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Virginia Park Community Coalition v. United States Department of Housing and Urban Development

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

January 30, 2015



TERRENCE G. BERG, District Judge.

Plaintiff Joyce Moore, proceeding pro se, filed this instant lawsuit along with an application to proceed in forma pauperis filed on December 17, 2014, (Dkt. 1; Dkt. 2). For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis is GRANTED and her complaint is DISMISSED pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

I. Plaintiff's Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis

Plaintiff has filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis, or without the prepayment of fees. 28 U.S.C. § 1915 (a)(1) provides that:

Any court of the United States may authorize the commencement, prosecution or defense of any suit, action or proceeding... without prepayment of fees or security therefor, by a person who submits an affidavit that includes a statement of all assets... [and] that the person is unable to pay such fees or give security therefor.

If an application to proceed in forma pauperis is filed along with a facially sufficient affidavit, the court should permit the complaint to be filed. See Gibson v. R.G. Smith Co., 915 F.2d 260, 261 (6th Cir. 1990). Once the complaint has been filed, it is then tested to determine whether it is frivolous or if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See id. at 261. The Court finds Plaintiff's financial affidavit to be facially sufficient; therefore, the Court will GRANT Plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis.

II. Dismissal under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)

The Supreme Court has recognized that Congress, in enacting the federal in forma pauperis statute, "intended to guarantee that no citizen shall be denied an opportunity to commence, prosecute, or defend an action, civil or criminal, in any court of the United States, solely because... poverty makes it impossible... to pay or secure the costs of litigation." Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31, 112 S.Ct. 1728, 118 L.Ed.2d 340 (1992) (quoting Adkins v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., 335 U.S. 331, 342, 69 S.Ct. 85, 93 L.Ed. 43 (1948)). At the same time, however, "Congress recognized that a litigant whose filing fees and court costs are assumed by the public, unlike a paying litigant, lacks an economic incentive to refrain from filing frivolous, malicious, or repetitive lawsuits.'" Denton, 504 U.S. at 31 (quoting Neitzke v. Wiliams, 490 U.S. 319, 324, 109 S.Ct. 1827, 104 L.Ed.2d 338 (1989)). Responding to this concern, Congress provided § 1915(e)(2) which establishes that a court "shall dismiss the case" if the court finds that:

(A) the allegation of poverty is untrue; or
(B) the action or appeal-
(i) is frivolous or malicious;
(ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or
(iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.

When a plaintiff proceeds without the assistance of counsel, a court is required to liberally construe documents and hold them to a less stringent standard than similar pleadings drafted by an attorney. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520, 92 S.Ct. 594, 30 L.Ed.2d 652 (1972). Nevertheless, a complaint must contain more than legal labels, conclusions, and a recitation of the elements of a cause of action. See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). Rather, a complaint must contain "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570.

Here, Plaintiff fails to state a claim on which relief can be granted because the Court does not have subject matter jurisdiction over her claim. A federal court's jurisdiction is limited to those subject matters that arise either from a federal question of law, that is, an issue arising under the Constitution or a federal statute ("federal question" jurisdiction), or from a dispute between two parties from different states of the Union ("diversity of citizenship" jurisdiction).

For a court to have federal question jurisdiction, the action must arise under the "Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Here, Plaintiff cites 42 U.S.C. § 5301, a provision of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974 ("HCDA") to argue that the City of Detroit's proposed changes to the grant program violate federal law. Section 5301 details the purposes of the Housing and Community Development Act, an act aimed to deal with "critical social, economic, and environmental problems facing the Nation's urban communities." 42 U.S.C. § 5301(a). While this section lays out the general purposes of the act, it contains no provision authorizing a private cause of action to ensure enforcement of the act. In other words, the law does not allow private individuals to bring a law suit to enforce its provisions.[1] See Latinos Unidos De Chelsea En Accion (Lucha) v. Sec'y of Hous. & Urban Dev., 799 F.2d 774, 795 (1st Cir. 1986); see also King v. Town of Hempstead, 161 F.3d 112, 114-15 (2nd Cir. 1998) ("Most of the language of § 5301(c) merely sets forth general goals for the programs funded by HCDA, including housing code enforcement. As such, it does not create... a federal right enforceable by a § 1983 suit.") In the absence of any statutory authority creating a private cause of action to enforce the statute, Plaintiff's claim does not present a federal question.

Further, Plaintiff has no alternative basis for subject matter jurisdiction because there is no diversity of citizenship. For diversity jurisdiction, there must be diversity of citizenship between the parties and the amount in controversy must exceed $75, 000. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Diversity of citizenship requires "complete diversity, " that is, that all defendants be from a different state than all plaintiffs. See Owen Equip. & Erection Co. v. Kroger, 437 U.S. 365, 377, 98 S.Ct. 2396, 2404, 57 L.Ed.2d 274 (1978) ("Congress has established the basic rule that diversity jurisdiction exists under 28 U.S.C. § 1332 only when there is complete diversity of citizenship.). Plaintiff is suing HUD and the City of Detroit. Like Plaintiff, the City of Detroit is a Michigan resident. Since Plaintiff and the City of Detroit are both Michigan residents, the suit does not meet the requirement of complete diversity.

Because there is no federal question jurisdiction and there is no complete diversity of citizenship, the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over this complaint, and it must be dismissed.[2]

For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff's request to proceed in forma pauperis is GRANTED and her complaint is DISMISSED pursuant to § 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).


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