United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER DENYING MOTION TO ALTER OR AMEND JUDGMENT RE:
DKT. NO. 30
C. SPERO, Chief Magistrate Judge
Court previously granted a motion for summary judgment by
Plaintiff Londale Haynesworth, reversed the decision of
Defendant Nancy Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social
Security (the "Commissioner") denying Haynesworth
Social Security benefits, and issued an order remanding to
the Commissioner with an instruction to award benefits
pursuant to the Ninth Circuit's credit-as-true rule. The
Commissioner now moves to alter or amend judgment under Rule
59(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. In the
interest of efficiency and to avoid an unnecessary
expenditure of attorneys' fees at public expense, the
Court finds the matter suitable for resolution on the
Commissioner's motion alone, without further briefing.
The motion is DENIED for the reasons discussed
order assumes for the parties' familiarity with the facts
and procedural history of the case. A more detailed summary
of Haynesworth's medical history and the procedural
background of his efforts to obtain Social Security benefits
is included in the Court's previous order granting
Haynesworth's motion for summary judgment. See
generally Order on Cross Mots. for Summ. J. ("S.J.
Order, " dkt. 27).
who suffers from schizoaffective disorder, initially filed an
application for social security benefits in June of 2010,
alleging disability beginning in 2007. See
Administrative Record ("AR, " dkt. 19) at 90; S.J.
Order at 2. After that application was denied following a
hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ"),
Haynesworth filed a second application in May of 2013,
alleging disability beginning immediately following the
denial of his first application in March of 2013. AR at 20,
99; S.J. Order at 2. The second application was denied on
initial review, denied on reconsideration, and denied after a
hearing before ALJ Nancy Lisewski. AR at 17-30; S.J. Order at
2. ALJ Lisewski adopted the previous ALJ's assessment of
Haynesworth's residual functional capacity, crediting
state agency consulting doctors' opinions that
Haynesworth was not disabled and giving little weight to
opinions of Haynesworth's treating and examining doctors.
See generally AR at 20-30; S.J. Order at 22-28.
After the Social Security Administration Appeals Council
denied Haynesworth's request for review, see AR
at 1-3, Haynesworth filed the present action in this Court.
Previous Order Granting Summary Judgment
31, 2017, the Court granted Haynesworth's motion for
summary judgment, denied the Commissioner's cross motion
for summary judgment, and issued an order remanding the
matter to the Commissioner with instructions to award
benefits. See generally S.J. Order.
Court held that the ALJ failed to present specific and
legitimate reasons for giving little weight to the opinion of
Dr. James Liles, who treated Haynesworth. Id. at
36-39. Contrary to the ALJ's statement that Dr.
Liles' opinion failed to reference his treatment notes,
the opinion at issue in fact stated that Dr. Liles relied on
mental status examinations and clinical interviews (as
described in his treatment notes), and the Court held that
Haynesworth's normal performance on in-office tests was
not a sufficient reason for the ALJ to discount conclusions
that Dr. Liles drew from clinical interviews. Id. at
37-38. The Court also held that a reference in one treatment
note to suspicion of poor medication compliance was not a
sufficient reason to discount Dr. Liles' opinion.
Id. at 38-39.
Court similarly held that the ALJ failed to set forth
specific and legitimate reasons for giving little weight to
the opinions of Drs. Lesleigh Franklin and Laura Catlin, both
of whom examined Haynesworth and concluded that he had marked
limitations as a result of mental impairments. See
Id. at 40-45. Contrary to the ALJ's opinion, those
doctors did not base their opinions solely on
Haynesworth's own subjective statements; they in fact
also administered a number of clinical tests and reviewed
medical records. Id. at 40-42. Nor did the fact that
their services were procured by Haynesworth's counsel
constitute a sufficient reason to reject the opinions under
Ninth Circuit precedent. Id. at 42-43. And while the
ALJ asserted that the examining doctors lacked access to the
full record available at the time of the ALJ's
determination, both doctors in fact stated that they reviewed
all medical records available at the time of their opinions,
which in the case of Dr. Catlin, would have included
essentially all of the same records available to the ALJ.
Id. at 43-44.
the ALJ's reasons for rejecting the opinions of Drs.
Liles, Franklin, and Catlin were insufficient, the Court held
that the ALJ also erred in giving great weight to the
opinions of non-examining state agency doctors to the extent
that they conflicted with the treating and examining
doctors' opinions. Id. at 45.
to the ALJ's treatment of Haynesworth's testimony,
the Court held that having acknowledged that
Haynesworth's impairments could reasonably be expected to
cause his reported symptoms, the ALJ failed to present clear
and convincing reasons to discount testimony as to those
symptoms. Id. at 45-50. The ALJ did not identify
specific testimony that she found less than credible, as
required by Ninth Circuit precedent, and the Court found the
ALJ's reasons for generally discrediting Haynesworth to
be either unsupported by the record or inadequate.
Id. at 47-50.
the Court held that the Ninth Circuit's credit-as-true
doctrine applied in this case and warranted a decision
awarding benefits. Id. at 50-52. The Court focused
on uncontroverted opinions of Drs. Liles and Catlin that
Haynesworth's impairments would cause him to miss more
than four days of work per month, and testimony from a
vocational expert that even someone with the comparatively
mild limitations of the ALJ's residual ...