Abdulhalim v. Colvin

Northern District of California, cand-4:2015-cv-01481

ORDER by Judge Haywood S. Gilliam, Jr. DENYING PLAINTIFF'S ({{24}}, {{25}}) MOTIONS TO ALTER OR AMEND AND FOR RELIEF FROM JUDGMENT.

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1 2 3 4 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 5 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 6 7 HANIFEL EL SAYYID ABDULHALIM, Case No. 15-cv-01481-HSG Plaintiff, 8 ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S v. MOTIONS TO ALTER OR AMEND 9 AND FOR RELIEF FROM JUDGMENT 10 CAROLINE COLVIN, Re: Dkt. Nos. 24 & 25 Defendant. 11 12 Northern District of California United States District Court 13 Before the Court are the motions to alter or amend the judgment under Federal Rule of 14 Procedure 59(e) and for relief from judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) filed by 15 Plaintiff Hanifel El Sayyid Abdulhalim ("Plaintiff"). Dkt. Nos. 24 ("MAJ") & 25 ("MRJ"). Each 16 motion seeks relief from the judgment previously entered in favor of Defendant Caroline Colvin, 17 Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Defendant") following the Court's 18 order denying Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. See Dkt. Nos. 20 & 23. Defendant has 19 filed a consolidated opposition, Dkt. No. 32 ("Opp."), and Plaintiff has filed a consolidated reply, 20 Dkt. No. 33 ("Reply"). 21 Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78(b) and Civil Local Rule 7-1(b), the Court finds 22 that these motions are suitable for disposition without oral argument. For the reasons set forth 23 below, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's motions to alter or amend and for relief from the judgment. 24 I. BACKGROUND 25 Plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court on March 31, 2015, appealing the final decision of 26 the Social Security Administration ("SSA") that denied his application for disability insurance 27 benefits and supplemental security income under the Social Security Act. Dkt. No. 1. 28 On July 27, 2015, the SSA lodged a transcript of the underlying administrative proceedings 1 with the Court. Dkt. No. 14. On August 12, 2015, Plaintiff moved to replace four pages of the 2 transcript. Dkt. No. 15. He explained that those pages contained the medical opinion of one of 3 Plaintiff's treating physicians, Dr. Richard Patel, but the document lacked his signature. Id. at 1. 4 But for this difference, Plaintiff represented that it was "the same document." Id. The unsigned 5 version was "inadvertently sent to Defendant due to clerical error." Dkt. No. 15-1 ¶ 3. 6 Plaintiff moved for summary judgment on September 19, 2015. Dkt. No. 17. The Court 7 denied Plaintiff's motion on February 1, 2016. Dkt. No. 20. In that Order, the Court considered 8 Plaintiff's claim that the administrative law judge ("ALJ") failed to properly weigh Dr. Patel's 9 opinion when assessing Plaintiff's residual functioning capacity, and rejected it. Id. at 10-11. 10 Specifically, the Court stated the following with regard to its consideration of Dr. Patel's opinion: 11 The ALJ properly took Plaintiff's moderate mental limitations identified by Dr. Patel. . . into account when assessing his RFC, as 12 reflected in the qualifications to the RFC. . . The Court finds that Northern District of California the ALJ properly weighed and incorporated Dr. Patel's and Ms. United States District Court 13 Leung's opinion into his RFC assessment. 14 Id. The Court entered judgment in favor of Defendant on February 9, 2016. Dkt. No. 23. 15 Plaintiff then filed the instant motions to alter or amend and for relief from the judgment. 16 He claims that the Court clearly erred in entering judgment for Defendant because the ALJ did not 17 have the benefit of considering Dr. Patel's signed opinion when he denied Plaintiff's application 18 for social security benefits. MAJ at 5-6; MRJ at 2. Plaintiff characterizes the signed version of 19 Dr. Patel's opinion as "newly discovered probative evidence" that "the ALJ never saw." MAJ at 20 2-3; see also MRJ at 2, 6. He asserts that Defendant has engaged in misconduct by refusing to 21 stipulate to remand this action so that the ALJ can review this new evidence. MRJ at 1, 3. 