United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Abingdon Division
Shamsiddeen Hatcher, Pro Se Plaintiff; Timothy McConville and
Luke Archer, Odin, Feldman & Pittleman, P.C., Reston,
Virginia, for Defendant TM Associates Management, Inc.
OPINION AND ORDER
P. JONES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
plaintiff in this case, proceeding pro se, seeks damages for
alleged violations of the Fair Housing Act. Because I find
that the Amended Complaint fails to state a viable claim, I
will grant the defendant's Motion to
Amended Complaint,  the plaintiff alleges that in June of
2006, the former property managers of the Springdale Village
Apartments complex in Bristol, Virginia, barred him
from the premises for creating a disturbance. He further
alleges that on “[t]he day that the plaintiff was
barred from the premesis [sic] there were no disturbances
just friendly and peaceful basketball games.” Am.
Compl. 5, ECF No. 15. He asserts that he was barred and
forced to vacate his apartment as a result of racial
profiling and discrimination.
Associates Management, Inc. (“TMAM”) is the
current property manager of the apartment complex. The
plaintiff alleges that despite his repeated requests to be
removed from the barred list, TMAM and its property manager,
Kayla Sutherland,  refuse to remove the plaintiff's name
from the barred list, which prohibits him from being a tenant
or visiting friends and family who live in the apartment
complex. He states that “[t]he defendants [sic] policy
is that anyone on the barr [sic] list cannot apply for
housing or . . . step a foot on the property.”
Id. at 4. The plaintiff further alleges that he
initially was placed on the barred list solely because he is
African American. He asserts that “[t]he caucasian
americans were allowed to stay on the premesis [sic], there
were no barrs [sic] issued to them, and nothing was even said
to them.” Id. at 3. He seeks compensatory and
punitive damages. Additionally, the plaintiff includes
references in both the Complaint and Amended Complaint
asserting a class action.
has moved to dismiss the Complaint for failure to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted, asserting a number of
grounds for dismissal. TMAM also has moved to strike the
plaintiff's request that the matter proceed as a class
action. The motions have been fully briefed and are now ripe
purpose of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is to test the sufficiency
of a complaint. . . .” Edwards v. City of
Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999). A motion
to dismiss “does not resolve contests surrounding the
facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of
defenses.” Republican Party of N.C. v. Martin,
980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992). In ruling on a motion to
dismiss, the court must regard as true all of the factual
allegations contained in the complaint, Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007), and must view those
facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.
Christopher v. Harbury, 536 U.S. 403, 406 (2002).
“Where, as here, the motion to dismiss involves a civil
rights complaint, [I] must be especially solicitous of the
wrongs alleged and must not dismiss the complaint unless it
appears to a certainty that the plaintiff would not be
entitled to relief under any legal theory which might
plausibly be suggested by the facts alleged.” Rios
v. Veale, 648 F. App'x 369, 370 (4th Cir. 2016)
(unpublished). Furthermore, where the plaintiff is
proceeding without a lawyer, the court has an obligation to
construe the complaint liberally. See Vinnedge v.
Gibbs, 550 F.2d 926, 928 (4th Cir. 1977).
12(b)(6) does “not require heightened fact pleading of
specifics, but only enough facts to state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “A claim has
facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content
that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).
Further, “the tenet that a court must accept as true
all of the allegations contained in a complaint is
inapplicable to legal conclusions.” Id. at
678. “While legal conclusions can provide the framework
of a complaint, they must be supported by factual
allegations.” Id. at 679.
Fair Housing Act (“FHA”), 42 U.S.C. § 3613,
grants a private right of action for an alleged
discriminatory housing practice. Such action thus arises
under federal law for purposes of the federal question
jurisdiction statute. 28 U.S.C. § 1331.
argues that the Complaint must be dismissed because the
plaintiff fails to sufficiently plead his FHA claim.
Specifically, TMAM asserts that this claim fails because the
FHA does not grant a visitation right and the plaintiff fails
to sufficiently allege that the defendants were motivated by
a discriminatory purpose or intent. TMAM is correct that the
FHA does not grant a right of visitation. The FHA prohibits
discriminatory practices regarding the sale or rental of
housing. See 42 U.S.C. § 3604(a) (prohibiting
the refusal “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.”) However, the
plaintiff's argument is not limited to his inability to
visit family and friends at the apartment complex. He also
alleges that being on the barred list makes him ineligible
for tenancy, thereby denying him the opportunity to rent an
apartment. Such an allegation is precisely the conduct that
is covered by the FHA. Accordingly, TMAM's argument in
this respect fails.
also asserts that the plaintiff's FHA claim fails to
allege that the defendants were motivated by a discriminatory
animus. Section 3604 of the FHA also provides that it is
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). “A plaintiff may demonstrate a prima facie
case of discrimination by showing that the challenged
practice was motivated by a discriminatory purpose or had a
discriminatory impact.” Sudduth v. Vasquez, No.
1:08CV1106, 2009 WL 211572, at *2 (E.D. Va. Jan. 26, 2009)
(citing Betsey v. Turtle Creek Assocs., 736 F.2d
983, 986 (4th Cir. 1984)). The plaintiff has alleged that he
is African American. The plaintiff's allegations
supporting discrimination on account of his race relate to a
2006 incident which involved the prior owner of the
apartments. He has not alleged facts to support his claim
that the actions of TMAM or its employee were motivated by a
discriminatory purpose. Such conclusory allegations of
discrimination, absent factual support, cannot withstand
TMAM's Motion to Dismiss. Accordingly, the
plaintiff's Amended Complaint will be dismissed for
failure to state a claim. I will, however, grant the
plaintiff leave to further amend his complaint if he is able
to provide adequate factual allegations supporting the claim
of discriminatory motivation against TMAM.
plaintiff also references a “class action
injunction” in both the Complaint and Amended
Complaint. TMAM has moved to strike the plaintiff's
request that the matter proceed as a class action. Fourth
Circuit law mandates that a class will not be certified
“where a pro se litigant will act as [a] representative
of that class.” Fowler v. Lee, 18 F. App'x
164, 165 (4th Cir. 2001) (unpublished) (citing Oxendine
v. Williams, 509 F.2d 1405, 1407 (4th Cir. 1975)). Pro
se plaintiffs may not pursue claims as a class action
“for the obvious and sensible reason that a pro se
plaintiff is simply not equipped by reason of training or
experience to take on the rsponsiblity of ...