United States District Court, D. Minnesota
John E. Peet, et al., Plaintiffs,
Dexeter Sidney, et al., Defendants.
E. Peet, (pro se Plaintiff);
O'Leary Sullivan, League of Minnesota Cities, (for
Defendants Debbie Goettel & Michelle Luna);
M. Dahlin & Eugene C. Shermoen, Jr. Arthur, Chapman,
Kettering, Smetak & Pikala, P.A., (for Defendants Mark
Jones & Sue Morfitt); and
Samie, Assistant United States Attorney, (for Defendants
Department of Housing and Urban Development, Michele K.
Smith, & Lendine Darden).
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
N. LEUNG UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter is before the Court, United States Magistrate Judge
Tony N. Leung, on Defendants Debbie Goettel and Michelle
Luna's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 33), Defendant Mark
Jones and Sue Morfitt's Motion for Partial Dismissal with
Prejudice (ECF No. 37), Defendants Department of Housing and
Urban Development Minneapolis Field Office Director Michele
K. Smith and Department of Housing and Urban Development
Investigator Lendine Darden's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No.
61), and Plaintiff John E. Peet's motion for summary
judgment (ECF No. 52). These motions have been referred to
the undersigned magistrate judge for a report and
recommendation to the Honorable Eric C. Tostrud, United
States District Judge for the District of Minnesota, pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Rule 72.1. Based on
all the files, records, and proceedings herein, and for the
reasons set forth below, this Court recommends that Goettel
and Luna's Motion to Dismiss be GRANTED IN PART
and DENIED IN PART, that Jones and Morfitt's
Motion for Partial Dismissal with Prejudice be
GRANTED, that Smith and Darden's Motion
to Dismiss be GRANTED, and that Peet's
motion for summary judgment be DENIED.
FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
January 15, 2011, Plaintiff John Peet moved into the New
Orleans Court Apartments, located in Richfield, Minnesota.
Am. Compl., ¶ 3 (ECF No. 23). Approximately one month
after he moved in, a fellow tenant began to harass him.
Id. at ¶¶ 3-4. Peet reported the
harassment to the police, the Richfield mayor's office,
the Richfield Housing and Redevelopment Authority, and the
corporate office responsible for managing his apartment
building. Id. at ¶ 5. Peet alleges that the
harassment lasted for 22 months in part because Defendant
Michelle Luna told him not to file a complaint with the
United States Department of Housing and Urban Development
(“HUD”). Id. at ¶ 9. He also
alleges that New Orleans Court Apartment employees falsely
accused him of criminal sexual conduct in order to evict him.
Id. at p. 6.
September 20, 2012, the manager of Peet's apartment
building informed him that his lease would be terminated at
the end of his tenancy in January 2013. (ECF No. 1- 2, pp.
77-80). Peet subsequently moved out his apartment on February
2, 2013. (Id. at p. 75). Before leaving his
apartment, he filed a complaint with HUD, alleging that he
had been discriminated against on the basis of race. (ECF No.
1-3, pp. 4-5). HUD dismissed Peet's administrative
complaint on May 15, 2014, concluding that “no
reasonable cause exists to believe that a discriminatory
housing practice has occurred.” (Id. at pp.
8-12). It reaffirmed that finding on April 21, 2015. (ECF No.
65-1, pp. 3-4).
filed suit on behalf of himself and several other plaintiffs
on June 2, 2017. (ECF No. 1). On August 28, 2017, this Court
ordered that each individual plaintiff file an application to
proceed in forma pauperis (IFP), that plaintiffs
file an amended complaint addressing certain pleading
deficiencies, and that all plaintiffs sign the complaint.
(ECF No. 8). This Court then recommended that the matter be
dismissed for failure to prosecute after the plaintiffs in
the original complaint failed to comply with the August 28,
2017 order. (ECF No. 12). The District Judge adopted this
Court's recommendation. (ECF No. 13).
then moved for reconsideration or vacation of the order
dismissing the case, contending that he did not receive
certain paperwork from the Court. (ECF No. 16). The District
Judge vacated the order and directed Peet to file an IFP
application and amended complaint. (ECF No. 16). Peet filed
an amended complaint on behalf of only himself on February
21, 2018. (ECF No. 23). He named as defendants Debbie Goettel
and Michelle Luna (“City Defendants”), who were
the mayor and a housing specialist with the Richfield Housing
and Redevelopment Authority respectively at the time of the
conduct described in the complaint, Mark Jones and Sue
Morfitt (“New Orleans Defendants”), who owned and
managed respectively the New Orleans Court apartments, and
HUD employees Michele K. Smith and Lendine Darden (“HUD
Defendants”). Peet alleges that Defendants violated
federal law prohibiting housing discrimination based on the
harassment and criminal investigation that he experienced
while a tenant at the New Orleans Court Apartments and the
subsequent termination of his lease. Peet contends that
Defendants violated four federal statutes: (1) 42 U.S.C.
