United States District Court, D. Minnesota
DAVID R. CARLSON, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security; and LINDA S. MOMAHON, Defendants.
ORDER AND REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION 
BRISBOIS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter comes before the undersigned United States Magistrate
Judge upon routine supervision of the cases that pend before
the Court, and upon Plaintiff David R. Carlson's
Application to Proceed in forma pauperis. [Docket No. 2].
David R. Carlson was, until recently, in state prison. During
that time he was incarcerated, Carlson's Supplemental
Security Income (“SSI”) payments were curtailed.
(See, Exhibits, [Docket No. 1-1] at 16). In 2006,
the Social Security Administration determined that Carlson
had been overpaid by $1, 206 in SSI benefits, and it directed
Carlson to return that money. (Id. at 17). Carlson
appears to seek to challenge both of those actions
(and perhaps other, more recent actions of the Social
Security Administration) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Social Security Act provides that “[a]ny individual,
after any final decision of the Commissioner of
Social Security made after a hearing to which he was a party
. . . may obtain a review of such decision by a civil
action” in federal district court. 42 U.S.C. §
405(g) (emphasis added). The Act further states, “[n]o
findings of fact or decision of the [Commissioner] shall be
reviewed by any person, tribunal, or government agency except
as herein provided.” 42 U.S.C. § 405(h). The
Supreme Court has concluded that the term “final
decision” is a “statutorily specified
jurisdictional prerequisite.” Weinberger v.
Salfi, 422 U.S. 749, 766 (1975); Anderson v.
Sullivan, 959 F.2d 690, 692 (8th Cir. 1992). Thus, for a
federal district court to have subject-matter jurisdiction
over a cause of action for a dispute over social security
benefits, the claimant must first exhaust his administrative
remedies by giving the Commissioner an opportunity to reach a
“final decision” before he files suit.
See, Schoolcraft v. Sullivan, 971 F.2d 81,
84-85 (8th Cir. 1992) (explaining that failure to present a
claim to the Commissioner according to prescribed
administrative procedures prior to bringing suit divests the
federal district courts of jurisdiction).
Social Security Act does not define the term “final
decision, ” instead leaving that definition to the
Social Security Administration's regulations.
Weinberger, 422 U.S. at 766. To obtain a
“final decision, ” the regulations provide that a
claimant must complete a four-step administrative review
process. 20 C.F.R. § 404.900(a). First, a claimant
seeking disability benefits receives an initial
determination. If the claimant's initial application for
benefits is denied, he may request reconsideration of the
decision. 20 C.F.R. § 416.1409(a). A claimant who is
dissatisfied with the reconsidered decision may obtain
administrative review by an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”). 20 C.F.R. § 416.1429. Finally, if
the claimant is dissatisfied with the ALJ's decision, he
may request review by the Appeals Council. If the Appeals
Council grants review of a claim, then the decision that the
Council issues is the Commissioner's final decision.
Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-107 (2000). If the
Appeals Council denies the request for review, the ALJ's
opinion becomes the final decision. Id.
is no indication that Carlson has taken the necessary steps
that could result in the Commissioner reaching a “final
decision” that would bring this action within the
Court's jurisdiction. In fact, it is overwhelmingly
doubtful that Carlson in fact prosecuted that appeal to the
end. Many of the documents submitted by Carlson are form
letters concerning how he may continue the
administrative appellate process, should he so choose.
Moreover, many of the actions complained of by Carlson
occurred quite recently following his release from prison,
leaving not enough time for the appellate process to have
occurred. Because Carlson has by all indications
failed to exhaust administrative remedies, this case must be
dismissed without prejudice for lack of subject-matter
jurisdiction. See, e.g., Dixon v. Soc. Sec.
Admin., No. 05-cv-0601 (DSD/FLN), 2005 WL 3526597, at *1
(D. Minn. Dec. 22, 2005) (dismissing action without prejudice
for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction where Plaintiff
failed to exhaust administrative remedies by completion of
the four-step administrative appeal process laid out in 20
C.F.R. § 404.900(1)-(5)).
this Court notes that this matter was assigned solely to the
undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to Local
Rule 7.2(a). Because the Court has not received the consent
of both parties to proceed entirely before the magistrate
judge, see, 28 U.S.C. § 636(c); LR7.2(a), the
undersigned cannot enter a final order of dismissal.
Accordingly, this Court will direct the Clerk of Court's
office to assign a District Judge to the present case
pursuant to this District's standard assignment
based on the foregoing, and on all of the files, records, and
proceedings herein, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED
THAT the Clerk of Court shall assign a District
Judge to his matter so that a final dispositive decision can
addition, IT IS HEREBY RECOMMENDED THAT:
matter be DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE for lack of
application to proceed in forma pauperis of Plaintiff David
R. Carlson, [Docket No. 2], be DENIED as
 This matter has been assigned solely
to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to
Local Rule 7.2(a). Because not all parties have consented to
proceed entirely before the undersigned, this Court cannot
effect dismissal. See, 28 U.S.C. § 636.
Accordingly, this matter must be assigned to a district ...