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Boudreau v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 11, 2017

MAURICE RAYMOND BOUDREAU, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO VACATE DISMISSAL OF ACTION AND VACATING THE MARCH 26, 0215 ORDER DISMISSING THIS ACTION AND JUDGMENT (ECF NO. 10)

          Lawrence J. O'Neill UNITED STATES CHIEF DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. Procedural History

         On January 19, 2015, Plaintiff Maurice Raymond Boudreau (“Plaintiff”) filed the complaint in this action seeking judicial review of the final decision of Defendant Commissioner of Social Security (“Defendant”) denying Plaintiff's application for benefits under the Social Security Act. (ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis without prepayment of the filing fee on the same day which was denied. (ECF Nos. 3, 4.) Plaintiff was ordered to pay the filing fee within thirty days. (ECF No. 4.)

         Although there is now record evidence demonstrating that Plaintiff did send a timely money order to the Court to pay the filing fee, the fee was not credited to the case at the time. (ECF No. 10-2.) On March 3, 2015, findings and recommendations issued recommending dismissing this action for failure to pay the filing fee. (ECF No. 7.) Plaintiff was provided with thirty days in which to file objections to the findings and recommendations. (Id.) Plaintiff did not file objections and on March 26, 2015, the findings and recommendations were adopted and judgment was entered. (ECF Nos. 8, 9.)

         On July 4, 2017, Plaintiff filed a motion to vacate the dismissal of this action. (ECF No. 10.)

         II. Legal Standard

         Plaintiff does not articulate the rule under which he seeks to vacate the judgment. Rules 59 and 60 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure address amendment or relief from judgment. Rule 59 provides that a motion to alter or amend a judgment must be filed no later than 28 days after the entry of judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e). As the current motion has been filed more than two years after judgment has been entered, the Court concludes that Plaintiff is seeking to amend the judgment under Rule 60.

         Rule 60 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs requests for relief from a judgment or order.[1] Under Rule 60(b), a district court “may relieve a party or its legal representative from a final judgment, order, or proceeding for the following reasons: (1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect; (2) newly discovered evidence that, with reasonable diligence, could not have been discovered in time to move for a new trial under Rule 59(b); (3) fraud (whether previously called intrinsic or extrinsic), misrepresentation, or misconduct by an opposing party; (4) the judgment is void; (5) the judgment has been satisfied, released or discharged; it is based on an earlier judgment that has been reversed or vacated; or applying it prospectively is no longer equitable; or (6) any other reason that justifies relief. “A motion under Rule 60(b) must be made within a reasonable time--and for reasons (1), (2), and (3) no more than a year after the entry of the judgment or order or the date of the proceeding.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(c)(1).

         III. Analysis

         Plaintiff moves to reopen this action on the ground that he paid the filing fee prior to the Court's deadline; and therefore, the action was dismissed in error for failing to pay the filing fee.

         On January 30, 2015, counsel informed Plaintiff by telephone that Plaintiff had until February 20, 2015 to pay the filing fee or his complaint would be dismissed. (Decl. of Jacqueline A. Forslund (“Forslund Decl.”) ¶ 5[2], ECF No. 10-1.) During that telephone call, Plaintiff informed counsel that he did not have the money to pay the filing fee but would attempt to find funds to do so. (Id. ¶ 6.)

         Plaintiff mailed a United States Postal Money Order to the Court that was deposited to the United States Treasury on February 19, 2015. (August 24, 2016 Letter from United States Postal Service, ECF No. 10-2.) In June 2016, Plaintiff called counsel to check on the status of his case, claiming to have paid the filing fee. (Forslund Decl. ¶ 9.) Plaintiff informed counsel that he had mailed a money order to the Clerk of the Court to pay the filing fee but had not asked for proof of delivery. (Id. ¶ 9.) Plaintiff told counsel he would try to trace the money order to determine if it had been lost or stolen. (Id. ¶ 11.) On August 24, 2016, the United States Postal Service provided Plaintiff with a copy of the money order showing that it had been credited to the United States Treasury on February 19, 2015. (ECF No. 10-2.) Plaintiff did not immediately inform counsel of his receipt of the letter from the Postal Service.

         At some point after receiving the letter from the Postal Service, Plaintiff contacted the Milam Firm, which represented him during administrative proceedings. (Forslund Decl. ¶ 15.) The Milam Firm eventually referred Plaintiff back to trial counsel. (Id. ¶ 16.)

         Plaintiff called counsel on April 26, 2017. (Id. ¶ 12.) Counsel called Plaintiff back the next day, at which time Plaintiff informed counsel of the Postal Service letter. (Id. ¶ 13.) Plaintiff mailed the copy of the letter to counsel who received it on May 12, 2017. (Id. ΒΆ 17.) Plaintiff's counsel then requested a copy of Plaintiff's hearing file, excerpts ...


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