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Nick Spagnolo v. United States Social Security Administration

September 21, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: David Alan Ezra United States District Judge


Pursuant to Local Rule 7.2(d), the Court finds this matter suitable for disposition without a hearing. After reviewing the motions and the supporting memoranda, the Court: (1) ADOPTS IN PART and MODIFIES IN PART the Magistrate Judge's Findings and Recommendation (Doc. # 28) and (2) DENIES AS MOOT Plaintiff's Motions for Writ of Mandamus, Summary Judgment, and Attorneys Fees (Docs. ## 20, 23, 32).


On June 2, 2011, Plaintiff Nick Spagnolo ("Plaintiff") filed a four-page complaint relating to claims for disability, Social Security Disability, Insurance benefits, and Supplemental Security Income benefits. (See Doc. # 1.) Plaintiff also filed an Application to Proceed Without Payment of Fees. (Doc. # 2.)

On June 17, 2011, United States Magistrate Judge Richard L. Puglisi issued a Findings and Recommendation that Plaintiff be given leave to file an amended Complaint and that his Application to Proceed Without Prepayment of Fees be denied. (See Doc. # 6.) Judge Puglisi found that the Complaint failed to satisfy Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 8 because Plaintiff "has not alleged facts sufficient to show that he has exhausted his administrative remedies before seeking judicial review." (Id. at 4.) Judge Puglisi meticulously reviewed Plaintiff's exhibits attached to the Complaint, (id. at 6--7,) and ultimately concluded that Plaintiff should be granted leave to file an amended complaint addressing the deficiencies. (Id. at 7--8.) Because Judge Puglisi found the Complaint wanting, he also recommended that "Plaintiff's Application be denied and that Plaintiff be given leave to file another Application if he chooses to file an amended complaint." (Id. at 8.) Plaintiff objected thereafter. (See Doc. # 9.) On July 19, 2011, this Court issued an Order denying Plaintiff's Objections and adopting Judge Puglisi's Findings and Recommendation. (Doc. # 14.)

Plaintiff has since filed three documents which appear to comprise his amended Complaint. The documents are entitled: (1) "Amended Pleading Order Dated June 17, 2011" ("Amended Pleading," Doc. # 13); (2) "Supplemental Pleading: To Amend Pleading Dated July 15, 2011" ("Supplemental Pleading," Doc. # 16); and (3) "Amendment - Damages" ("Damages," Doc. # 18). On August 29, 2011, Plaintiff filed his second Application to Proceed in District Court without Prepaying Fees or Costs ("Second Application"). (Doc. # 27.)

On August 16, 2011, Plaintiff filed a Motion for a Writ of Mandamus. (Doc. # 20.) On August 23, 2011, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. # 23.) On September 15, 2011, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Attorney Fees. (Doc. # 32.)

Plaintiff's Amended Pleadings again contain allegations related to Plaintiff's Social Security benefits. Plaintiff alleges Defendant has made deductions in violation of the Social Security Act and seeks damages in the amount of $79,585 and underpayments in the amount of $4,585. (Amended Pleading at 7.) Plaintiff also claims that Defendant has committed civil rights violations. (Id. at 6.)

On August 30, 2011, Judge Puglisi issued a Findings and Recommendation that Plaintiff's Second Application be denied and that Plaintiff's Amended Pleadings be dismissed without leave to amend. ("FR," Doc. # 28.) On September 9, 2011, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Recusal of Judge Puglisi. (Doc. # 30.) The Court construes Plaintiff's Motion for Recusal as both a Motion for Recusal and also as Objections to Judge Puglisi's latest Findings and Recommendation.*fn1


Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A), a district judge may designate a magistrate judge to hear and decide a pretrial matter pending before the court. The decision of the magistrate judge on non-dispositive matters is final. Bhan v. NME Hosp., Inc., 929 F.2d 1404, 1414 (9th Cir. 1991). However, a district judge may reconsider a magistrate's order on these non-dispositive pretrial matters and set aside that order, or any portion thereof, if it is "clearly erroneous or contrary to law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(a); 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A); LR 74.1; see Rivera v. NIBCO, Inc., 364 F.3d 1057, 1063 (9th Cir. 2004); see also Osband v. Woodford, 290 F.3d 1036, 1041 (9th Cir. 2002).

The threshold of the "clearly erroneous" test is high. See Boskoff v. Yano, 217 F. Supp. 2d 1077, 1084 (D. Haw. 2001). The magistrate judge's factual findings must be accepted unless the court is "left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed." United States v. Silverman, 861 F.2d 571, 576--66 (9th Cir. 1988). "The reviewing court may not simply substitute its judgment for that of the deciding court." Grimes v. City & Cnty. of S.F., 951 F.2d 236, 241 (9th Cir. 1991). "A decision is 'contrary to law' if it applies an incorrect legal standard or fails to consider an element of the applicable standard." Na Pali Haweo Cmty. Ass'n v. Grande, 252 F.R.D. 672, 674 (D. Haw. 2008); see Hunt v. Nat'l Broadcasting Co., 872 F.2d 289, 292 (9th Cir. 1989) (noting that such failures constitute abuse of discretion).


Pursuant to Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a pleading that states a claim for relief must contain a "a short plain statement of the grounds for the court's jurisdiction" and "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). ...

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