Boykin v. Keycorp, Docket No. 05-2158-cv.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
Citation521 F.3d 202
Docket NumberDocket No. 05-2158-cv.
PartiesYvette BOYKIN, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. KEYCORP and its Subsidiary, Key Bank National Association, doing business as KeyBank, Defendants-Appellees, State of New York Division of Human Rights and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Defendants.
Decision Date27 March 2008
521 F.3d 202
Yvette BOYKIN, Plaintiff-Appellant,
KEYCORP and its Subsidiary, Key Bank National Association, doing business as KeyBank, Defendants-Appellees,
State of New York Division of Human Rights and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Defendants.
Docket No. 05-2158-cv.
United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit.
Argued: May 3, 2007.
Decided: March 27, 2008.

[521 F.3d 204]

Sanford I. Weisburst (Jeffrey A. Conciatori, William B. Adams, on the brief), Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges, LLP, New York, New York, for plaintiff-appellant.

Christopher J. Harrigan (Laurence B. Oppenheimer, on the brief), Hiscock & Barclay, LLP, Buffalo, New York, for defendants-appellees.

Before: WINTER, CALABRESI and . SOTOMAYOR, Circuit Judges.

Judge WINTER concurs in a separate opinion.

SOTOMAYOR, Circuit Judge:

Plaintiff-appellant Yvette Boykin sued defendants-appellees KeyCorp and Key Bank National Association (collectively, "KeyBank") for violations of a number of federal and state statutes, including the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3601 et seq. ("FHA"), after KeyBank denied her application for a home equity loan. Boykin appeals the judgment of the United States District Court for the Western District of New York (Skretny, J.) dismissing all of her FHA claims as untimely and, in the alternative, dismissing her FHA disparate treatment claim as insufficiently pleaded. We conclude that Boykin's claims were timely because her administrative proceeding remained pending before the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD"), and the two-year period for filing a complaint was tolled, until the date of HUD's final letter informing Boykin that it had terminated the proceeding, rather than the earlier date of the New York State Division of Human Rights ("NYDHR") case-closed letter. We conclude that Boykin's disparate treatment claim satisfied the pleading standard of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) and should not have been dismissed as insufficiently pleaded. We therefore VACATE the district court's dismissal of Boykin's claims and REMAND her case for further proceedings.


The following facts are presented in Boykin's complaint or in documents that, although not attached to the complaint, are integral to it. See Holowecki v. Fed. Express Corp., 440 F.3d 558, 565-66 (2d Cir. 2006), aff'd, 552 U.S. ___, 128 S.Ct. 1147, ___ L.Ed.2d ___(2008). In reviewing a motion to dismiss, we accept the allegations in the complaint as true. Hill v. City of New York, 45 F.3d 653, 657 (2d Cir. 1995).

Boykin, an African-American woman who resides in Georgia, owns and lets a multifamily house in a minority-concentrated neighborhood in Buffalo, New York. On August 1, 2001, she applied in person for a non-owner-occupied home equity loan on her Buffalo property at a Buffalo branch of KeyBank. The loan officer with whom she met told her that her loan application had been conditionally approved based on her credit report. Later that day, however, the loan officer telephoned Boykin to inform her that her application had been denied because she did not live in New York State. The loan officer stated that he had been unaware of KeyBank's policy against making loans to out-of-state applicants. He did not offer Boykin any alternative means of obtaining financing through KeyBank. On August 16, 2001, Boykin received a form denial from KeyBank

521 F.3d 205

stating that her loan had been denied because she was "out of [the] servicing area."

On August 8, 2001,1 Boykin filed a complaint with HUD, in which she alleged that KeyBank had discriminated against her on the basis of race, sex, and the location of the property "in a minority concentrated neighborhood." On September 27, 2001, Boykin received a letter from the HUD regional director for New York (the "referral letter") informing her that her complaint had been referred for investigation to the regional director of NYDHR in Buffalo pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3610(f), which allows HUD to delegate investigation of complaints to state and local agencies that have been certified by the Secretary of HUD.2 The letter stated that "[u]nless otherwise notified, [NYDHR] will be responsible for all processing action on this complaint," and directed Boykin to refer all correspondence and inquiries to NYDHR. The letter also stated that Boykin had two years in which to file a civil action after the alleged discriminatory practice occurred, and that "[t]he two year period does not include the time the complaint is pending before this Department."

