that the court's local rules do not allow a plaintiff to file a response to a surreply. See doc. no. 20. Boland then moved for leave to file his response to the surreply, see doc. no. 21, and filed an objection to the Acting Commissioner's motion to strike, see doc. no. 22, arguing in both filings that the local rules permit his response.

         After the parties filed their motions, the court issued an order in another social security case involving the same attorneys and a similar dispute over the local rules. See Palombo v. Berryhill, No. 17-cv-284-LM, 2018 WL 3118286, at *1 (D.N.H. June 25, 2018). The court does not repeat that discussion here and refers the parties to that order to the extent they require clarification of the meaning of Local Rule 9.1, which governs social security disability cases.

         The Local Rules do not permit Boland to file a response to the Acting Commissioner's surreply. Therefore, the government's motion to strike Boland's response is granted, and Boland's motion for leave to file his response is denied.

         II. Boland's Appeal

         A. Standard of Review

         In reviewing the final decision of the Acting Commissioner in a social security case, the court “is limited to determining whether the [Administrative Law Judge] deployed the proper legal standards and found facts upon the proper quantum of evidence.” Nguyen v. Chater, 172 F.3d 31, 35 (1st Cir. 1999); accord Seavey v. Barnhart, 276 F.3d 1, 9 (1st Cir. 2001). The court defers to the ALJ's factual findings as long as they are supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); see also Fischer v. Colvin, 831 F.3d 31, 34 (1st Cir. 2016). “Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Astralis Condo. Ass'n v. Sec'y Dep't of Housing & Urban Dev., 620 F.3d 62, 66 (1st Cir. 2010).

         In determining whether a claimant is disabled, the ALJ follows a five-step sequential analysis. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4). The claimant “has the burden of production and proof at the first four steps of the process.” Freeman v. Barnhart, 274 F.3d 606, 608 (1st Cir. 2001). The first three steps are (1) determining whether the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity; (2) determining whether she has a severe impairment; and (3) determining whether the impairment meets or equals a listed impairment. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i)-(iii).

         At the fourth step of the sequential analysis, the ALJ assesses the claimant's residual functional capacity (“RFC”), which is a determination of the most a person can do in a work setting despite her limitations caused by impairments, Id. § 404.1545(a)(1), and her past relevant work, id. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iv). If the claimant can perform her past relevant work, the ALJ will find that the claimant is not disabled. See Id. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iv). If the claimant cannot perform her past relevant work, the ALJ proceeds to Step Five, in which the ALJ has the burden of showing that jobs exist in the economy which the claimant can do in light of the RFC assessment. See Id. § 404.1520(a)(4)(v).

         B. Background

         A detailed statement of the facts can be found in the parties' Joint Statement of Material Facts (doc. no. 10). The court ...


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