United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS Re:
Dkt. No. 13
HAYWOOD S. GILLIAM, JR. United States District Judge
Geneva Holmes-James seeks judicial review of the dismissal of
her benefits claim under the Social Security Act. Because
Plaintiff has not exhausted her administrative appeal
remedies, this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. The
Court accordingly GRANTS the pending motion to dismiss.
receives Supplemental Security Income benefits from the
Social Security Administration (“SSA”). Defendant
Commissioner of Social Security (“Defendant” or
“Commissioner”) determined that the SSA had
overpaid Plaintiff by $1, 727.35 from March 2006 through
February 2007. In March 2007, Defendant notified Plaintiff of
the overpayment. Plaintiff then filed a request for a hearing
before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”),
rather than a request for reconsideration. Finding that
Plaintiff did not have the right to a hearing without first
requesting reconsideration, the ALJ dismissed her request for
a hearing on September 25, 2011. On September 30, 2016,
Plaintiff filed this civil action for judicial review of the
ALJ decision to dismiss her benefits claim.
may file a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(1) challenging the subject matter
jurisdiction of the Court. “Federal courts are courts
of limited jurisdiction.” Kokkonen v. Guardian Life
Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). As such, they
may only review cases as authorized by either the
Constitution or a federal statute. Id. “If
jurisdiction is lacking at the outset, the district court has
no power to do anything with the case except dismiss
[it].” Morongo Band of Mission Indians v.
California Bd. of Equalization, 858 F.2d 1376, 1380 (9th
Cir. 1988) (quotation omitted).
has limited federal courts' jurisdiction over SSA
determinations. Under the Social Security Act, federal courts
may only review a “final decision of the Commissioner
of Social Security made after a hearing.” 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). Although the Social Security Act does not
define the term “final decision, ” the
Commissioner has done so by regulation. Weinberger v.
Salfi, 422 U.S. 749, 751 (1975) (recognizing power of
the Commissioner to define “final decision”);
see also 42 U.S.C. § 405(a) (outlining
Commissioner's powers). Under the applicable regulations,
a claimant must first complete the SSA's administrative
review process before she can obtain a judicially reviewable
final decision. 20 C.F.R. § 416.1400(a)(1)-(5)
(enumerating the four steps in the administrative review
process); Califano v. Sanders, 430 U.S. 99, 108
(1977) (Section 405(g) “clearly limits judicial review
to . . . a ‘final decision' of the [Commissioner]
made after a hearing.”).
Court finds that Plaintiff has not fully exhausted the
SSA's prescribed administrative remedies and that the
Court must therefore dismiss the case for lack of subject
SSA's prescribed administrative remedies consist of the
following four steps: First, the SSA provides the claimant
with an initial determination. 20 C.F.R. §
416.1400(a)(1). Second, if the claimant is dissatisfied with
the initial determination, then she may ask the SSA to
reconsider it. 20 C.F.R. § 416.1400(a)(2). Third, if the
claimant is dissatisfied with the reconsidered decision, then
she may request a hearing before an ALJ. 20 C.F.R. §
416.1400(a)(3). And finally, if the claimant is not satisfied
with the ALJ's decision, then she may request that the
SSA's Appeals Council review the ALJ's decision. 20
C.F.R. § 416.1400(a)(4). The Appeals Council may either
grant review or deny the request and allow the ALJ's
decision to stand as the final decision of the Commissioner.
20 C.F.R. § 416.1467.
is no final decision subject to federal judicial review
unless and until all four steps of the administrative review
process have been completed. 20 C.F.R. § 416.1400(a)(5).
If the claimant fails to complete all four steps of the
administrative review process, then the SSA's initial
determination is binding and the claimant may not seek
judicial review in the federal courts. See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 416.1405, 416.1421, 416.1455, 416.1481.
Plaintiff has failed to complete all four steps of the
administrative review process. After Plaintiff received the
SSA's initial determination, she did not request
reconsideration. Instead, she filed a request for a hearing
with an ALJ. The ALJ dismissed her request for hearing but
advised her as to how to proceed. In the Order of Dismissal,
the ALJ informed Plaintiff that if she wanted to appeal the
SSA's initial determination, then “she should file
the request for reconsideration with the field office . . .
within 60 days.” Dk. No. 13-1 at 8. Plaintiff did not
do so and filed this case in federal court instead.
Consequently, Plaintiff has not exhausted her administrative
remedies in two ways: She failed (1) to request
reconsideration of the SSA's initial determination and
(2) to request that the Appeals Council review the ALJ's
decision. Because Plaintiff missed these steps, there is no
final decision which the Court has subject matter
jurisdiction to review.
the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the Court GRANTS
Defendant's motion to dismiss and denies the other