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DeSouza v. Kennedy

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

August 9, 2017

HAILEE R. DeSOUZA, Plaintiff
v.
LEANNE KENNEDY, Defendant.

          RULING ON MOTION TO DISMISS

          Michael P. Shea, U.S.D.J.

         Alleging wrongdoing in connection with his state court eviction settlement, pro se Plaintiff Hailee DeSouza sues Leanne Kennedy, a mediator for the State of Connecticut Housing Court in both her official and individual capacities for alleged deprivation of his civil and constitutional rights. Specifically, he claims (i) violations of the First, Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments (count one) (ECF No. 22 at 12-13), (ii) violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d (count two) (Id. at 13-14), (iii) conspiracy to interfere with his civil rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985(2)(3) (Id. at 14) (count three) (Id. at 14), (iv) denial of equal protection under the law in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (count four) (Id. at 15), (v) racial discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 2000a-2 (count five) (Id. at 15-16), (vi) interference, coercion or intimidation in violation of the Fair Housing Act (the “FHA”), 42 U.S.C. § 3617 (count six) (Id. at 16), (vii) interference with his rights under the FHA in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3631 (count seven) (Id. at 17), and (viii) conspiracy to violate his rights in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 241 (count eight) (Id. at 17-18).

         Defendant has moved to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint under Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. As more fully explained below, I grant the motion to dismiss because I find: (i) Plaintiff's claims in counts one, three, four, five, and six against Defendant in her official capacity are barred by the Eleventh Amendment, and (ii) Plaintiff's claims in counts one, three, four, five and six against Defendant in her individual capacity are barred by quasi-judicial immunity. Each count in Plaintiff's complaint also fails to state a claim.

         I. Factual Background

         Plaintiff is a resident of Park West Apartments, Inc. (“Park West”), a “[m]ultifamily [h]ousing [c]ommunity located in Vernon, CT.” (ECF No. 22 at 2.) Beginning in 2014, Park West commenced an eviction action against Plaintiff in the Connecticut Superior Court. (Id. at 4) On August 29, 2014, at the Rockville-Vernon Superior Court in Vernon, Park West and Plaintiff appeared before the Defendant, a housing mediator, in a mediation to resolve Park West's eviction action against Plaintiff. (Id. at 4-7.) Both parties in the eviction action were represented by counsel. (Id. at 4.) According to the Plaintiff, the Defendant coerced him into signing a stipulation in the eviction case by (i) falsely alleging that a judge had ordered Plaintiff to do so, (Id. at 5, 11), (ii) misrepresenting the judge's availability to adjudicate the case, (Id.), and (iii) employing fraud and intimidation. (Id. at 9.) After he allegedly signed the stipulation against his will, Plaintiff claims Park West had an advantage in later proceedings in the eviction action. (Id. at 9.) Furthermore, on account of Defendant's actions, Plaintiff alleges he was forced to participate in those subsequent court proceedings. (Id. at 10.) Finally, as a result of Defendant's actions, Plaintiff alleges that he suffered emotional distress, stress, anxiety, loss of sleep, extreme heartburn, ulcers, mental anguish, various heart issues, and that he required “various treatments with drugs and medications.” (Id. at 13.)

         II. Legal Standards

         A. Rule 12(b)(1)

         A “case is properly dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) when the district court lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate it.” Nike, Inc. v. Already, LLC, 663 F.3d 89, 94 (2d Cir. 2011). The “plaintiff asserting subject matter jurisdiction has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that it exists.” Luckkett v. Bure, 290 F.3d 493, 497 (2d. Cir. 2002). “In resolving a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1), a district court . . . may refer to evidence outside the pleadings.” Makarova v. United States, 201 F.3d 110, 113 (2d Cir. 2000). The court construes the complaint liberally and accepts all factual allegations as true. Ford v. D.C. 37 Union Local 1549, 579 F.3d 187, 188 (2d Cir. 2009).

         B. Rule 12(b)(6)

         In considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a court construes the complaint liberally, “accepting all factual allegations in the complaint as true, and drawing all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor.” Chambers v. Time Warner, Inc., 2 F.3d 147');">282 F.3d 147, 152 (2d Cir. 2002). A court may allow a case to proceed only if the complaint pleads “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007); Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 681 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 554-55). When a plaintiff submits a complaint pro se, the court must construe the allegations liberally, raising “the strongest arguments [they] suggest[].” Abbas v. Dixon, 480 F.3d. 636, 639 (2d Cir. 2007). A pro se plaintiff, however, still must meet the standard of facial plausibility. See Hogan v. Fischer, 738 F.3d 509, 515 (2d Cir. 2013)(“[A] pro se complaint must state a plausible claim for relief.”) (citing Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 73 (2d Cir. 2009)).

         III. Discussion

         A. Standing

         Defendant argues that Plaintiff lacks standing because he has not suffered an injury. “Whether a claimant has standing is the threshold question in every federal case, determining the power of the court to entertain the suit. The requirements for a plaintiff to establish standing are well-settled: first, plaintiffs must show that they have suffered an injury in fact that is both concrete in nature and particularized to them. Second, the injury must be fairly traceable to defendants' conduct. Third, the injury must be redressable by removal of defendants' conduct.” Kalson v. U.S., 159 Fed.Appx. 326, 327 (2d Cir. 2005). “To qualify as a constitutionally sufficient injury-in-fact, the asserted injury must be ‘concrete and particularized, ' as well as ‘actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical.” Student Members of Same v. Rumsfeld, 321 F.Supp.2d 388, 393 (D. Conn. 2004)(quoting Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560 (1992)). When standing is raised at the pleading stage “all facts averred by the plaintiffs must be taken as true for purposes of the standing inquiry, just as for any other issue presented. . . . As a result, general factual allegations of injury resulting from the statute and conduct challenged may suffice to establish the plaintiff's standing.” Id.

         Plaintiff has pled enough facts to suggest that he has been injured by Defendant's conduct and thus that he has standing. According to Plaintiff, Defendant's alleged coercion, misrepresentation, intimidation, and racially-motivated discrimination resulted, among other things, in various types of emotional distress. Although the allegations of emotional distress are somewhat vague, I find, drawing all ...


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