22 II. LEGAL STANDARDS 23 A. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59 24 Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) authorizes a motion to alter or amend a judgment. 25 In the Ninth Circuit, a Rule 59(e) reconsideration motion is an "extraordinary remedy, to be used 26 sparingly in the interests of finality and conservation of judicial resources." Wood v. Ryan, 759 27 F.3d 1117, 1121 (9th Cir. 2014). "A motion for reconsideration under Rule 59(e) should not be 28 granted, absent highly unusual circumstances, unless the district court is presented with newly 2 1 discovered evidence, committed clear error, or if there is an intervening change in the controlling 2 law." McDowell v. Calderon, 197 F.3d 1253, 1255 (9th Cir. 1999 (en banc) (emphasis original). 3 A district court may also grant a Rule 59(e) motion to "prevent manifest injustice." Turner v. 4 Burlington N. Santa Fe R.R. Co., 338 F.3d 1058, 1063 (9th Cir. 2003). 5 B. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60 6 Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(3) permits a losing party to move for relief from 7 judgment on the basis of "fraud. . . misrepresentation, or other misconduct of an adverse party." 8 "To prevail, the moving party must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the verdict was 9 obtained through fraud, misrepresentation, or other misconduct and the conduct complained of 10 prevented the losing party from fully and fairly presenting the defense." De Saracho v. Custom 11 Food Machinery, Inc., 206 F.3d 874, 880 (9th Cir. 2000). "Rule 60(b)(3) is aimed at judgments 12 which were unfairly obtained, not at those which are factually incorrect." Id. (quotation marks and Northern District of California United States District Court 13 citation omitted). District courts have wide discretion in making this determination. See id. 14 III. DISCUSSION 15 Plaintiff's Rule 59(e) and Rule 60(b)(3) motions are meritless, and the Court denies both 16 motions. 17 A. Plaintiff's Rule 59(e) Motion 18 With respect to his Rule 59(e) motion, Plaintiff does not claim that the Court clearly erred 19 in its substantive analysis of the ALJ's opinion denying social security benefits and he does not 20 claim that there has been an intervening change in the law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e); McDowell, 21 197 F.3d at 1255. Instead, Plaintiff asserts that the copy of Dr. Patel's opinion that includes his 22 signature constitutes "newly discovered evidence." See MAJ at 2, 6; MRJ at 2-3. As the Court 23 stated in its Order denying Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, "[t]he ALJ properly took 24 Plaintiff's moderate mental limitations identified by Dr. Patel. . . into account when assessing his 25 RFC, as reflected in the qualifications to the RFC[.]" Dkt. No. 20 at 10-11. And there is no 26 evidence in the record that the ALJ discounted Dr. Patel's opinion because it was unsigned. 27 Accordingly, Plaintiff's Rule 59(e) motion is denied. 28 /// 3 1 B. Plaintiff's Rule 60(b)(3) Motion 2 With respect to his Rule 60(b)(3) motion, Plaintiff claims that Defendant has committed 3 misconduct that "threatens manifest injustice" because she refused to stipulate to remand this case 4 for the ALJ to reconsider in light of the signed version of Dr. Patel's opinion. MRJ at 3-4. 5 Defendant is well within her rights to refuse to voluntarily stipulate to remand this case to the ALJ 6 given the facts laid out above, especially after she defeated Plaintiff's summary judgment motion. 7 Plaintiff's claim that this constituted actionable misconduct that warrants the Court reversing its 8 summary judgment order lacks any basis. Accordingly, Plaintiff's Rule 60(b)(3) motion is denied. 9 IV. CONCLUSION 10 For the foregoing reasons, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's Rule 59(e) motion to alter or 11 amend the judgment and Plaintiff's Rule 60(b)(3) motion for relief from the judgment. 12 Northern District of California United States District Court 13 IT IS SO ORDERED. 14 Dated: 8/19/2016 15 16 HAYWOOD S. GILLIAM, JR. 17 United States District Judge 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 4