Submitted: October 17, 2018
from United States District Court for the District of North
Dakota - Bismarck
SHEPHERD, KELLY, and STRAS, Circuit Judges.
SHEPHERD, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
Eva Lucke, owns a building located on property leased from
the Minot International Airport in Minot, North Dakota. She
filed suit against Appellees, the City of Minot and Minot
International Airport Director Andrew Solsvig, in his
individual and official capacities, alleging racial
discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981
and 1983, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the
Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The
district court granted summary judgment in favor of
Appellees on all claims. Ms. Lucke appeals. Having
jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, we affirm.
Lucke, a Hispanic woman, purchased a building on airport
property in 1983 and opened Minot Aviation, an
aviation-themed hobby shop, in 1985. She originally ran a
crop-spraying business and offered flight lessons out of the
remainder of the building, but discontinued such operations
sometime prior to 2001. Ms. Lucke now leases the majority of
her building to her ex-husband, Stewart Lucke, to construct
Lucke's most recent written lease with the City of Minot
ran from March 2003 until September 2013. In 2006, the City
commenced an unlawful detainer action against her, which was
dismissed. When her lease ended, she held over as a
month-to-month tenant until December 2015, when the City
offered her the lease at issue here. The new lease offered
Ms. Lucke an 18-month initial term, renewable on a
year-to-year basis with mutual consent, at a rate of $0.30
per square foot per annum. Fred Anderson, a Caucasian man who
owns an inactive crop-spraying business located on airport
property, was offered a lease with identical terms.
requesting and receiving copies of new leases offered to
other tenants around the same time, Ms. Lucke determined her
offered lease terms compared unfavorably to those presented
to another tenant, PS Properties, LLP. PS Properties was
offered a new lease with an initial term of 20 months, an
option to renew for 20 years with mutual consent, and an
initial rent rate of $0.30 per square foot per year, to be
adjusted after the first five years. When Ms. Lucke asked
Director Solsvig why she was offered different lease terms,
Director Solsvig cited the airport's need for flexibility
as it redeveloped, as well as concerns about the physical
state of Ms. Lucke's building and whether her hobby shop
qualified as an aeronautical use under FAA regulations.
the lease terms offered to her inferior to those offered to
PS Properties due to the differences in the leases'
initial durations and renewal options, Ms. Lucke filed suit.
She alleged that Appellees presented her with these
unfavorable lease terms because of her race. Appellees moved
for summary judgment. The district court granted
Appellees' motion, finding that Ms. Lucke had not
presented sufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case
and that, even if she had, Appellees presented legitimate,
nondiscriminatory reasons for the differing lease terms and
Ms. Lucke could not establish those reasons were merely
pretextual. Ms. Lucke then appealed to this Court.
Lucke argues on appeal that the district court erred in
granting Appellees' motion for summary judgment when it
concluded that she failed to meet her burden of establishing
an inference of unlawful discrimination. "We review de
novo a grant of summary judgment, considering the facts in
the light most favorable to the nonmoving party."
Meuir v. Greene Cnty. Jail Emps., 487 F.3d 1115,
1118 (8th Cir. 2007). Summary judgment is appropriate when
"there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and
the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Doe ex rel. Thomas v.
Tsai, 648 F.3d 584, 587 (8th Cir. 2011). The nonmoving
party must cite to specific facts in the record demonstrating
a genuine issue of fact for trial and may not rely solely on
allegations. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Mosley v. City of
Northwoods, 415 F.3d 908, 910 (8th Cir. 2005).
plaintiff may prove unlawful racial discrimination through
either direct or circumstantial evidence. Young v.
Builders Steel Co., 754 F.3d 573, 577 (8th Cir. 2014).
If she presents circumstantial evidence, she must proceed
under the framework laid out in McDonnell Douglas Corp.
v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973). Under McDonnell
Douglas, a plaintiff may establish a prima facie case of
racial discrimination through evidence giving rise to an
inference that she has been intentionally discriminated
against because of her race. Young, 754 F.3d at 577.
She may do so by showing that a similarly-situated person of
another race received more favorable treatment. Id.
at 578. That person must be "similarly situated in all
relevant respects." Id. (quoting Chappell
v. Bilco Co., 675 F.3d 1110, 1119 (8th Cir. 2012)).
person is similarly situated to the plaintiff if he or she
possesses all the relevant characteristics the plaintiff
possesses except for the characteristic about which the
plaintiff alleges discrimination. See Barstad v. Murray
Cnty., 420 F.3d 880, 886-87 (8th Cir. 2005) (landowners
denied a permit to build an RV campground on their land were
not similarly situated to successor landowner who received a
permit to build a dock and two cabins because, even though
they sought to improve the same parcel of land, they did not
seek to institute the same improvements); Meyers v. Ford
Motor Co., 659 F.2d 91, 93-94 (8th Cir. 1981) (white
male car dealership operator who voluntarily terminated his
dealership contract without negotiating was not similarly
situated to his black male predecessor because the
predecessor had a long-term relationship with the car company
and received a more favorable termination package by
negotiating for one). What constitutes a "relevant
respect" or characteristic varies based on ...