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Reynolds v. Barnhart

April 27, 2004

LARRY REYNOLDS
v.
JO ANNE B. BARNHART, COMMISSIONER OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Baylson, J.

MEMORANDUM

I. Introduction

Plaintiff, Leroy Reynolds, sought judicial review of the decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration denying his claim for supplemental security income ("SSI") under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1381-1383f. Magistrate Judge Charles B. Smith issued a Report and Recommendation ("R&R") pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(c). After an independent and thorough consideration of the administrative record and all filings in this Court, this Court concluded that the Magistrate Judge's R&R correctly evaluated the decision of the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), and this Court affirmed the decision of the ALJ to uphold the Commissioner's decision to reject Plaintiff's claim for SSI benefits. See Reynolds v. Barnhart, 2004 WL 2102008 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 26, 2004).

Presently before the Court is Plaintiff's motion to alter the judgment of the Court affirming the decision of the ALJ (Doc. No. 18). This motion was filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e). The Court ordered supplemental briefing on the motion, which was completed February 22, 2005 (See Doc. Nos. 21 and 22). Now, for the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion to alter judgment will be granted.

II. Legal Standard

The standard for obtaining relief under Rule 59(e) is a difficult one to meet. The purpose of a motion for reconsideration is to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence. Harsco Corp. v. Zlotnicki, 779 F.2d 906, 909 (3d Cir. 1985). Motions for re-argument or reconsideration may not be used "as a means to argue new facts or issues that inexcusably were not presented to the court in the matter previously decided." Brambles USA, Inc. v. Blocker, 735 F. Supp. 1239, 1240 (D. Del. 1990). However, re-argument may be appropriate where "the Court has patently misunderstood a party, or has made a decision outside the adversarial issues presented to the Court by the parties, or has made an error not of reasoning but of apprehension." Id. at 1241 (internal quotations and citations omitted).

III. Contentions of the Parties

A. Plaintiff's Contentions

Plaintiff's motion to alter judgment is limited to a single, narrow issue. Plaintiff claims that the ALJ, the Magistrate, and subsequently this Court, erred as a matter of law in applying an incorrect version of a version of the "C" criteria under Listing of Impairment 12.03, "Schizophrenic, Paranoid and Other Psychotic Disorders." See 20 C.F.R. 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. Plaintiff's application for benefits was filed on June 5, 2000 and Listing 12.03 was amended and effective September 20, 2000. Although Plaintiff's claim was filed before Listing 12.03 was amended, Plaintiff asserts that the changes made to the listing were intended to be applied retroactively. Because of the retroactive effect of the changes, Plaintiff claims that the ALJ should have applied the amended version of Listing 12.03 during the hearing, held on December 6, 2001, and in the Decision of the ALJ, issued on February 22, 2002. Plaintiff asserts that because the ALJ failed to evaluate his claim pursuant to the amended version of Listing 12.03(C), the judgment of this Court should be altered and the case remanded to the ALJ for proper determination under the applicable standard.

B. Defendant's Contentions

Defendant does not dispute Plaintiff's claim that the amended version of Listing 12.03(C) should have been applied in making the determination that Plaintiff is "not disabled" within the meaning of the Social Security Act. However, Defendant contends that the ALJ did in fact apply the amended version of Listing 12.03(C). Defendant asserts that the ALJ not only applied the amended listing, but explained his findings in such a way that would allow for meaningful judicial review. Lastly, Plaintiff claims that the ALJ's findings with respect to Listing 12.03(C) were based upon substantial evidence.

IV. Discussion

The earlier version of Listing 12.03(C), effective at the time Plaintiff filed his original claim, lists the criteria for disability as follows:

Medically documented history of one or more episodes of acute symptoms, signs and functional limitations which at the time met the requirements in A and B of this listing, although these symptoms or signs are currently attenuated by ...


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