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Tate v. Supervisor Hud

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

June 21, 2018

AMOS LEE TATE, Plaintiff,
v.
SUPERVISOR HUD Anonyminty [sic Name Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Cathy Bissoon United States District Judge.

         I. MEMORANDUM

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Amos Lee Tate (“Plaintiff”) commenced this pro se civil action by filing a Motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis (Doc. 1) on May 22, 2018. Attached to the Motion was a complaint (Doc. 1-1) directed against “Supervisor HUD anonyminty [sic] name.” Compl. ¶2. The asserted jurisdictional basis for this lawsuit is “14th Amendment Due Process [and] Housing Discrimination Statute/Disability.” Id. ¶3. Plaintiff's in forma pauperis motion was granted on May 23, 2018 (Doc. 2), and the Complaint was docketed that same day (Doc. 4).

         In his Complaint, Plaintiff states that he was granted social security disability benefits in June 2016, after which time he applied for “Disability Housing” through HUD. Compl. ¶4. Plaintiff claimed he inquired, in person, on several occasions whether “any Disability single homes or single apartments [were] available, ” but “[t]hey on each occasion stated NO.” Id. He then went on the HUD “Disability Website” to gather more information and found information relating to HUD's “Disability Voucher Program, ” which, as he understands it, is “utilize[d] to accommodate, and necessitate, an individual life style[ ]” by allowing disabled individuals or their caretakers to “privately[ ] chose [sic] their own single home or single apartment.” Id. The remainder of Plaintiffs' averments are essentially indecipherable. The Complaint makes a passing reference to “Racial Profiling, ” and states that someone “refus[ed] [Plaintiff] to be amended to the Disability Voucher Program . . . .” Id. It also alludes to Plaintiff issuing a “Subpoena Duces Tecum” relative to the city and county “availability records.” Id. In terms of “relief sought, ” the Complaint suggests that Plaintiff desires a “Federal Conference” and “Trial.” Id. ¶5. With respect to “damages, ” the Complaint simply states, “Intentional Humiliation[, ] Intentional Distress[, ] [and] Intentional Housing Discomfort (No where to go)[.]” Id.

         On May 31, 2018, Plaintiff filed an additional document, styled “Administrative Discriminatory Review Appealant [sic] Discriminatory Review” (Doc. 6). In this document, Plaintiff lists himself as “Plaintiff” and “Housing Urban Development” as “Defendant.” Id. He states that he went to the HUD office in Erie and was placed on the “SSID Housing list.” Id. Thereafter, he checked with the office about “suitable Disability Housing” and was informed that they had no available apartments or single houses. Id. On one particular occasion, he was informed that a single room apartment would be available in Meadville, Pennsylvania in October 2016, and that he was “first on the list.” When Plaintiff later returned to inquire about housing, however, he was told “they all [had] been taken.” Id. Plaintiff's May 31st filing purports to assert two “causes of action.” The first is entitled “discriminatory prejudice acts” and states that certain unidentified persons have “been telling [Plaintiff] an array of deceitful lies, and derogatory comments, for approximately two years, to hinder and misdirect [him].” Id. Plaintiff quotes these unidentified individuals has having stated, “Go down the street, we have nothing for you, ” and “African Americans go down the street, to the Housing Authority, and get in the projects.” Id. The second cause of action, designated “Preamble, ” merely states “government statute law circumvent [sic] disability housing voucher law.” Id.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Because Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis, the Court must review his pleading in accordance with the amendments promulgated in the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996).[1] Under Section 1915(e) of the PLRA, the Court is required to screen Plaintiff's Complaint and dismiss the within action if the Complaint fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

         In reviewing complaints under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii), a federal court applies the same standard that is applied to motions to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). D'Agostino v. CECOM RDEC, 436 Fed.Appx. 70, 72 (3d Cir. 2011) (citing Tourscher v. McCullough, 184 F.3d 236, 240 (3d Cir. 1999)). “Thus, we are required to ‘accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief.'” Id. at 72-73 (quoting Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008)). A complaint must be dismissed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) if it does not allege “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). To meet this standard, the complaint must contain factual allegations that raise a right to relief above the speculative level. Id. At 555. Accordingly, mere “labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of actions will not do.” Id.

