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Michigan Paralyzed Veterans of America v. Charter Township of Oakland

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

July 2, 2015

MICHIGAN PARALYZED VETERANS OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
THE CHARTER TOWNSHIP OF OAKLAND, MICHIGAN Defendant and MOCERI/DM INVESTMENTS, LLC, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
THE CHARTER TOWNSHIP OF OAKLAND, MICHIGAN Defendant

HON. MONA K. MAJZOUB, J.

ORDER RESOLVING PENDING MOTIONS, CONSOLIDATING CASES, AND DECLINING SUPPLEMENTAL JURISDICTION OVER STATE LAW CLAIMS

TERRENCE G. BERG, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Before the Court are two cases brought against Defendant, the Charter Township of Oakland, Michigan, arising from the Township's disapproval a plan to allow the construction of a multi-family housing development intended to serve the needs of elderly and disabled residents in the Township. For ease of reference, Case No. 14-14697, brought by Plaintiffs Moceri/DM Investments, LLC, and Joan M. Buser, shall be called the DM case; while Case No. 14-14601, brought by Plaintiff Michigan Paralyzed Veterans of America, shall be referred to as the Veterans case.

In the DM case, a number of motions have been filed in relation to the pleadings. These motions include Plaintiffs' motion challenging the sufficiency of Defendant's answer and affirmative defenses, filed on March 6, 2015 (Dkt. 12); Defendant's motion to dismiss Count VI of Plaintiffs' complaint, filed on April 28, 2015 (Dkt. 19); and Plaintiffs' motion for leave to amend their complaint, filed on May 27, 2015. (Dkt. 21.)

The pendency of these motions was preventing the Court from issuing a joint scheduling order[1] because the issues raised in the motions bore on the scope of discovery in both of the above-captioned cases. On June 11, 2015, the Court held a telephonic status conference attended by all parties to discuss the pending motions and the need to go forward with the discovery process. (June 11, 2015 text-only entry.)

After careful review and consideration of the parties' briefs, the Court finds that oral argument would not significantly aid the Court's decision. Accordingly, the motions filed in the DM case, Case No. 14-14697, will be decided without a hearing. See E.D. Mich. LR 7.1(f)(2). With regard to the DM Plaintiffs' motion for leave to file an amended complaint (Dkt. 21), the motion will be GRANTED. Consequently, the DM Plaintiffs' earlier filed motion to strike Defendant's answer (Dkt. 12) will be DENIED AS MOOT. The DM Plaintiffs' amended complaint, attached to the motion as Exhibit 1, will be accepted for filing.[2]

As to both the DM case and the Veterans case, the Court is declining to exercise supplemental jurisdiction with respect to Plaintiffs' state law claims, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(2) and (4). As a result, these claims will be DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. Because the Court will dismiss all of the state law claims in the above-captioned cases, which include Count VI in the DM complaint, Defendant's motion to dismiss Count VI of the DM Plaintiffs' complaint (Dkt. 19) will also be DENIED AS MOOT.

Finally, because these cases involve common questions of law or fact, they will be ORDERED CONSOLIDATED in accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 42(a), under the lower case number of 14-10601. Case No. 14-14697 will be statistically DISMISSED. The Court will then issue a scheduling order in the consolidated case, Case No. 14-14601.

I. ANALYSIS

Plaintiffs in both cases challenge Defendant Oakland Township's denial of a plan to build a multi-family housing development for the elderly and disabled. Defendant maintains that its denial of Plaintiff Moceri/DM Investments, LLC's application for a special accommodation use was not motivated by discriminatory animus and that Plaintiffs simply failed to meet the requisite standard for approval. Plaintiff Michigan Paralyzed Veterans of America filed its Complaint in Case No. 14-14601 on December 5, 2014 alleging violations of: (1) the Fair Housing Act; (2) the Americans with Disabilities Act; and (3) Michigan's Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act. (Dkt. 1.)

On December 11, 2014, Plaintiffs Moceri/DM Investments, LLC and Joan Buser filed a Complaint in Case No. 14-14697 against Defendant alleging violations of: (1) the Fair Housing Act; (2) the Americans with Disabilities Act; (3) the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the United States and Michigan State Constitutions; (4) Michigan's Zoning Enabling Act; (5) Michigan's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act; and (6) Michigan's Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act.[3](Dkt. 1.) Case No. 14-14697 was then reassigned to this Court on January 13, 2015 as a companion to Case No. 14-14601. (Case No. 14-14697, Dkt. 4.)

The parties in the DM case have been locked in a battle over the scope of the pleadings for three months and as a result, no scheduling order has been issued in either of these cases. (See Case No. 14-14697, Dkts. 12, 19, 21.) The DM Plaintiffs filed a motion to strike Defendant's answer on March 6, 2015, alleging that some of Defendant's responses were invalid under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 and that Defendant's affirmative defenses should be stricken as "boiler plate." (Dkt. 12.) Defendant responded on March 30, 2015 (Dkt. 13), and voluntarily filed an amended answer on March 27, 2015 (Dkt. 15), but Plaintiffs maintained in their reply brief that the amended answer did not cure the original pleading's defects (Dkt. 17, pp. 3-4.)

Then, on April 28, 2015, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss Count VI of Plaintiffs' Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). (Dkt. 19.) Count VI alleges discrimination under Michigan's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. (Dkt. 1, ¶¶ 205-210.) The motion is fully briefed. (See Dkts. 19, 22, 26.)

Finally, on May 27, 2015, the DM Plaintiffs filed for leave to amend their Complaint. (Dkt. 21.) Defendant initially objected, arguing that any amendment would be futile because Count VI would still not be able to survive Defendant's motion to dismiss despite Plaintiffs' proposed amendments.[4] (Dkt. 27, p. 8.) The Court will now address each motion.

A. DM Plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint

The DM Plaintiffs wish to amend their complaint to include: (1) additional facts related to "the impact the Township's discriminatory practices have had on Plaintiff Buser"; and (2) "additional facts and evidence supporting Plaintiffs' claim under the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act." (Dkt. 21, p. 1.) After initially opposing the motion to amend, as stated, Defendant has now proposed stipulating to allow Plaintiffs to amend their complaint. The decision to grant or deny a motion to amend a pleading is left to the discretion of the Court. See Robinson v. Michigan Consol. Gas Co., Inc., 918 F.2d 579, 591 (6th Cir. 1990). A party may amend a pleading after the opposing party's responsive pleading has been filed only by leave of court or by written consent of the adverse party. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2). Rule 15(a) provides that "leave shall be freely given when justice so requires." Id. Amendments, however, should not be permitted in instances of "undue delay in ...


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