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Jane v. Patterson

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

April 12, 2017

Kayla Jane, Plaintiff,
v.
Jeffrey K. Patterson, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OF OPINION AND ORDER

          PATRICIA A. GAUGHAN United States District Judge

         Introduction

         This matter is before the Court upon Second Motion of the CMHA Board for Judgment on the Pleadings (Doc. 39), Defendants Mayor Jackson and Council Kevin Kelley's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (Doc. 40), and Defendants Jeffrey K. Patterson, Cuyahoga County Metropolitan Housing Authority, Andres Gonzalez, Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority Police Department, and Kelly Brown's Partial Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (Doc. 43). This case alleges violations of plaintiff's rights based upon her transgender status. For the following reasons, the motions are GRANTED.

         Facts

          Plaintiff Kayla Jane filed this First Amended Complaint against defendants Jeffrey K. Patterson (personally and as CEO of Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA)), Mayor Frank Jackson (personally and as Mayor of the City of Cleveland), Cleveland City Council President Kevin Kelley (personally and as Council President), Mayor Gary Norton (personally and as Mayor of the City of East Cleveland), Ronnie A. Dunn, Ph.D. (personally and as Chairman of CMHA Board of Commissioners), Stephanie Pope (personally and as CMHA Commissioner), Robert Davis (personally and as CMHA Commissioner), Barry Withers (personally and as CMHA Commissioner), CMHA, Andres Gonzalez (personally and as CMHA Police Chief), CMHA Police Department, CMHA Police Department Supervisors, Kelly Brown (personally and as building manager of CMHA), Paige Fink, Pamela Reed, and numerous Jane and John Does. The First Amended Complaint essentially alleges the following.

         Plaintiff is a transgender woman who resided as a tenant in a CMHA apartment complex located in Cleveland. Plaintiff had previously been homeless, but obtained CMHA housing in February 2015. She resided there until June 2016. Defendant Kelly Brown was the CMHA building manager of plaintiff's apartment complex. During the entire length of plaintiff's residence in the complex, Brown verbally harassed plaintiff on the basis of her transgender status. Defendants Fink and Reed, other CMHA residents, also verbally abused plaintiff. In December 2015, Brown held a hearing to evict plaintiff Plaintiff was represented by a Legal Aid attorney and CMHA became aware of the abuse and discrimination against plaintiff. CMHA agreed there was no basis for eviction and promised to transfer the residents hostile to plaintiff but failed to do so. On June 20, 2016, defendant Fink pretended to befriend plaintiff and took her to the beach. Upon their return to the apartment complex, plaintiff was attacked and beaten by Fink, Reed, and other residents who were waiting for plaintiff and had clearly planned the attack. Plaintiff was hospitalized for three days. A CMHA patrolman stated to plaintiff that the attack was a hate crime, but subsequent police reports did not characterize it as such and described plaintiff as the perpetrator and Reed and Fink as victims. While plaintiff was hospitalized, Brown issued a series of citations to plaintiff for “not tidying up her room.” Brown put the citations under the locked door of plaintiff's apartment which caused plaintiff additional stress upon her return from the hospital. Fink and Reed continued to harass and menace plaintiff. In July 2016, a second eviction hearing was initiated by Brown. Plaintiff thereafter lived out of her car. Plaintiff was attacked in September and October 2016. The second attack was perpetrated by one of plaintiff's former CMHA assailants. Despite there being a witness, the City of Cleveland Prosecutor refused to file charges.

         Plaintiff filed this First Amended Complaint asserting seven claims. Count One asserts a substantive due process claim under § 1983. Count Two asserts a Fair Housing Act (FHA) violation. Count Three asserts a § 1983 claim for publicizing highly personal, non-public information. Count Four asserts retaliation for the exercise of First Amendment Rights under § 1983. Count Five asserts a violation of Equal Protection under § 1983. Count Six asserts felonious assault in violation of the Ohio criminal statute and seeks damages under O.R.C. § 2307.60. Count Seven asserts obstruction of justice in violation of the Ohio criminal statute and seeks damages under O.R.C. § 2307.60. Each claim is asserted against all defendants.

         This matter is now before the Court upon Second Motion of the CMHA Board for Judgment on the Pleadings; Defendants Mayor Jackson and Council Kevin Kelley's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings; and Defendants Jeffrey K. Patterson, Cuyahoga County Metropolitan Housing Authority, Andres Gonzalez, Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority Police Department, and Kelly Brown's Partial Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings.

         Standard of Review

         A “motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) is generally reviewed under the same standard as a Rule 12(b)(6) motion.”Mellentine v. Ameriquest Mortg. Co., 2013 WL 560515 (6th Cir. February 14, 2013) (citing EEOC v. J.H. Routh Packing Co., 246 F.3d 850, 851 (6th Cir.2001)):

The court must construe the complaint in a light most favorable to the plaintiff and accept all factual allegations as true. The factual allegations must raise a right to relief above the speculative level. In other words, the Rule 12(b)(6) standard requires that a plaintiff provide enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.
While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations. Bare allegations without a factual context do not create a plausible claim. A complaint must contain direct or inferential allegations respecting all the material elements under some viable legal theory. The bare assertion of legal conclusions is not enough to constitute a claim for relief.

(Id.) (internal citations and quotations omitted).

         Discussion

         (1) Second Motion of the CMHA Board for Judgment on the Pleadings

         Plaintiff sued CMHA Commissioners Dunn, Pope, Davis, and Withers in their individual and official capacities on federal and state claims. These defendants assert that the Amended Complaint fails to state a claim against them. For the following reasons, this Court agrees.

         Plaintiff does not dispute that § 1983 claims asserted against these defendants in their official capacities are essentially claims against CMHA, a named defendant. An official-capacity claim for damages “generally represents only another way of pleading an action against an entity of which an officer is an agent.” Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165-66 (1985) (quotations omitted). If the government entity “received notice and an opportunity to respond, an official-capacity suit is, in all respects other than name, to be treated as a suit against the entity.” Id. (noting that a plaintiff may only recover on a damages judgment in an official-capacity suit against the government entity, not the official). Thus, if the entity has been named as a defendant, an official-capacity claim brought against an individual agent of the entity is “superfluous” and may be dismissed. See Faith Baptist Church v. Waterford Tp., 522 F.Appx. 322, 327 (6th Cir. 2013) (dismissing official-capacity claims against prosecuting attorney because township was named as a defendant); see also Foster v. Michigan, 573 F.App'x 377, 389-90 (6th Cir. 2014) (“Where the entity is named as a defendant, an official-capacity claim is redundant.”). As such, the official capacity § 1983 claims against these defendants are duplicative of the claims asserted against CMHA and fail to state a claim against the individual Commissioners.

         Nor does the Amended Complaint state a § 1983 claim against these defendants in their individual capacities. It is well-established that

A plaintiff bringing an individual capacity claim under § 1983 seeks to impose individual liability upon a government officer for actions taken under color of state law. Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S. 21, 25 (1991). To sufficiently plead a § 1983 claim against a Defendant in his/her individual capacity, a plaintiff must allege Defendant's personal involvement in the alleged constitutional violation. Gibson v. Matthews, 926 F.2d 532, 535 (6th Cir. 1991) (explaining liability must be based on the actions of that defendant in the situation that the ...

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