Thursday, July 07, 2011

SSI - standard of review of magistrate decision; functional capacity

Brown v. Astrue - 3d Cir. - July 6, 2011

Appeal from magistrate judge to district court - de novo review required

District Court review of magistrate judge decision must be de novo under 28 U.S.C. 636(b)(1)(b). If a party timely and properly files a written objection to the magistrate's report , the District Court "shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made." Sec. 636(b)(1) requires district courts to review such objections de novo unless the objection is "not timely or not specific," even if the district court believes that the objections "merely rehash arguments presented to and considered by a magistrate judge." Any appeal to a district court based on an objection to a Magistrate Judge’s order will "rehash arguments presented to and considered by" the Magistrate Judge. That is—by definition—the very nature of "review." In SSI appeals, the plain language of 636(b)(1) and the ruling in Goney v. Clark, 749 F.2d 5 (3d Cir. 1984) make clear that the standard district courts should apply to such objections is de novo.

However, the district court's error was held to have been harmless, for the reasons set out below.

Functional capacity - treating physician v. non-examining state agency consultant

The ALJ adequately explained his acceptance of the opinion of a testifying medical expert -- which was based on the opinion of a [non-examining?] state agency consultant, over the opinion of the treating psychiatrist.

Credibility - functional capacity - Here too, the court held that the ALJ decision was supported by substantial evidence. Totally boiler-plate language by the court.