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Rosado v. Berryhill

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

April 11, 2019

BRENDA ROSADO, On behalf of J.R. Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner of Social Security Defendant.

          Mannion, Judge.


          Susan E. Schwab, Chief United States Magistrate Judge.

         I. Introduction.

         Brenda Rosado (“Ms. Rosado”) on behalf of her daughter Josiany Rodriguez (“Ms. Rodriguez”) appeals from the Administrative Law Judge's (“ALJ”) decision denying Title XVI Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) benefits. See Doc. 1. Ms. Rosado, who is not a lawyer, is not typically permitted to represent her daughter in federal court; however, she is allowed to represent Ms. Rodriguez if she demonstrates that 1) she has a personal interest in the litigation and 2) she is competent in the matter. Since the filed complaint is lacking in sufficient detail to enable us to make such a determination, we recommend that the complaint be dismissed but that Ms. Rodriguez be granted leave to file an amended complaint.

         II. Procedural History.

         On November 5, 2018, Ms. Rosado, Ms. Rodriguez's mother, initiated this appeal by filing a hand-written complaint. Doc. 1. Ms. Rosado further filed a motion to proceed in forma pauperis on the same day. Doc. 2. Accordingly, we issued a standing practice order for social security appeals. Doc. 3. We further issued a pro se letter informing Ms. Rosado of how her case will proceed. Doc. 4. We have not received any new filings or communications from Ms. Rosado. Moreover, no counsel has entered an appearance on behalf of Ms. Rosado, nor has a petition been filed for the appointment of counsel.

         Ms. Rosado submits to this Court that she “represents” her daughter who is a minor. Doc. 2. Further, in Ms. Rodriguez's submission to proceed in forma pauperis, which Ms. Rosado signed, Ms. Rosado continuously states that her daughter is a minor. Doc. 2. Otherwise, the complaint is deficient in facts and explanation. The only identifiable claim is Ms. Rosado's statement that she is “appealing [the] case” because “they said I needed more pr[oof] but all pr[oof] was give[n].” Doc. 1.

         III. Discussion.

         Unlike in administrative proceedings where a non-attorney may represent a party, in federal court, parties may proceed only pro se or through counsel. See 28 U.S.C. § 1654. In general, a parent who is not a lawyer cannot represent his or her child in federal court. Osei-Afriyie v. Med. Coll. of Pa., 937 F.2d 876, 882-83 (3d Cir. 1991). A parent, however, may represent his or her minor child in SSI appeals if after appropriate inquiry, the Court finds that the parent has established a “personal stake” in the litigation and competency to handle the matter.[1] Machadio v. Apfel, 276 F.3d 103, 107 (2d Cir. 2002); Harris v. Apfel, 209 F.3d 413, 416 (5th Cir. 2000); see also Price v. Barnhart, 129 Fed.Appx. 699, 700 (3d Cir. 2005) (citing Machadio, 276 F.3d at 107; Harris, 209 F.3d at 416).

         Specifically, where:

[A] non-attorney parent who brings an SSI appeal on behalf [of] his or her children has a sufficient interest in the case and meets basic standards of competence . . . a non-attorney parent may bring an action on behalf of his or her child without representation by an attorney.

Machadio, 276 F.3d at 107; see Harris, 209 F.3d at 416; see Adams ex rel. D.J.W. v. Astrue, 659 F.3d 1297, 1300-01 (10th Cir. 2011).

         In the documents filed with this Court, Ms. Rosado is clear that she is appealing on behalf of her daughter; docs. 1, 2, however, the complaint is wholly lacking in facts showing that Ms. Rosado has a sufficient interest in this litigation and that she is competent in this matter. First, Ms. Rosado has not shown a sufficient interest. A sufficient showing of interest is found when the interests are “closely intertwined, ” such as when the Second Circuit emphasized that a parent's interest is intertwined through the expenses incurred as a result of being the claimant's parent. Machadio, 276 F.3d at 106. Often, the parent becomes the “representative payee” who has the responsibility to use the SSI benefits to the interest of the beneficiary. Id.; see Harris, 209 F.3d at 416 (a non-lawyer parent needs to identify a “personal stake in the litigation” like that of “expenses associated with the minor's maintenance” in order to represent their child). Accordingly, where the parent displays that he or she is currently responsible for the costs of an alleged disability, a sufficient interest is present. Machadio, 276 F.3d at 107.

         Here, there is not a sufficient showing of interest because there is not a request for relief or specific details on whether Ms. Rosado incurs the costs of her daughter's alleged disability. We do not deny that Ms. Rosado is the parent of Ms. Rodriguez, but rather that the complaint is lacking in facts to establish that Ms. Rosado has a sufficient interest. The court in Machadio established that the plaintiff had a sufficient interest in the matter because she was there throughout the process for her daughter. 276 F.3d at 105. The mother demonstrated continued involvement because she applied for her daughter's SSI benefits, filed the motion for reconsideration, attended the hearing, ...

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