§ 3604, (2) 42 U.S.C.§ 3617, (3) 42 U.S.C. §
1981, and (4) 42 U.S.C. § 1982. He asks that the Court
order that his “housing record and history
report” be “clean[ed];” that HUD remove the
criminal sexual conduct case from his housing file; and that
he be awarded monetary damages to “fully
compensate[e]” him for economic losses, and physical
and emotional distress. Am. Compl., ¶ 2, p. 11.
City and HUD Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint in its
entirety. The New Orleans Defendants moved to dismiss three
of the four counts. Peet also filed a motion for summary
judgment. This Court heard argument on each motion on
November 1, 2018 and subsequently took them under advisement.
MOTIONS TO DISMISS A. Legal Standard
considering a Rule 12(b)(1) motion, courts must distinguish
between facial attacks and factual attacks on jurisdiction.
Carlsen v. GameStop, Inc., 833 F.3d 903, 908 (8th
Cir. 2016). “In a facial attack, ‘the court
restricts itself to the face of the pleadings, and the
non-moving party receives the same protections as it would
defending against a motion brought under Rule
12(b)(6).'” Id. (quoting Osborn v.
United States, 918 F.2d 724, 729 n. 6 (8th Cir. 1990)).
“In a factual attack, the court considers matters
outside the pleadings, and the non-moving party does not have
the benefit of 12(b)(6) safeguards.” Id.
deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court accepts as true all
well-pleaded factual allegations and then determines
“whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to
relief.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 664
(2009). In doing so, the court must draw reasonable
inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Zink v.
Lombardi, 783 F.3d 1089, 1098 (8th Cir. 2015) (citation
omitted). “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint
must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to
state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Sletten & Brettin Orthodontics v. Cont'l Cas.
Co., 782 F.3d 931, 934 (8th Cir. 2015) (quoting
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). Facial plausibility of a
claim exists “when the plaintiff pleads factual content
that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Bell Atlantic
Corp v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Although a
sufficient complaint need not be detailed, it must contain
“[f]actual allegations . . . enough to raise a right to
relief above the speculative level.” Twombly,
550 U.S. at 555 (citation omitted). Complaints are
insufficient if they contain “naked assertions devoid
of further factual enhancement.” Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557)
(internal quotation marks omitted).
assessing a complaint by a pro se plaintiff, the
court applies “less stringent standards than formal
pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam)
(quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106
(1976)). “If the essence of an allegation is
discernible, ” then the court, in applying a liberal
construction to pro se complaints, “should
construe the complaint in a way that permits the
layperson's claim to be considered within the proper
legal framework.” Solomon v. Petray, 795 F.3d
777, 787 (8th Cir. 2015) (quoting Stone v. Harry,
364 F.3d 912, 914 (8th Cir. 2004)). Despite the liberal
construal of such complaints, the pro se plaintiff
“still must allege sufficient facts to support the
claims advanced.” Stringer v. St. James R-1 Sch.
Dist., 446 F.3d 799, 802 (8th Cir. 2006) (quoting
Stone, 364 F.3d at 914). Thus, pro se
litigants “must set a claim forth in a manner which,
taking the pleaded facts as true, states a claim as a matter
of law.” Id. (quoting Cunningham v.
Ray, 648 F.2d 1185, 1186 (8th Cir. 1981)).
case, Peet seeks relief under two provisions of the Fair
Housing Act (“FHA”). See generally 42
U.S.C. §§ 3601-3619. As relevant here, the FHA
prohibits any person from refusing to sell or rent or
refusing to negotiate for the sale or rental of a dwelling to
any person because of race or color. 42 U.S.C. § 3604.
It also prohibits the interference with another person's
rights under the FHA. 42 U.S.C. § 3617.
also seeks relief under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1982.
Section 1981 provides that all “persons within the
jurisdiction of the United States shall have the same right
in every State and Territory to make and enforce contracts .
. . and to the full and equal benefit of all laws and
proceedings for the security of persons and property.”
42 U.S.C. § 1981(a). Section 1982 also guarantees all
persons the “same right, in every State ...