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Doan v. Astrue

May 13, 2008

PHUONG DOAN, ET AL., PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Napoleon A. Jones, Jr. United States District Judge

ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION

Before the court is Plaintiffs Phuong Doan and Jose Hernandez's (collectively, "Plaintiffs") Motion for Reconsideration [doc. no. 157], and Defendant Michael J. Astrue's ("Defendant") Opposition to Plaintiffs' Motion [doc. no. 158]. Plaintiffs move for reconsideration, pursuant to Federal Rule of Procedure 60(b), of this Court's January 29, 2008 Order disqualifying them as class representatives and dismissing them from this class action. Plaintiffs claim that under rule 60(b): (1) this Court committed clear error and its initial decision was clearly unjust; (2) there was misrepresentation by the opposing party; and (3) there is newly discovered evidence that should establish that Defendant had previously stipulated or admitted that Plaintiff Doan's individual action did not raise the issue of bias. For the reasons set forth below this Court DENIES Plaintiffs' Motion for Reconsideration.

Background

Plaintiffs Doan and Hernandez are claimants for federal Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") benefits. (See Order Grant'g Mot. to Amend. Compl. at 1.) Their applications for SSI benefits were each denied by Administrative Law Judge New ("ALJ New"). (See Pl.'s Mem. Supp. Certific'n at 2.) Both plaintiffs filed individual actions against Judge New asserting bias on the part of ALJ New. [Doc. No. 122 at 2-5.] On September 28, 2005, United States District Court Judge Jeffrey Miller granted Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment against Plaintiff Doan in her individual action. Doan v. Barnhart, S.D. Cal. Case No. 04cv1824-M (AJB). On June 15, 2007, the Ninth Circuit affirmed Judge Miller's decision dismissing Plaintiff Doan's individual lawsuit. Doan v. Astrue, No. 05-56695, 2007 WL 1729924, at *1 (9th Cir. June 15, 2007). On March 29, 2006, United States District Court Judge John Houston granted Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment against Plaintiff Hernandez. Hernandez v. Barnhart, S.D. Cal. Case No. 04cv0055-H (LSP). Plaintiff Hernandez's appeal of Judge Houston's Order is currently pending in the Ninth Circuit. [Doc. 122 at 5.]

On October 12, 2004, one month after filing her own individual action, Plaintiff Doan challenged Defendant's adoption of ALJ New's decision by filing the instant class action on behalf of herself and "all claimants for ... [SSI] benefits whose claims had been assigned to [ALJ New] ...and had their claims denied or dismissed by ALJ [New]." (Compl. at 11-22.) ALJ New, who separated from the Social Security Administration in May of 2003, is now deceased. (See Def.'s Mem. Opp'n Certific'n at 1.) Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Amend Complaint to add additional representatives. [Doc. No. 21.] This Court granted Plaintiff's Motion in regards to Plaintiff Hernandez, adding him as a class representative. (See id. at 11.) On August 21, 2006, the Court granted Plaintiff's Motion for Class Certification, certifying the class as:

All claimants for Title II Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits or Title XIV Supplemental Security Income whose claims had been assigned to ALJ New and have had their claims denied or dismissed by ALJ New, with the exception of claimants whose claims are time barred under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (Order Granting Pls.' Mot. for Class Certific'n at 9-10) (emphasis added)).

After Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Reconsideration pertaining to the scope of the defined class, the Court modified its ruling on March 5, 2007 explaining as follows:

...the Court temporarily re-defined the class as: all claimants for Title II Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits or Title XIV Supplemental Security Income whose claims had been assigned to ALJ New and have had their claims denied or dismissed by ALJ New, except that the class shall not include any person who has prosecuted any action in federal court in which the issue of ALJ New's alleged bias or predisposition to deny claims was addressed and determined. (Docket No. 84, page 10, lines 4-9).

On November 27, 2007, Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs Doan and Hernandez as class representatives. [Doc. No. 123.] This Court granted the motion on the grounds that Judge Miller and Judge Houston had already reached decisions contrary to Plaintiffs claim and further review by this Court would be a reconsideration of already litigated claims. [Doc. No. 153.] Plaintiffs have now filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the Court's Order. [Doc. No. 155.]

Legal Standard

The Ninth Circuit has held that rule 60(b) only applies to motions challenging final appealable orders. See United States v. Martin, 226 F. 3d 1042, 1048 (9th Cir. 2000).Rule 60(b) is specifically limited to instances where the movant demonstrates in pertinent part the existence of "(1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect; (2) newly discovered evidence which by due diligence could not have been discovered in time to move for a new trial under Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(b); (3) fraud. . . misrepresentation, or other misconduct of an adverse party; (4)the judgment is void; (5) the judgment has been satisfied, released, or discharged; (6) any other reason for justifying relief from the operation of the judgment." Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b). "Rule 60(b)(6) has been used sparingly as an equitable remedy to prevent manifest injustice." United States v. Alpine Land & Reservoir Co., 984 F.2d 1047, 1049 (9th Cir. 1993).

Discussion

Plaintiffs Doan and Hernandez are currently asking this Court to reconsider its decision dismissing them as class representatives. The Court DENIES the instant motions for reconsideration because Doan and Hernandez have ...


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