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Joseph A. Maher, Dlb v. Michael J. Astrue

February 23, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dennis L. Beck United States Magistrate Judge


Plaintiff Joseph A. Maher ("Plaintiff") moves to alter or amend a judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e). Plaintiff requests that the Court reconsider its December 6, 2010 order denying Plaintiff's appeal from the administrative decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, and the entry of judgment in favor of Defendant Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner"). The matter is currently before the Court on the parties' briefs, which were submitted, without oral argument, to the Honorable Dennis L. Beck, United States Magistrate Judge.


On July 8, 2004, Plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance benefits pursuant to Title II of the Social Security Act. He alleged disability since September 20, 2003, due to a bulging disc and nerve damage in his left leg. AR 74-76, 79-85.

At the administrative level, an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") issued a decision denying benefits on August 5, 2009. AR 290-302. In relevant part, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the severe impairments of major depressive disorder, chronic lumbar back pain secondary to degenerative disc disease, disc dessication and disc bulges with radiculopathy, and bilateral knee arthritis. Despite these impairments, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to carry 20 pounds occasionally, 10 pounds frequently, stand and walk for two hours, sit for six hours and occasionally stoop. Plaintiff could never climb, kneel, crouch or crawl. With this RFC, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff could not perform his past relevant work, but could perform a significant number of positions in the national economy. AR 295-301.

On October 27, 2009, Plaintiff filed his complaint in district court seeking judicial review of the decision denying his application for benefits. In his brief on the merits, Plaintiff argued, in part, that the ALJ erred by finding his depression severe at step two, but failing to incorporate any related limitations in the RFC finding. The Court rejected Plaintiff's argument, reasoning as follows:

If an ALJ finds a severe impairment at step two, that impairment must be considered in the remaining steps of the sequential analysis. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1523, 416.923. Here, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's depression was a severe impairment. Plaintiff argues that by definition, a "severe" impairment causes significant limitation and must therefore impact the RFC finding. The Ninth Circuit has flatly rejected this argument, however. In Bray v. Comm'r Soc. Sec., 554 F.3d 1219 (9th Cir. 2009), the plaintiff made a similar argument, contending that a finding at step two that her adjustment disorder was severe required a corresponding limitation in her RFC. The Court disagreed, stating, "Bray offers no authority to support the proposition that a severe mental impairment must correspond to limitations on a claimant's ability to perform basic work activities." Bray, 554 F.3d at 1128-1129.

Plaintiff does not challenge the RFC finding on any other basis and points to no evidence to support an alternate RFC. Accordingly, the ALJ's RFC is supported by substantial evidence and free of legal error.

Doc. 18, p. 11. The Court denied Plaintiff's appeal and directed the entry of judgment in favor of the Commissioner on December 6, 2010. Doc. 18.

On January 3, 2011, Plaintiff filed the instant motion seeking an order altering or amending the judgment. Plaintiff argues that the Court's reliance on Bray v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin. represents an error of law and results in a manifest injustice. The Commissioner opposed the motion on February 3, 2011. Plaintiff did not file a reply.


A. Legal Standard

A motion to amend a judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P 59(e) is granted in a district court's discretion upon the following grounds: (1) the motion is necessary to correct manifest errors of law or fact upon which the judgment is based; (2) the moving party presents newly discovered or previously unavailable evidence; (3) the motion is necessary to prevent manifest injustice; or (4) there is an intervening change in controlling law. Turner v. Burlington Northern Santa Fe R. Co., 338 F.3d 1058, 1063 (9th Cir.2003). The remedy provided is extraordinary and is to be used sparingly in the interests of finality and conservation of judicial resources. Kona Enterprises, Inc. v. Estate of Bishop, 229 F.3d 877, 890 (9th Cir.2000). "Rule 59(e) ... may not be used to relitigate old matters, or to ...

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