Howell v. Dep't of Hous. & Cmty. Dev., C. A. 21-11978-ADB

CourtUnited States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Massachusetts
Docket NumberC. A. 21-11978-ADB
Decision Date02 May 2022



C. A. No. 21-11978-ADB

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

May 2, 2022



For the reasons set forth below, the pending motions are denied and the amended complaint is dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) for failing to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.


On December 8, 2021, Curtis Howell (“Howell”), a resident of Lowell, initiated this action by filing a pro se complaint against an apartment management company and several government and non-profit housing agencies. [ECF No. 1]. The crux of Howell's complaint is his inability to secure housing through various agency and government programs as well as his inability to secure a small business grant.

By Memorandum and Order dated January 31, 2022, the Court granted Howell leave to proceed in forma pauperis and advised Howell that if he wishes to proceed in this matter, he must file an amended complaint curing the pleading deficiencies of the original complaint and setting forth a plausible claim upon which relief may be granted. [ECF No. 11].


The January 31, 2022 Memorandum and Order advised Howell that the major deficiency with his complaint is that it is in the form of a narrative that fails to identify which specific facts are attributed to which claim. The Order explains that Howell's complaint fails to meet the pleading requirements the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and missing from the complaint is any decipherable articulation of the legal causes of action Howell seeks to assert against each defendant, and the factual grounds therefore. In light of the pleading deficiencies, Howell was advised that if he wishes to pursue this action, he must file an amended complaint that, among other things, clearly states what each defendant allegedly did and must identify the causes of action he is bringing against each defendant. He was cautioned that it is impermissible to bring multiple unrelated claims against unrelated parties in a single action.

In response to the Court's Memorandum and Order, Howell filed an amended complaint. [ECF No. 12].

Since the filing of his amended complaint, Howell has filed numerous motions, several of which identify four separate civil action numbers.[1] By Order dated April 7, 2022, Howell's motions were denied, in part, because they raise issues that are not material at this stage of litigation. [ECF No. 30]. At that time, Howell was ordered not to file any additional motions until the Court has reviewed the amended complaint. [Id.]. Additionally, the clerk was ordered to return to Howell any future documents that identify more than one case number. [Id.].


Now pending before the Court are Howell's Notice of Appeal Ruling, Motion to Objection to Ruling and Motion for Relief of Judgment.[2] [ECF Nos. 34, 35, 36]. Although these motions raise, as did Howell's earlier motions, issues that are not material at this stage of litigation, Howell's most recent motion correctly identifies an ambiguity in the language of the in forma pauperis statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1915 (proceedings in forma pauperis) as discussed in Section II (standard of review), infra.

Although summonses have not yet issued, the New Hampshire Housing Authority[3] and the Rhode Island Housing Authority[4] filed motions to dismiss the complaint with supporting memoranda. [ECF Nos. 20-21, 25-26].


As noted above, the Court previously granted Howell leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Accordingly, under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii), the Court is required to dismiss the amended complaint if it fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Because of the ambiguity in the statutory language, Howell mistakenly argues in his Motion for Relief of Judgment [ECF No. 36] that certain requirements of 28 U.S.C. § 1915 do not apply to him because he is not a prisoner.[5] For a litigant proceeding in forma pauperis, Section 1915 does authorize the federal


courts to dismiss an action that lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact, Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989), or if the action fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915 (e)(2); Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32-33 (1992).

Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a complaint “must provide ‘a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Cardigan Mountain Sch. v. N.H. Ins. Co., 787 F.3d 82, 84 (1st Cir. 2015) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). This pleading standard requires “more than labels and conclusions, ” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007), and “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

When evaluating the sufficiency of a complaint, the Court “first must ‘distinguish the complaint's factual allegations (which must be accepted as true) from its conclusory legal allegations (which need not be credited).'” Cardigan Mountain Sch., 787 F.3d at 84 (quoting Garda-Catalan v. United States, 734 F.3d 100, 103 (1st Cir. 2013)) (further internal quotations and citation omitted). “Second, the court must determine whether the factual allegations are sufficient to support the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Garda-Catalan, 734 F.3d at 103 (internal quotations and citation omitted). In conducting this analysis, the Court must accept all well-pleaded facts as true and analyze those


facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff's theory, drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. U.S. ex rel. Hutcheson v. Blackstone Med., Inc., 647 F.3d 377, 383 (1st Cir. 2011).

