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Brittany Alexis Cribbet v. Commissioner of Social

October 29, 2012

BRITTANY ALEXIS CRIBBET, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Barbara A. McAuliffe United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT FOR FAILURE TO STATE A CLAIM, WITH LEAVE TO AMEND WITHIN THIRTY DAYS

On July 11, 2012, plaintiff, Brittany Alexis Cribbet ("Plaintiff"), proceeding in forma pauperis, filed a complaint in this Court against the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner"). Plaintiff alleges the Commissioner wrongly denied her supplemental security income under Title XVI of the Social Security Act.

I. Screening Requirement

The statutory privilege of proceeding in forma pauperis is a privilege, not a right. Williams v. Field, 394 F.2d 329, 332 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 393 U.S. 891 (1968); Smart v. Heinze, 347 F.2d 114, 116 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, (1965). "Indigence does not create a constitutional right to the expenditure of public funds and the valuable time of the courts in order to prosecute an action which is totally without merit." Phillips v. Mashburn, 746 F.2d 782, 785 (11th Cir. 1984). Accordingly, the statute requires the Court to screen any case in which a plaintiff proceeds in forma pauperis, as provided in 28 U.S.C. § 1915. Screening is required even if the plaintiff pursues an appeal of right, such as an appeal of the Commissioner's denial of social security disability benefits. See, e.g., 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (establishing conditions under which a claimant of social security benefits may seek judicial review of the Commissioner's determination). A court must dismiss any case, regardless of the fee paid, if the action or appeal is (1) frivolous or malicious; (2) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (3) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915 (e)(2)(B).

In determining whether a complaint states a claim, the Court looks to the pleading standard under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a). Under Rule 8(a), a complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). "[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require 'detailed factual allegations,' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 554, 555 (2007)).

"[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). "[A] complaint [that] pleads facts that are 'merely consistent with' a defendant's liability . . . 'stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'" Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). Further, although a court must accept as true all factual allegations contained in a complaint, a court need not accept a plaintiff's legal conclusions as true. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949. "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). If the Court determines that the complaint fails to state a claim, leave to amend may be granted to the extent that the deficiencies of the complaint can be cured by amendment. Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc).

II. Plaintiff's Complaint

Plaintiff's Complaint, in its entirety, reads as follows: Jurisdiction is proper in this court pursuant to section 205(g) of the Social Security Act, 45 U.S.C. section 405(g), to review a final determination of the Commissioner. I have appealed my case through all the steps required by the Social Security Administration and they have issued a final decision denying my claim.

The defendant, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, has wrongly denied me my rights to Supplemental Security Income as stated in the Social Security Act Title XVI.

I ask that the court overturn the determination of the Social Security Administration and award me the benefits to which I am entitled. Along with the back pay that is due me. (Doc. 1.)

III. Discussion

Rule 12(b) (1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and lack inherent or general subject matter jurisdiction. Federal courts can adjudicate only those cases in which the United States Constitution and Congress authorize them to adjudicate. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co., 511 U.S. 375, 114 S.Ct. 1673, 1677, 128 L.Ed.2d 391 (1994). Federal courts are presumptively without jurisdiction over civil actions, and the burden to establish the contrary rests upon the party asserting jurisdiction. Kokkonen, 511 U.S. at 377. Lack of subject matter jurisdiction is never waived and may be raised by the court sua sponte. Attorneys Trust v. Videotape Computer Products, Inc., 93 F.3d 593, 594--595 (9th Cir.1996). "Nothing is to be more jealously guarded by a court than its jurisdiction. Jurisdiction is what its power rests upon. Without jurisdiction it is nothing." In re Mooney, 841 F.2d 1003, 1006 (9th Cir.1988).

Judicial review of the Commissioner's administrative decisions is governed by section 405, subdivisions (g) and (h), of the Social Security Act, which provides in pertinent part:

(g) Any individual, after any final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security made after a hearing to which he was a party, irrespective of the amount in controversy, may obtain a review of such decision by a civil action commenced within sixty days after the mailing to him of notice of such ...


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