         Quite independent of this obligation is the Court's duty to ensure in the first instance that it has subject matter jurisdiction over the matter in controversy. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3) (“If the court determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action.”); Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) (recognizing the lack of subject-matter jurisdiction as a defense under Rule 12). A court's scope of review in this regard is shaped by whether the complaint is subject to a facial or factual jurisdictional attack. See CNA v. United States, 535 F.3d 132, 139 (3d Cir. 2008) (where district court analyzes a motion under Rule 12(b)(1), “its first task is to classify the [defendant's] motion as either a factual attack or a facial attack.”). A facial attack “concerns ‘an alleged pleading deficiency' whereas a factual attack concerns ‘the actual failure of [a plaintiff's] claims to comport [factually] with the jurisdictional prerequisites.'” Id. (alterations in the original) (citing U.S. ex rel. Atkinson v. Pa. Shipbuilding Co., 473 F.3d 506, 514 (3d Cir. 2007)).

         In view of the procedural posture of this case, the Court is concerned only with a possible facial deficiency in Plaintiff's pleading. In undertaking its analysis, the Court “must only consider the allegations of the complaint and documents referenced therein and attached thereto, in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Nichole Med. Equip. & Supply, Inc. v. TriCenturion, Inc., 694 F.3d 340, 347 (3d Cir. 2012) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Although the Court must construe the facts alleged in the Plaintiff's favor, it need not accept bald assertions or legal conclusions as true. Batchelor v. Rose Tree Media School Dist., Civil Action No. 11-6733, 2013 WL 1776076 at *3 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 28, 2013) (citing authority).

         Because Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, his Complaint must be “liberally construed.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The Court must “apply the applicable law, irrespective of whether [Plaintiff] has mentioned it by name.” Higgins v. Beyer, 293 F.3d 683, 688 (3d Cir. 2002) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Notwithstanding this relaxed pleading-standard, however, “pro se litigants still must allege sufficient facts in their complaints to support a claim.” Mala v. Crown Bay Marina, Inc., 704 F.3d 239, 245 (3d Cir. 2013) (citation omitted).

         ANALYSIS

         “Absent a waiver, sovereign immunity shields the Federal Government and its agencies from suit.” F.D.I.C. v. Meyer, 510 U.S. 471, 475 (1994). Furthermore, “sovereign immunity advances a jurisdictional bar . . . which the court may raise sua sponte.” United States v. Bein, 214 F.3d 408, 412 (3d Cir. 2000) (citations omitted). In this case, many of the claims that Plaintiff might potentially try to assert are barred by sovereign immunity. Assuming that sovereign immunity is not a bar, Plaintiff's Complaint still fails to plausibly state any claim upon which relief could be granted.[2]

         The crux of Plaintiff's grievance appears to be his inability to secure housing through the Housing Choice Voucher (“HCV”) program established under Section 8 of the United States Housing Act of 1937 (“USHA”), as amended, 42 U.S.C. §1437, et seq. Congress authorized the HCV program “[f]or the purpose of aiding low-income families in obtaining a decent place to live and of promoting economically mixed housing.” Id. §1437f(a). The program is overseen by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) and administered by local agencies in accordance with federal guidelines. See Henry v. City of Erie, 728 F.3d 275, 277 (3d Cir. 2013). “In Erie, the local administering agency is the Housing Authority of the City of Erie (“HACE”).” Id. As one federal court recently explained:

The Section 8 program is a tenant-based, housing-choice voucher program (HCV program) authorized under the USHA. With respect to the HCV program, the USHA authorizes the Secretary of HUD “to enter into annual contributions contracts with public housing agencies, ” who, in turn, “may enter into contracts to make assistance payments to owners of existing dwelling units in accordance with” the HCV Program. 42 U.S.C. § 1437f(b)(1). “The HCV program is generally administered by . . . PHAs [public housing authorities]. HUD provides housing assistance funds to the PHA. HUD also provides funds for PHA administration of the program.” 24 C.F.R. § 982.1(a)(1). Thus, the HCV program is funded by HUD but administered by local PHAs. 42 U.S.C. § 1437f(b)(1). To participate in the program, families apply directly to the PHA. If the PHA approves the tenancy, PHA then enters into a contract “with the owner [of the rental unit] to make rent subsidy payments on behalf of the family.” 24 C.F.R. §982.1(a)(2). The family ...

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