The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary S. Austin United States Magistrate Judge
INFORMATIONAL ORDER FOR PRO SE LITIGANTS
Plaintiff is proceeding pro se in an action seeking judicial review of an administrative decision of the Commissioner of Social Security that denied, in whole or in part, plaintiff's claim for benefits under the Social Security Act.
This order provides the following helpful information, and basically serves as a step-by-step guide, for pro se litigants. It is strongly suggested that plaintiff read and re-read this order and keep it readily available for future reference.
I. Service of the Complaint
As is outlined in the Scheduling Order issued in this case, except when other provisions are made pursuant to an application to proceed in forma pauperis, plaintiff shall serve a copy of the (1) summons, (2) complaint, (3) notice of availability of a Magistrate Judge and the form of consent/ decline to jurisdiction of United States Magistrate Judge (See Local Rule 73-305(a)), and (4) the Scheduling Order, within twenty (20) days of plaintiff filing the complaint.
If plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis, the United States Marshal usually serves the complaint. However, if plaintiff is not proceeding in forma pauperis, then plaintiff or legal counsel is responsible for service and then filing a proof of service without delay. See Local Rule 210.
Lawsuits for review of administrative decisions made by the Commissioner of Social Security are prosecuted against the Commissioner of Social Security. Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(i)(2) and (3) provides, in substance, that to serve the Commissioner in his official capacity, the party must serve (1) the United States, and (2) the Commissioner.
To serve the United States, a party must:
(1) deliver a copy of the summons and complaint to the United States Attorney for the district where the action is brought, or to an Assistant United States Attorney or clerical employee whom the United States Attorney designates in a writing filed with the Court; or, send a copy of the summons and complaint, by certified mail only, to the Civil Process Clerk at the United States Attorney's Office; and,
(2) send a copy of the summons and complaint, by certified mail only, to the Attorney General of the United States in Washington, D.C.; and,
(3) send a copy of the summons and complaint, by certified mail only, to the Commissioner (the officer of the United States whose order is challenged by the lawsuit) in San Francisco, CA. Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(i)(1)-(3).
Initial service of process is thus sufficient if plaintiff serves, by certified mail only, copies of the summons and complaint on:
Office of the United States Attorney
Civil Process Clerk 2500 Tulare Street, Suite 4401 Fresno, CA 93721 Office of the Attorney General of the United States 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, D.C. 20530-0001 Office of the General Counsel Social Security Administration 333 Market Street, Suite 1500 San Francisco, CA 94105 after which a proof of service must be filed with the Court without delay pursuant to Local Rule 4-210. If plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis, the United States Marshal generally completes the proof of service and files it with the Court; however, if plaintiff is not proceeding in forma pauperis, it is plaintiff's duty to promptly file a proof of service with the Court.
II. Attempt at Informal Resolution of the Case
Pursuant to the Scheduling Order, within one hundred twenty (120) days after service of the complaint, defendant is required to serve a copy of the administrative record on plaintiff and also file the administrative record with the Court, which serves as the answer to the complaint in this proceeding.
Once the administrative record has been filed, the parties must try to resolve the case informally. In this process, the parties must exchange informal briefs in the form of letters about the case to see if they can agree that the case should be sent back, or "remanded," to the Social Security Administration for a further hearing by an administrative law judge.
In the letter brief, plaintiff must briefly set forth (1) the issues in the case, (2) the reasons why plaintiff thinks that plaintiff is entitled to Social Security benefits, and (3) why the decision to deny benefits should be remanded.
The letter brief must be marked "Confidential Letter Brief", should not be filed with the Court, and must be served on defendant within thirty (30) days from the date defendant served plaintiff with the administrative record, by mailing copies to all the attorneys listed on the court docket as representing defendant, Commissioner of Social Security, at the addresses noted on the court docket.
The name of the attorney or attorneys representing defendant are added to the court docket at the time the Court receives defendant's response to the complaint which, again, usually consists of the administrative record. Sometimes the court docket lists not only an attorney at the office of the General Counsel of the Social Security Administration in San Francisco, CA, but also an attorney at the United States Attorney's Office in Fresno, CA; in these particular cases, it will then be necessary for plaintiff to mail copies of the confidential letter brief to more than one attorney for defendant.
Defendant's confidential letter brief must be served on plaintiff no later than thirty-five (35) days after defendant is served with plaintiff's confidential letter brief.
If the parties agree to a remand, then the case will go back to the Social Security Administration before any formal briefs are filed with the Court, and without the Court ever considering the merits of the case. The parties' agreement to remand the case must be set forth in writing in a document titled "Stipulation and Order," which must be signed and filed with the Court no later than fifteen (15) ...