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Earl A. Pondexter v. the Allegheny County

February 24, 2012

EARL A. PONDEXTER
PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE ALLEGHENY COUNTY (PROPER), THE ALLEGHENY COUNTY HOUSING AUTHORITY, DAN ONORATO, JAMES T. ZAPF, FRANK AGGAZIO, THOMAS MCPOYLE, JOHN JOYCE, ET AL, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Nora Barry Fischer

MEMORANDUM OPINION

I.INTRODUCTION

Presently before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss (Docket No. 60) Plaintiff's Civil Action Complaint (Docket No. 4) under Rule 12(b)(6) filed by Defendants Allegheny County and Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato ("Defendants"). Plaintiff Earl A. Pondexter ("Plaintiff"), appearing pro se, filed his Complaint alleging racial discrimination and retaliation. Defendants seek dismissal of Plaintiff's Complaint against them by arguing that Plaintiff has not pled sufficient facts to render his claims plausible as required by the Supreme Court's decisions in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). (Docket No. 61). For the reasons discussed herein, Defendants' Motion (Docket No. 60) is GRANTED with regard to Plaintiff's claims against these Defendants.

II.RELEVANT FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Because this matter comes to this Court on a Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss, the factual allegations set forth in Plaintiff's Complaint are accepted as true. Hemi Group, LLC. v. City of N.Y., ------ U.S. --------, 130 S.Ct. 983, 986--87, 175 L.Ed.2d 943 (2010) (citing Leatherman v. Tarrant County Narcotics Intelligence & Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 164, 113 S.Ct. 1160, 1161, 122 L.Ed.2d 517 (1993)). The pertinent facts are as follows.

Plaintiff alleges racial discrimination and retaliation against Defendant Allegheny County Housing Authority ("ACHA"), claiming that ACHA is "wantonly and maliciously denying the Plaintiff a full, 'Fair and Equal Opportunity' to use and enjoy a dwelling on the basis of racism and retaliation." (Docket No. 4 at ¶ 1). He argues that he submitted a completed and signed Allegheny County Low Income Housing Application to ACHA on May 10, 2010. (Id. at ¶ 23). Subsequent to said submission, Plaintiff contends that he did not receive any notification regarding his eligibility or ineligibility for low income housing assistance, administered through ACHA. (Id.). On May 28, 2010, Plaintiff filed a 903 HUD FHEO discrimination complaint against ACHA with the local Fair Housing Partnership Program. (Id. at ¶ 24). HUD FHEO subsequently notified Plaintiff that it would not review or investigate Plaintiff's HUD FHEO 903 complaint and closed the case. (Id. at ¶ 25). Plaintiff next filed a Pennsylvania Human Relations Act Complaint against ACHA on December 13, 2010. (Id. at ¶¶ 25-26). Approximately six months later, on May 27, 2011, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission ("Commission") determined that insufficient evidence existed to support Plaintiff's PHRA Complaint, specifically finding that Plaintiff never filed an application for low income housing assistance. (Id. at ¶ 27). Accordingly, the Commission informed Plaintiff on June 10, 2011 that "the facts of the case do not establish that probable cause exists to credit the allegations of unlawful discrimination" and dismissed his complaint. (Id.; Docket No. 4-1). The instant Complaint followed. (Docket No. 4).

III.RELEVANT PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff filed his Complaint, claiming racial discrimination and retaliation, in this Court on June 30, 2011. (Docket No. 4). On July 12, 2011, Plaintiff filed a document entitled "Planning For Discovery & Conference of the Parties," (Docket No. 7), which contained a "Prayer for Exigent Injunctive Relief." (Id.). The Court convened a Status Conference on August 10, 2011 to hear the parties' positions regarding Plaintiff's "Prayer for Exigent Injunctive Relief." (Docket No. 14). During said conference, ACHA made an oral Motion to enjoin Plaintiff from filing further claims prior to receiving certification of those claims from a Magistrate Judge, which the Court took under advisement. (Id.). Thereafter, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Appointment of Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 636(C)(1) and a Magistrate's Ruling on the Defendants' Motion for Certification of the Plaintiff's Claims and Contentions pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 16(b)(1)(5), (Docket No. 30), which was denied on September 26, 2011. (Docket No. 38). On November 4, 2011, the Court issued its memorandum opinion denying the Defendant's Motion to enjoin Plaintiff from filing further claims prior to receiving certification of those claims from a Magistrate Judge.*fn1 (Docket No. 51).

Three weeks later, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss and supporting brief pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6). (Docket Nos. 53-54). On December 20, 2011, the Motion was dismissed without prejudice to provide Plaintiff, a pro se litigant, an opportunity to file an Amended Complaint by January 13, 2012.*fn2 (Docket No. 57). However, Plaintiff subsequently filed notice of his intention to stand on his Original Complaint, (Docket No. 58), and thus, Defendants were ordered to answer, move or otherwise respond to the same. (Docket No. 59). Accordingly, on January 18, 2012, Defendants filed their renewed Motion to Dismiss and supporting brief pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6). (Docket Nos. 60-61). The Court then issued an Order on Motions Practice (Docket No. 62), but Plaintiff did not respond to Defendant's Motion within the time frame set forth in said Order. As such, the Motion is now ripe for disposition.

IV.LEGAL STANDARD

To survive a motion to dismiss brought under FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6), "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)); see also Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir.2009) and FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2)

(providing that a valid complaint requires only "a short and plain statement of the claim" showing entitlement to relief). In Iqbal, the Supreme Court clarified that the decision in Twombly "expounded the pleading standard for 'all civil actions.'" Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1953; Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210--11. The Court further explained that, although a court must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in a complaint, that requirement does not apply to legal conclusions; therefore, the pleadings must include factual allegations to support the legal claims asserted. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949, 1953; Santiago v. Warminster Twp., 629 F.3d 121, 128 (3d Cir. 2010). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct at 1949 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955); see also Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210.

The determination of whether a complainant has sufficiently pled a claim "is a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. 1955); see also Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210--11 (holding that in light of Iqbal, a district court should first separate the factual and legal elements of a claim and then, accepting the "well-pleaded facts as true," "determine whether the facts" pled are sufficient to show a "plausible claim for relief."). Ultimately, to survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must plead "factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. 1955).

Nonetheless, "a pro se complaint, 'however inartfully pleaded,' must be held to 'less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers' and can only be dismissed for failure to state a claim if it appears 'beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.'" Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106, 97 S.Ct. 285, 292, 50 L.Ed.2d 251 (1976) (citing Haines, 404 ...


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