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Hill v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 3, 2019

MICHAEL H. HILL, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR CLARIFICATION AND MODIFYING BRIEFING SCHEDULE ECF NO. 18

         Plaintiff Michael H. Hill proceeds in this Social Security appeal unrepresented by counsel. Plaintiff moves for clarification as to why his opening brief was stricken. ECF No. 18. For good cause shown and given plaintiff's unrepresented status, we grant plaintiff's motion and provide clarification below. Additionally, we extend the briefing schedule to allow the parties more time to discuss informal resolution before filing formal briefs with the court.

         I. Discussion

         A. Opportunity for Informal Resolution

         The court struck plaintiff's brief because it was not filed in compliance with the scheduling order. ECF No. 5. Under to the scheduling order, within one hundred twenty days of service of the complaint, defendant is required to serve a copy of the administrative record on plaintiff and file the administrative record with the court, which serves as the answer to the complaint in this proceeding.

         Once the administrative record has been filed, the parties must try to resolve the case informally. As part of this process, the parties must exchange informal briefs in the form of ` letters about the case to see if they can agree that the case should be sent back, or “remanded, ” to the Social Security Administration for a further hearing by an administrative law judge. Each letter brief must be marked “Confidential Letter Brief, ” should not be filed with the court, and must be served on defendant within thirty days of the date that defendant served plaintiff with the administrative record. Claimant should mail copies of his or her letter brief to all the attorneys listed on the court docket as representing defendant, Commissioner of Social Security, at the addresses noted on the court docket. Defendant's confidential letter brief must be served on plaintiff no later than thirty-five days after defendant is served with plaintiff's confidential letter brief.

         If the parties agree to a remand, then the case will go back to the Social Security Administration before any formal briefs are filed with the court, and without the court ever considering the merits of the case. The parties' agreement to remand the case must be set forth in writing in a document titled “Stipulation and Order, ” which must be signed and filed with the court no later than fifteen days after defendant served its confidential letter brief on plaintiff. See Local Rule 143(a)(1) & (b).

         The informal letter briefs exchanged by the parties are confidential in the sense that they are not filed with the court. If the parties are unable to agree to a remand, the letters are not part of the case file and, thus, are not before the court if the court considers the case on the merits.

         It appears from plaintiff's motion that the parties may not have had the opportunity to consult and attempt to resolve this case informally, even though the record reflects that they have served each other with letter briefs. Therefore, we will give plaintiff thirty days to attempt to resolve this case with defendant before plaintiff's formal opening brief must be filed. The contact information for defendant is listed here for plaintiff's convenience:

Tina Naicker Office Of General Counsel Social Security Administration 160 Spear Street 8th Floor San Francisco, CA 94105 415-268-5611 Fax: 415-744-0134 Email: Tina.Naicker@ssa.gov
Benjamin E. Hall United States Attorney 2500 Tulare Street Suite 4401 Fresno, CA 93721 559-497-4058 Fax: 559-497-4099 Email: Benjamin.Hall3@usdoj.gov

         B. Instructions for the Remainder of the Case

         If the parties are unable to agree to a remand of the case, then the parties must file formal briefs with the court as directed in the scheduling order. It is only after the formal briefs are filed with the court that the court will consider the merits of the case and make a decision.

         Plaintiff's opening brief must be filed and served no later than thirty days from the date of this order. Plaintiff must serve a copy of the opening brief on all the attorneys listed for defendant on the court docket of the case at the addresses noted on the court docket. Plaintiff must also file the original ...


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