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Patrick v. Interwest Properties

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

November 7, 2013

LEONARD L. PATRICK, SR., Plaintiffs,
INTERWEST PROPERTIES and ROCIO GARCIA, Manager for Regency TownHomes, Defendants.


MICHAEL W. MOSMAN, District Judge.

Pro se Plaintiff Leonard L. Patrick, Sr., filed a complaint [2] on April 15, 2013, and an amended complaint [12] on May 31, 2013, alleging claims of housing discrimination and civil rights violations against Defendants InterWest Properties and Rocio Garcia. Defendants moved to dismiss [15] on June 28, 2013, on grounds of lack of subject matter jurisdiction, failure to state a claim, and running of the statutes of limitations. Mr. Patrick filed a response [20], and Defendants replied [23]. I conclude that this Court has jurisdiction over Mr. Patrick's claims, and that Mr. Patrick has stated a claim for relief under the Fair Housing Act ("FHA"). However, because I find that the statute of limitations under the FHA has run, I GRANT Defendants' Motion [15] without prejudice.


Mr. Patrick's amended complaint[1] alleges that InterWest Properties and Rocio Garcia, manager of Regency TownHomes, conspired to evict him and other African Americans from the property. (Am. Compl. [12] at 3, 4.) Mr. Patrick notes that, before InterWest Properties and Ms. Garcia took control of Regency TownHomes, the property housed between ten and fifteen African American families. Id. at 4. By some later time, that number had fallen to three or four. Id. at 3-4. Mr. Patrick alleges that the Defendants replaced these tenants, including him, with "people of their likeing [sic] and of their race." Id. at 4. He argues that this development shows a "practice and pattern of racial discrimination towards African Americans." Id. at 4.

On noticing the disproportionate eviction of African American tenants, Mr. Patrick approached the Fair Housing Council of Oregon and asked for help. Id. at 4. Afterward, "on or about" February 15, 2011, Defendants evicted him on the pretext that he had tampered with smoke detectors. Id. at 3, 4. He alleges that Defendants gave him no opportunity "to cure the matter or pay the outrageous non-compliance fee of $250." Id. at 4. In all of this conduct, Defendants were motivated by their desire to lease to as few African Americans as possible. Id.


Courts in the Ninth Circuit are to construe pro se litigants' filings liberally, and refrain from holding "missing or inaccurate legal terminology or muddled draftsmanship against them." Blaisdell v. Frappiea, ___ F.3d ___, No. 10-16845, 2013 WL 4793184 at *2 (9th Cir. Sep. 10, 2013). Before a district court "may dismiss a pro se complaint for failure to state a claim, the court must provide the pro se litigant with notice of the deficiencies of his or her complaint and an opportunity to amend prior to dismissal." McGuckin v. Smith, 974 F.2d 1050, 1055 (9th Cir. 1992), overruled on other grounds by WMX Techs., Inc. v. Miller, 104 F.3d 1133 (9th Cir. 1997).

I. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

Defendants argue that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction under both 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1332. (Mem. in Supp. [16] at 3-4.) The parties do not dispute that they are not diverse for jurisdictional purposes. (Am. Compl. [12] at 3; Reply [23] at 3.) Mr. Patrick's amended complaint must therefore set out a federal question to invoke this Court's jurisdiction.

Mr. Patrick does not specify the law giving rise to his claims against InterWest Properties and Ms. Garcia. In their motion to dismiss, Defendants guessed that his claims rest on 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("section 1983") and the Fair Housing Act ("FHA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601-3631. (Mem. in Supp. [16] at 3.) This probably follows from Mr. Patrick's broad allegations of housing discrimination and violations of his civil rights. (Am. Compl. [12] at 3.) Defendants argue somewhat conclusorily that Mr. Patrick has failed to plead any facts giving rise to a cause of action under FHA, section 1983, or any other federal statute. (Mem. in Supp. [16] at 3.)

A claim arising under federal law may be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction only where "the [federal] question presented is too insubstantial to consider." Cook v. Peter Kiewit Sons Co., 775 F.2d 1030, 1035 (9th Cir. 1985). "The claim must be so insubstantial, implausible, foreclosed by prior decisions of this Court or otherwise completely devoid of merit as not to involve a federal controversy within the jurisdiction of the District Court.'" Id. (quoting Oneida Indian Nation v. County of Oneida, 414 U.S. 661, 666 (1974)). Otherwise, the proper Rule 12 motion is a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.

A. Fair Housing Act Claim

The Title VII framework for proving discrimination applies to FHA claims. Gamble v. City of Escondido, 104 F.3d 300, 304 (9th Cir. 1997). A claim of housing discrimination under FHA may rest on a theory of disparate treatment or disparate impact. Id. at 304-05. To state a prima facie case of disparate impact, the plaintiff must show "(1) the occurrence of certain outwardly neutral practices, and (2) a significantly adverse or disproportionate impact on persons of a particular type" as a result. Id. (quoting Pfaff v. U.S. Dep't of Housing and Urban Dev., 88 F.3d 739, 745 (9th Cir. 1996)). No showing of discriminatory intent is necessary. Pfaff, 88 F.3d at 745-46 & n.2.

Leaving aside whether Mr. Patrick's factual allegations are sufficient to state an FHA claim under Rule 12(b)(6), they are not so insubstantial as to preclude this Court from assuming jurisdiction. He alleges a practice that appears neutral on its face: the eviction of certain Regency TownHomes tenants. (Am. Compl. [12] 3-4.) He also alleges a disproportionate impact on people of a particular race: Defendants' evictions severely reduced the number of African American tenants in the property and replaced them with tenants of a different race. Id. ...

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