Saturday, March 04, 2006

disability - consid. of evidence - duty to develop record - scope of magistrate judge's duty

Roman v. Barnhart - ED Pa. - February 28, 2006

http://www.paed.uscourts.gov/documents/opinions/06D0248P.pdf

This case involves a 10 year-old boy with hearing and speech impairment. The case was remanded because ALJ did not explain his consideration of the records of the child's primary physician and "did not appear to give meaningful consideration to the non-medical evidence from [the child's] teacher...." This evidence was directed "to be evaluated and subjectively considered by the ALJ."

An ALJ need not always give a comprehensive explanation for the rejection of evidence. In most cases a sentence or short paragraph will suffice. Here however "it does seem to be an inescapable conclusion the ALJ did fail to directly address evidence from" the teacher.

The Magistrate's Report did discuss this evidence. However, in doing so, the Magistrate "exceeded her limited scope of review...[I]t is impermissible...to rectify ALJ errors by making an independent analysis and relying on information not relied upon by the ALJ....rather than focusing only on the reasons set forth by the ALJ."

There is also a good discussion of the ALJ's duty to develop the record adequately, even where the claimant is represented by counsel. When the ALJ is aware of a report that is "reasonably necessary for the full presentation of a case," the ALJ on his/her own initiative "may" issue subpoenas for the material documents.

Donald Marritz
MidPenn Legal Services

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