Because Howell is proceeding pro se, the Court will construe the amended complaint generously. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); Rodi v. New Eng. Sch. of Law, 389 F.3d 5, 13 (1st Cir. 2004). “However, pro se status does not insulate a party from complying with procedural and substantive law.” Ahmed v. Rosenblatt, 118 F.3d 886, 890 (1st Cir. 1997). Dismissal of a pro se complaint is appropriate when the complaint fails to state an actionable claim. Muller v. Bedford VA Admin. Hosp., 2013 WL 702766, at *3 (D. Mass. Feb. 25, 2013) (citing Overton v. Torruella, 183 F.Supp.2d 295, 303 (D. Mass. 2001)).


Howell's three-page amended complaint consists of 35 separate factual allegations, a separate statement of claim as to each defendant, and a request for relief. [ECF No. 12]. In addition to naming the same five defendants that were named in the original complaint, the amended complaint adds the Department of Justice as a defendant. [Id., case caption]. With the amended complaint, Howell submits a cover letter [ECF No. 12-1], written interrogatories [ECF No. 12-2], summons [ECF No. 12-3], and copies of pages 6 - 9 of Howell's original complaint [ECF No. 12-4]. As to the claims asserted in the amended complaint, Howell claims violations


of the following statutes: 42 U.S.C. § 1981[6], 42 U.S.C. § 1982[7], 42 U.S.C. § 1983[8], 42 U.S.C. §[9] 9859, 42 U.S.C. § 1986[10], 42 U.S.C. § 12133[11], 42 U.S.C. § 2000a-6[12], 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000d-1,


2000d-2 (collectively “Title VI”)[13], 42 U.S.C. § 12117[14], 42 U.S.C. § 12188[15], and 29 U.S.C. § 794.[16] [ECF No. 12 at ¶¶ 42, 45, 47, 48, 49].

For relief, Howell seeks “$3, 000, 000 million dollars for denying [Howell] an opportunity for housing.” [ECF No. 12 at ¶ 51]. In the relief section, Howell states that he “was trying to escape violence and theft of property but the local police denied [Howell] public accommodation [and] the department of justice denied [Howell] assistance to escape abuse.” [ECF No. 12 at ¶ 53].

Howell's supporting facts are presented in 35 separately numbered paragraphs, most of which consist of a single sentence. [ECF No. 12 at ¶¶ 1 - 35]. As best as can be discerned from the pro se pleading, the following facts concerning each defendant are taken from the amended complaint.

1. Defendant Rhode Island Housing Authority

As to the Rhode Island Housing Authority, the amended complaint alleges that it “participated with providing federal funds to heritage property in connection with fraud and


identify theft.” [ECF No. 12 at ¶ 40]. Howell alleges that on March 18, 2018, he “filled out applications to Rhode Island housing authority.” ECF No. 12 at ¶ 1]. Howell waited to be contacted by the Rhode Island and New Hampshire Housing Authorities on March 18, 2018 as well as from November 8, 2018 through June 18, 2021. [ECF No. 12 at ¶ 7]. Howell contends that he needed housing and that “3 years went by waiting after the initial contact with these housing authorities.” [ECF No. 12 at ¶ 8]. Howell states that his “only hope was Rhode Island housing authority [and that he] applied for housing at the same time [as New Hampshire Housing Authority].” [ECF No. 12 at ¶ 13].

Howell alleges that he “received information [from the heritage property website] that someone put in an application and connected Rhode Island housing voucher to the heritage property application.” [ECF No. 12 at ¶ 23]. Howell then discovered that “the Rhode Island housing authority applicant is now a heritage property resident.” [ECF No. 12 at ¶ 24].

Howell “contacted” the Rhode Island housing authority who advised that Howell is still “on the waiting list.” [ECF No. 12 at ¶ 25]. Howell states that he “sent them” the document and that “they never contact[ed Howell] back.” [ECF No. 12 at ¶ 26].

Howell contends that the Rhode Island Housing Authority failed to investigate the fact that Howell did...

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