On December 3, 2001, NYDHR sent Boykin a letter styled "Determination and Order After Investigation" (the "NYDHR case-closed letter"), in which it stated that it had found "NO PROBABLE CAUSE to believe that [KeyBank] has engaged in or is engaging in the unlawful discriminatory practice complained of." The letter explained that "[t]he investigation did not reveal any evidence" to support Boykin's allegations and that her "application for a home equity loan was rejected for legitimate non-discriminatory business reasons." Further, the letter mentioned that documentation showed that KeyBank has "also denied loan applications from Caucasian applicants at a higher rate than for minority applicants." After stating that "[t]he complaint is therefore ordered dismissed and the file is closed," the NYDHR case-closed letter informed Boykin that she had the right to appeal NYDHR's determination in New York State Supreme Court within sixty days. It also warned her that if she pursued judicial review of the agency's disposition of her complaint and received an adverse determination, she could "lose ... her right to proceed subsequently in. federal court." The NYDHR case-closed letter said nothing

521 F.3d 206

about the two-year limitations period for filing a civil action in federal district court.

On February 26, 2002, Boykin received a letter from the HUD regional director for New York (the "final letter") stating that it "ha[d] received notification that processing of [Boykin's] complaint is complete and ... the subject complaint has been closed by [NYDHR]." Therefore, the final letter said, "[t]he complaint filed with the HUD Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity has been closed based on this information." The final letter further informed Boykin that she might be able to appeal the NYDHR determination under state or local law. It also reiterated that she had two years in which to file a civil action, and that "[t]he computation of this two-year period does not include the time during which this administrative proceeding was pending."

On December 19, 2003, Boykin filed suit pro se in the United States District Court for the Western District of New York against KeyBank, HUD and NYDHR asserting claims under the FHA; the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1982; Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d et seq.; and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1691.

Boykin stated that, as an African-American woman, KeyBank treated her "differently from similarly situated loan applicants not in the protected classes, despite her qualifications for the loan[,] because of her race, sex and the location of the property in a predominantly African American neighborhood." Compl. ¶ 11. She stated that "[u]pon information and belief, persons who were not members of the protected classes received loans and were more favorably treated in the loan application process than [she] with regard to the same or similar types of properties." Id. She alleged further that KeyBank's reliance on its policy against loaning to out-of-state applicants was pretextual because (1) upon information and belief, the policy was not the true reason for the denial, and (2) KeyBank did not counsel her regarding other options that non-minority loan applicants received. Id. ¶ 12. Finally, Boykin alleged that she was "disparately impacted" by KeyBank's policy because "it was not uniformly applied" and because "[KeyBank] utilizes a formula, criterion, rationale, standard of acceptance or business policy of reviewing loan applications" that disproportionately denied loan applications by minority applicants or residents of minority-concentrated neighborhoods. Id. ¶ 13.

On March 28, 2005, the district court granted KeyBank's motion to dismiss Boykin's claims. Boykin v. KeyCorp, No. 03-cv-944S, 2005 WL 711891 (W.D.N.Y. Mar.28, 2005). The court concluded that all of Boykin's FHA claims were untimely because the two-year limitation period for filing a claim was only tolled while an administrative proceeding was pending, and the court considered Boykin's proceeding closed upon issuance of the NYDHR case-closed letter. Id. at *4. The court explained that "once HUD referred Plaintiffs claim to the NYDHR, it could take no further action on the complaint, ... [and therefore] Plaintiffs Complaint was no longer pending after the NYDHR made its determination." Id. In the alternative, the district court held that Boykin's FHA disparate treatment claim was insufficiently pleaded. Id.3 The district court

521 F.3d 207

also dismissed Boykin's claims against KeyBank under other statutes, id. at *5-7, and all of her claims against HUD and NYDHR, id. at *7-ll.

Boykin, still proceeding pro se, filed a notice of appeal in this Court on April 25, 2005, appealing only from the district court's dismissal of her FHA claims against KeyBank.4 In an order dated November 29, 2005, a prior panel of this Court directed the appointment of counsel to represent Boykin and brief the issues of the timeliness and appropriate pleading standard for her FHA claims.

Following oral argument before this panel, we directed HUD to submit a letter brief describing its past and present practice of issuing final letters formally closing referred complaints. HUD informed us that the issuance of final letters varies by region. Letter from Kim Kendrick, Assistant...

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