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Godwin v. City Redevelopment, LLC

United States District Court, D. Nevada

July 30, 2018

VICTORIA-JOY GODWIN, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY REDEVELOPMENT, LLC, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER (DOCKET NOS. 5, 6)

          NANCY J. KOPPE United States Magistrate Judge.

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 Plaintiff is proceeding in this action pro se and has requested authority pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 to proceed in forma pauperis. Docket No. 5. On June 4, 2018, Plaintiff filed a complaint. Docket No. 1-1. On July 16, 2018, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint. Docket No. 6.[1]

         I. In Forma Pauperis Application

         Plaintiff has submitted the affidavit required by § 1915(a). Docket No. 5. The Court concludes that Plaintiff has shown an inability to prepay fees and costs or give security for them. Accordingly, the request to proceed in forma pauperis will be granted pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). The Court will now review Plaintiff's amended complaint.

         II. Screening Complaint

         Upon granting an application to proceed in forma pauperis, courts additionally screen the complaint pursuant to § 1915(e). Federal courts are given the authority to dismiss a case if the action is legally “frivolous or malicious, ” fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). When a court dismisses a complaint under § 1915, the plaintiff should be given leave to amend the complaint with directions as to curing its deficiencies, unless it is clear from the face of the complaint that the deficiencies could not be cured by amendment. See Cato v. United States, 70 F.3d 1103, 1106 (9th Cir. 1995).

         Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for dismissal of a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Review under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) is essentially a ruling on a question of law. See Chappel v. Lab. Corp. of Am., 232 F.3d 719, 723 (9th Cir. 2000). A properly pled complaint must provide a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2); Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Although Rule 8 does not require detailed factual allegations, it demands “more than labels and conclusions” or a “formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)). The court must accept as true all well-pled factual allegations contained in the complaint, but the same requirement does not apply to legal conclusions. Id. at 679. Mere recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported only by conclusory allegations, do not suffice. Id. at 678. Secondly, where the claims in the complaint have not crossed the line from conceivable to plausible, the complaint should be dismissed. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. Allegations of a pro se complaint are held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 & n.7 (9th Cir. 2010) (finding that liberal construction of pro se pleadings is required after Twombly and Iqbal).

         A. Federal Claims

         Plaintiff attempts to state two claims under the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”).[2] See generally Docket No. 6. First, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants discriminated against her because of her race. Id. at 24-26. Second, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants retaliated against her by serving her an eviction notice. Id. at 28-30. Plaintiff further attempts to state a claim for violations of her rights under the First and Fourth Amendments of the United States Constitution. Id. at 30-31.

         i. Racial Discrimination

         As a preliminary matter, Plaintiff's FHA claim for racial discrimination does not comply with Rule 8. To comply with Rule 8, a complaint must set forth coherently who is being sued, for what relief, and on what theory, with enough detail to guide discovery. See McHenry v. Renne, 84 F.3d 1172, 1178 (9th Cir. 1995). “Where claims are brought against multiple defendants, it is important that the complaint concisely alleges which defendants are liable for which wrongs. Similarly, where multiple claims are brought, the complaint should make clear which factual allegations give rise to each of the various causes of action.” Montgomery, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 102491, at *5 (discussing McHenry, 84 F.3d at 1178). Plaintiff's amended complaint is convoluted and includes inconsistent statements about whom she is suing and on what grounds. See generally Docket No. 6. For example, the basis of Plaintiff's discrimination claim is that other tenants called her an “evil American, ” yet she does not name the alleged speaker(s) as a Defendant(s). Id. at 1, 6-7, 10, 14-15. Moreover, Plaintiff spends a majority of the amended complaint describing her interactions with her neighbors and their parties, yet does not name these individuals as Defendants, but indicates that they “may be added as DOES.” Id. at 2, 10-13, 15, 18-19. The Court therefore finds that Plaintiff's FHA claim for racial discrimination fails because it does not comply with Rule 8.

         Even if Plaintiff properly alleged which Defendants are liable for which wrongs, the alleged facts do not state a claim under the FHA. The FHA makes it unlawful “[t]o discriminate against any person in the terms, conditions, or privileges of sale or rental of a dwelling . . . because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin.” 42 U.S.C. § 3604(b). The FHA also reaches claims of discrimination arising after property is acquired. See The Comm. Concerning Cmty. Improvement v. City of Modesto, 583 F.3d 690, 713-15 (9th Cir. 2009) (finding that, based on statutory language and regulations, “the FHA reaches post-acquisition discrimination”); see also 24 C.F.R. § 100.65(b). Guided by interpretations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the FHA protects individuals from discrimination that creates a hostile or abusive housing environment. 24 C.F.R. § 100.600(a)(2); see also Hall v. Meadowood Ltd. P'ship, 7 Fed.Appx. 687, 689 (9th Cir. 2001) (“Guided by interpretations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 . . . [w]e determine whether an environment is sufficiently hostile or abusive.”).

         To make a claim for a hostile housing environment based on racial discrimination under the FHA, a plaintiff must show, similar to Title VII claims, that: (1) because of her race she was (2) subject to unwelcome conduct that was (3) sufficiently pervasive or severe to deprive her of the right to enjoy her home. See Hicks v. Makaha Valley Plantation Homeowners Ass'n, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 85101, *31 (D. Haw. June 30, 2015) (collecting cases); see also DiCenso v. Cisneros, 96 F.3d 1004, 1008 (7th Cir. 1996) (recognizing a claim for a hostile housing environment as a result of sex discrimination by applying Title VII standards) (referencing Honce v. Vigil, 1 F.3d 1085 (10th Cir. 1993)); Jackson v. Park Place Condos Ass'n, Inc., 619 Fed.Appx. 699, 703 (10th Cir. 2015) (finding that a hostile housing environment claim for racial discrimination exists when the harassing conduct is severe or pervasive and based on the plaintiff's race).[3]

         The Court determines if an environment is hostile by “‘looking at all the circumstances, including the frequency of the discriminatory conduct; its severity; whether it is physically threatening, or humiliating or a mere offensive utterance; and whether it unreasonably interferes with work performance' or, as here, a tenant's living conditions.” Ha ...


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