United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
SANDRA MOORE WELLS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Spence (“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial review,
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), of the initial decision
of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(“the Commissioner”), denying her claim for
disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) and
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) benefits
under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act. Before
this Court is the Commissioner's motion to dismiss
Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure12(b)(1). The Commissioner has filed a brief in
support of its motion and Plaintiff has responded to it. For
the reasons set forth below, the Commissioner's motion is
granted and the Complaint is dismissed, without prejudice, as
this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction.
PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL HISTORY
January 22, 2019, Plaintiff applied for DIB and SSI benefits,
alleging disability. Def. Br. at 1; Resp. at 2. The Social
Security Administration (“SSA”) denied
Plaintiff's initial claim; therefore, she requested a
hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”). Def. Br. at 1. The SSA granted
Plaintiff's request and scheduled a hearing before an ALJ
on November 27, 2019. Prior to her hearing, Plaintiff filed a
pro se Complaint in this Court on July 12, 2019.
Def. Br. at 1; Plaintiff's Complaint (Document No. 1).
The Commissioner filed the current motion to dismiss that
pleading. (Document No. 13). Both parties have consented to
the undersigned's jurisdiction to decide this case
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).
Federal Rule 12(b)(1) Standard
subject matter jurisdiction is challenged under Rule
12(b)(1), the plaintiff must bear the burden of
persuasion.” Kehr Packages, Inc. v. Fidelcor,
Inc., 926 F.2d 1406, 1409 (3d Cir.), cert.
denied, 501 U.S. 1222, 111 S.Ct. 1839, 115 L.Ed.2d 1007
(1991). The Third Circuit has stated:
When there is a factual question about whether a court has
jurisdiction, the trial court may examine facts outside the
pleadings…because at issue in a factual 12(b)(1)
motion is the trial court's jurisdiction - its very power
to hear the case…No presumptive truthfulness attaches
to plaintiff's allegations, and the existence of disputed
material facts will not preclude the trial court from
evaluating for itself the merits of jurisdictional claims.
Robinson v. Dalton, 107 F.3d 1018, 1021 (3d Cir.
1997) (internal quotations and citations omitted.) Only when
the pleader will not be able to assert a colorable claim of
subject matter jurisdiction, may a district court dismiss the
complaint. See Mortensen v. First Federal Savings and
Loan Association, 549 F.2d 884, 891 (3d Cir.
Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies
federal judicial review of the Commissioner's decision
can occur, a claimant must generally proceed through a
four-step process. Smith v. Berryhill, 139 S.Ct.
1765, 1772 (2019). “First the claimant must seek an
initial determination as to [her] eligibility. Second, the
claimant must seek reconsideration of the initial
determination. Third, the claimant must request a hearing,
which is conducted by an ALJ. Fourth, the claimant must seek
review of the ALJ's decision by the Appeals
Council.” Id. (citing 20 C.F.R §
416.1400). However, without a “‘final
decision,' the District Court has no jurisdiction to
review the Commissioner's determination.”
Fitzgerald v. Apfel, 148 F.3d 232, 234 (3d Cir.
1998). The Third Circuit has held that district courts lack
jurisdiction when a Social Security claimant has not
exhausted their administrative remedies. See Van Williams
v. Soc. Sec. Admin., 152 Fed.Appx. 153, 154-55 (3d Cir.
2005) (non-precedential); see also Fitzgerald, 148
F.3 at 234. Nevertheless, per the United States Supreme
Court, federal courts may retain jurisdiction over colorable
claims of constitutional violations “despite a lack of
a final decision.” See Califano v. Sanders,
430 U.S. 99, 108-09, 97 S.Ct. 980, 51 L.Ed.2d 192 (1977).
appropriately, requested a hearing before an ALJ after the
SSA denied her initial application. Def. Br. at 1. However,
instead of waiting for her November 27, 2019 hearing,
Plaintiff sought relief in federal court. She neither
attended a hearing before an ALJ nor presented her case to
the Appeals Council, as required; hence, her administrative
remedies are not exhausted and the decision of the
Commissioner is not final. Therefore, unless special
circumstances excuse exhaustion, this Court lacks subject
matter jurisdiction and the Commissioner's Motion for
Dismissal should be granted. Notably, Plaintiff does not
allege such administrative exhaustion.
Plaintiff attempts to bypass exhaustion requirements by
relying on constitutional violations, but neither is
colorable. Plaintiff asserts two claims. First, in response
to the Commissioner's motion, she alleges that under
Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16
L.Ed.2d 694 (1966), her rights are “secured by the
Constitution” and should not be abrogated. Plaintiff
further asserts that the SSA violated her Fourteenth
Amendment due process rights and her Fifth Amendment right
“to life, ” because she was never evaluated by the
Administration's doctors. Resp. at 3. Even construing
Plaintiff's pro se Complaint
liberally, these assertations fail to establish a
colorable claim of constitutional violations that would
justify this Court's exercise of jurisdiction.
is inapposite in the context of the social security appeal
process, because it governs custodial interrogations,
self-incriminations, and confessions. See Miranda,
384 U.S. 436 (1966). Plaintiff's Miranda rights