First, Sisco argues that the Court should apply principles of contract law to modify the language of the Act and award two-years' worth of retroactive benefits to the grandchildren. Sisco posits that it is a well-settled principle of contract law that, when unforeseen circumstances render an aspect of a contract impossible or impracticable, it is proper for a court to modify the duties of the parties. Here, plaintiff asserts, because it was impossible for Sisco or the grandchildren to apply for benefits (because there existed no reason for them to file prior to May, 1990), and futile, the Court should rewrite the Act.
In essence, Sisco asks this Court to be guided by sympathy when interpreting the Act. This, the Court will not do. When interpreting a statute, "courts must presume that a legislature says in a statute what it means and means in a statute what it says there," Connecticut National Bank v. Germain, 117 L. Ed. 2d 391, U.S. , 112 S. Ct. 1146, 1149 (1992), regardless of the amount of sympathy a court feels towards a claimant (and this Court has a heavy-heart with respect to this decision). The Court finds the statute involved to be clear and unambiguous. One exception, and one only, is included in the Act that would enable the Court to bypass the six-month retroactive rule.
If more exceptions were intended, Congress would have added more. "When the words of a statute are unambiguous, then, this first canon is also the last: 'judicial inquiry is complete.'" Germain, 112 S. Ct. at 1149 (quoting Rubin v. United States, 449 U.S. 424, 430, 101 S. Ct. 698, 701, 66 L. Ed. 2d 633 (1981). Although Sisco may not be happy with the statute, she cannot deny its continued existence, vitality, or application. Because the Court is unable to construe the statute for anything other than its plain-meaning, any argument concerning its flexibility should be directed to Congress. It is indeed unfortunate that Sisco did not file her claim earlier, but under the law, the Court is required to grant the Secretary's 12(b)(6) motion and dismiss the complaint.
Sisco also argues that the denial of benefits violates her due process and equal protection rights under the Fifth Amendment. She asserts that the Act is patently irrational, and the classification between those individuals who learn of a loved ones' death immediately and those who do not lacks a rationale basis.
In considering social welfare legislation, courts afford considerable deference to Congressional line-drawing. Boyd, 797 F.2d at 627. The eligibility requirements for the Act are not so irrational as to implicate a violation of due process. The requirement that applications be made within six months "enables the government to 'preserve . . . the social security fund's fiscal integrity' by insuring that the Administration knows within a reasonable time frame what demands will be made on the fund". Id. (quoting Mitchell v. Harris, 496 F. Supp. 230, 235 (D.N.J 1990). As a result, the Court finds there is a rational justification for the eligibility requirements to receive benefits.
E. Motion to Compel Production of Documents
In the alternative, Sisco requests that the Court forego a decision on dismissal, and direct that the Secretary produce certain documents relevant to this action.
Relying on Hummel v. Heckler, 736 F.2d 91 (3d Cir. 1984), Sisco argues that while 42 U.S.C. 405(g) limits the Court's factual review to determining whether the Secretary's findings are supported by substantial evidence, the Court must consider whether the Secretary treated Sisco fairly vis-a-vis other similar situated claimants. According to plaintiff, the only way the Court can make such a determination is to review the requested documents.
The Court will deny plaintiff's motion to compel production of documents. The Court finds no statute or case that would provide the necessary authority to grant such broad-based discovery. 42 U.S.C. § 405(A) limits the Court's review to the administrative record. While the court may "at any time order additional evidence to be taken," it can only do so based upon a showing that there is new evidence which is material and that there is good cause for the failure to incorporate such evidence into the record in a prior proceeding . . ." Hummel, 736 F.2d at 93 (emphasis added). Based on this standard, the court is unable to compel further discovery. There has been no showing on the part of plaintiff that new evidence exists which is material, nor that there was good cause for the failure to incorporate such evidence in the prior record.
Plaintiff counters that Hummel provides for discovery to disclose "information relating to a contention bearing on the fundamental fairness of the agency hearing." Id. (emphasis supplied). The Court finds plaintiff's reliance on Hummel is off the mark. Hummel limits discovery to instances where the fairness of the agency's proceeding, not the agency's determination, was in question. Hummel, 736 F.2d at 93. The Hummel request for documents arose in the specific context of a request for information concerning the potential bias of the administrative law judge. Id. at 92. The Hummel court held that:
At least in cases such as this, where information relating to a contention bearing on the fundamental fairness of the agency hearing is in the possession of the government, discovery is available to the Section 405(g) plaintiff. Id. at 95 (emphasis added). See also Grant v. Shalala, 989 F.2d 1332, 1344 (3d Cir. 1993).
Clearly, a claim of possible bias implicates the fairness of the agency proceedings, and thus further discovery was granted. Id. The Court however, does not read Hummel to apply to the present case. The fairness of the proceedings below are not implicated by Sisco's document demands. Plaintiff simply appears to be searching for more information to aid in her case. This scenario is not addressed in Hummel, and as such, discovery is not available.
After a review of the motions and cross-motions, the Court grants the Secretary's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), denies Sisco's motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) as well as her motion to compel production of documents under Rule 37(a)(2).
THEREFORE, IT IS ON THIS 8th day of April, 1994;
ORDERED that the motion by defendant Secretary to dismiss plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a claim be granted, and it is further
ORDERED that the cross-motion by plaintiff Sisco for judgment on the pleadings be denied, and it is further
ORDERED that the cross-motion by plaintiff, in the alternative, to compel production of documents be denied.
ALFRED M. WOLIN, U.S.D.J.