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Woodward v. Housing Authority of Salt Lake City

United States District Court, D. Utah, Central Division

July 26, 2018


          Dale A. Kimball District Judge



         District Judge Dale A. Kimball referred this case to Chief Magistrate Judge Paul M. Warner pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B).[1] On August 29, 2017, the court granted Ronald Michael Woodward's (“Plaintiff”) application for leave to proceed in forma pauperis and waived the prepayment of filing fees pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 (“IFP Statute”).[2] Accordingly, the court will screen Plaintiff's action as required under the IFP Statute. See, e.g., Lister v. Dep't of the Treasury, 408 F.3d 1309, 1312 (10th Cir. 2005). In addition, because Plaintiff proceeds pro se in this case, the court will construe his pleadings liberally. See, e.g., Ledbetter v. City of Topeka, 318 F.3d 1183, 1187 (10th Cir. 2003).


         Plaintiff alleges that he is homeless, disabled, and receiving Supplemental Security Income.[3] He asserts that he has been trying to obtain housing through Defendant Salt Lake City Housing Authority (“SLCHA”) but has been denied, in part, because of bogus accusations of illegal drug activity.[4] Plaintiff contends that he has attempted three separate times to obtain housing and has been given varying reasons for the denials.[5]

         The first denial was based on his alleged untimeliness.[6] The second denial was based on an old invoice for alleged damage done to one of his previous apartments.[7] The third denial was based upon alleged illegal drug activity by either himself or a family member, which Plaintiff disputes.[8] Plaintiff asserts that an estranged and jealous brother “would go to the offices of any public agency: food stamps, housing and tell them [he] was a drug dealer in an atempt [sic] to get [him] kick [sic] of[f].”[9]

         Plaintiff contends that these repeated denials of housing assistance, coupled with the invoice and his payment of $328.00 for damage to his previous apartment (that occurred after he moved out), have rendered him homeless.[10] Plaintiff provides a lengthy account of his history with SLCHA beginning 28 years ago, as well as his conclusions about the reasons for the most recent denials and alleged inconsistencies in SLCHA's treatment of housing assistance applicants and/or participants.[11] Plaintiff asks this court to order the return of his $328.00 and/or order Defendants to provide him housing assistance.[12]


         Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires that a complaint contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), and further provides that “[e]ach allegation must be simple, concise, and direct.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(d)(1). “Rule 8 serves the important purpose of requiring plaintiffs to state their claims intelligibly so as to inform the defendants of the legal claims being asserted.” Mann v. Boatright, 477 F.3d 1140, 1148 (10th Cir. 2007).

         Whenever the court authorizes a party to proceed without payment of fees under the IFP Statute, it is required to “dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that . . . the action . . . fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). In determining whether a complaint fails to state a claim for relief under the IFP Statute, courts employ the same standard used for analyzing motions to dismiss under rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Kay v. Bemis, 500 F.3d 1214, 1217-18 (10th Cir. 2007). Under that standard, courts “look for plausibility in th[e] complaint.” Id. at 1218 (quotations and citations omitted) (alteration in original). In particular, courts “look to the specific allegations in the complaint to determine whether they plausibly support a legal claim for relief. Rather than adjudging whether a claim is ‘improbable,' ‘[f]actual allegations [in a complaint] must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.'” Id. (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007)) (other quotations and citation omitted) (alterations in original).

         In undertaking that analysis, the court liberally construes Plaintiff's complaint because he proceeds pro se and reviews it under “a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991); see also, e.g., Ledbetter, 318 F.3d at 1187. At the same time, however, it is not “the proper function of the district court to assume the role of advocate for the pro se litigant, ” Hall, 935 F.2d at 1110, and the court “will not supply additional facts, nor will [it] construct a legal theory for [a pro se] plaintiff that assumes facts that have not been pleaded.” Dunn v. White, 880 F.2d 1188, 1197 (10th Cir. 1989) (per curiam). Further,

[t]he broad reading of [a pro se] plaintiff's complaint does not relieve the plaintiff of the burden of alleging sufficient facts on which a recognized legal claim could be based. . . . [C]onclusory allegations without supporting factual averments are insufficient to state a claim on which relief can be based. This is so because a pro se plaintiff requires no special legal training to recount the facts surrounding his alleged injury, and he must provide such facts if the court is to determine whether he makes out a claim on which relief can be granted. Moreover, in analyzing the sufficiency of the plaintiff's complaint, the court need accept as true only the plaintiff's well-pleaded factual contentions, not his conclusory allegations.

Hall, 935 F.2d at 1110 (citations omitted).

         With the foregoing standards in mind, the court will now address the sufficiency of Plaintiff's complaint ...

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