United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
E.K. PRATTER, J.
before the Court is plaintiff Devere Andre Hall's motion
for leave to proceed in forma pauperis and his
pro se complaint against the Philadelphia Housing
Authority (PHA) and the City of Philadelphia. For the
following reasons, the Court will grant Mr. Hall leave to
proceed in forma pauperis and dismiss his complaint
without prejudice to amendment.
Hall alleges that he was “denied housing by [the]
Philadelphia Housing Authority to Mashal Shepard and Martin
Luther King IV [two housing developments in Philadelphia] due
to [his] criminal history a misdemeanor which PHA -
Philadelphia Housing Authority vowed not to use in [his] case
but did.” (Compl. at 3.) It appears from the complaint
that Mr. Hall attended an “informal hearing” on
the matter with his nurse. (Id.) The Court
understands Mr. Hall to be claiming that the PHA violated the
Fair Housing Act and his due process rights by preventing him
from living in the developments of his choice based on his
criminal history. Mr. Hall seeks millions of dollars in
damages and an admission from PHA that it used his criminal
history erroneously. The address on the docket reflects that
Mr. Hall is currently living at another PHA property in
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Hall's motion to proceed in forma pauperis is
granted because it appears that he is incapable of paying the
fees to commence this civil action. As Mr. Hall is proceeding
in forma pauperis, the Court is required to screen
the complaint and dismiss it if it fails to state a claim.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). To survive
dismissal, the 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, 678 (2009) (quotations omitted).
“[M]ere conclusory statements do not suffice.”
Id. As Mr. Hall is proceeding pro se, the
Court construes his allegations liberally. Higgs v.
Att'y Gen., 655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir. 2011).
Mr. Hall Has not Stated a Constitutional
complaint primarily claims that the PHA violated Mr.
Hall's due process rights by preventing him from living
in two specific developments because of his criminal
history. “To state a claim under [42 U.S.C.]
§ 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right
secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States,
and must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by a
person acting under color of state law.” West v.
Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). “Fundamentally,
procedural due process requires notice and an opportunity to
be heard” in a meaningful time and manner. Mancini
v. Northampton Cty., 836 F.3d 308, 315 (3d Cir. 2016)
(citing Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 333
(1976)). Here, even assuming Mr. Hall has a life, liberty or
property interest that triggers due process protection, he
has not alleged that he was denied a meaningful opportunity
to be heard with respect to his desire to live at the two PHA
developments in question so as to state a procedural due
process claim. The complaint reflects that Mr. Hall at
minimum received a hearing, and it is not clear what other
procedure he claims should have been provided to him as a
constitutional matter. To the extent Mr. Hall is raising a
substantive due process claim, the conduct described in the
complaint is not “conscience-shocking” in a
manner that would give rise to such a claim. See Miller
v. City of Philadelphia, 174 F.3d 368, 375 (3d Cir.
to state a § 1983 claim against PHA or the City of
Philadelphia, Mr. Hall must allege that a policy of custom of
those entities caused the violation of his constitutional
rights. See Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of
N.Y., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978). To satisfy the pleading
standard, a plaintiff “must identify [the] custom or
policy, and specify what exactly that custom or policy
was.” McTernan v. City of York, 564 F.3d 636,
658 (3d Cir. 2009). Here, nothing in the complaint suggests
that the conduct complained of by Mr. Hall stemmed from a
custom or policy of PHA or the City of Philadelphia. See
Lee v. Petrolichio, 697 Fed.Appx. 112, 113 n.5 (3d Cir.
2017) (per curiam). It is also not clear why Mr. Hall named
the City of Philadelphia as a defendant since PHA is the
entity that prevented him from living in the housing
developments of his choosing.
Mr. Hall Has not Stated a Claim Under the Fair Housing
Fair Housing Act renders it unlawful “[t]o refuse to
sell or rent after the making of a bona fide offer, or to
refuse to negotiate for the sale or rental of, or otherwise
make unavailable or deny, a dwelling to any person because of
race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national
origin” 42 U.S.C. § 3604(a). It does not preclude
consideration of an individual's criminal record in
housing decisions. See Talley v. Lane, 13 F.3d 1031,
1034 (7th Cir. 1994) (“[C]onsideration of an
applicant's criminal record is not forbidden under . . .
the Fair Housing Act.”); see also 42 U.S.C.
§ 13661(c) (indicating that a public housing agency may
deny admission to federally assisted housing upon a
determination “that [the] applicant or any member of
the applicant's household is or was during a reasonable
time preceding the date when the applicant household would
otherwise be selected for admission, engaged in any
drug-related or violent criminal activity or other criminal
activity which would adversely affect the health, safety, or
right to peaceful enjoyment of the premises by other
residents, the owner, or public housing agency
employees”). Accordingly, Mr. Hall has not stated a
claim for a violation of the Fair Housing Act based on the
sparse facts alleged in the complaint.
foregoing reasons, the Court will dismiss Mr. Hall's
complaint. The Court will give Mr. Hall an opportunity to
file an amended complaint in the event he can state a
plausible basis for a claim. An ...