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Wehr v. Astrue

May 4, 2010

ROBERT J. WEHR, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sandra M. Snyder United States Magistrate Judge

INFORMATIONAL ORDER FOR PRO SE LITIGANT

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. Attempt at Informal Resolution of the Case

On April 26, 2010, the United States Marshal effected service of process on defendant, and filed a Process Receipt and Return form with the Court (Doc. 12). 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 attorney(s) 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(s) 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) days after defendant served its confidential letter brief on plaintiff. Local Rule 143(a)(1) & (b).

The informal letter briefs exchanged by the parties are confidential in the sense that they are not filed with the Court. If the parties are unable to agree to a remand, the letters are not part of the case file and, thus, are not before the Court if and when the Court finally considers the case on the merits.

II. Briefs

If, after exchanging confidential letter briefs, the parties are unable to agree to a remand of the case, then the parties must file formal briefs with the Court as directed in the Scheduling Order. It is only after the formal briefs are filed with the Court that the Court will consider the merits of the case and make a decision.

A. Plaintiff's Opening Brief

Plaintiff's opening brief must be filed and served no later than thirty (30) days from the date defendant's informal letter brief was served on plaintiff. Plaintiff must serve a copy of the opening brief on all the attorneys listed for defendant on the ...


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