United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
STEPHEN N. LIMBAUGH, JR., UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on the motion of plaintiff
Oscar Mitchell for leave to commence this civil action
without prepayment of the required filing fee. (Docket No.
2). Having reviewed the motion and the financial information
submitted in support, the Court finds that the motion should
be granted. Additionally, for the reasons discussed below,
plaintiff will be directed to file an amended complaint.
Standard on Initial Review
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the Court is required to dismiss
a complaint filed in forma pauperis if it is frivolous,
malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted. To state a claim, a plaintiff must demonstrate a
plausible claim for relief, which is more than a "mere
possibility of misconduct." Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). "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."
Id. at 678. Determining whether a complaint states a
plausible claim for relief is a context-specific task that
requires the reviewing court to draw upon judicial experience
and common sense. Id. at 679. The court must
"accept as true the facts alleged, but not legal
conclusions or threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause
of action, supported by mere conclusory statements."
Barton v. Taber, 820 F.3d 958, 964 (8th
Cir. 2016). See also Brown v. Green Tree Servicing
LLC, 820 F.3d 371, 372-73 (8th Cir. 2016)
(stating that court must accept factual allegations in
complaint as true, but is not required to "accept as
true any legal conclusion couched as a factual
reviewing a pro se complaint under § 1915(e)(2), the
Court must give it the benefit of a liberal construction.
Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). A
"liberal construction" means that if the essence of
an allegation is discernible, the district court should
construe the plaintiffs complaint in a way that permits his
or her claim to be considered within the proper legal
framework. Solomon v. Petray, 795 F.3d 777, 787
(8th Cir. 2015). However, even pro se complaints
are required to allege facts which, if true, state a claim
for relief as a matter of law. Martin v. Aubuchon,
623 F.2d 1282, 1286 (8th Cir. 1980). See also
Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914-15 (8thCir.
2004) (stating that federal courts are not required to
"assume facts that are not alleged, just because an
additional factual allegation would have formed a stronger
complaint"). In addition, affording a pro se complaint
the benefit of a liberal construction does not mean that
procedural rules in ordinary civil litigation must be
interpreted so as to excuse mistakes by those who proceed
without counsel. See McNeil v. United States, 508
U.S. 106, 113 (1993).
Plaintiff is a pro se litigant who has filed this civil
action on behalf of himself and plaintiff Emma Carouthers,
who is apparently deceased. Plaintiff is the only individual
to sign any of the legal documents before the Court. The
complaint names Sullivan Place Apartments and property
manager Michael Hutchison as defendants. Plaintiff claims
that the case arises under the Fair Housing Act, found at 42
U.S.C. § 3601, et seq., and the Civil Rights
Act of 1964.
statement of claim, plaintiff states that he and plaintiff
Carouthers were defendants' tenants. (Docket No. 1 at 5).
He alleges that defendants "knew" that they were
"member[s] of a protected class" but "imposed
unfavorable or less favorable terms or conditions on
returning" their deposit. Plaintiff further claims that
such terms or conditions were not imposed on "similarly
situated former tenants." This allegedly began in
February 2016 and ended in October 2016.
seeks monetary damages in the amount of $500, which is the
amount of his security deposit. (Docket No. 1 at 5-6).
brings this civil action against defendants Sullivan Place
Apartments and property manager Michael Hutchison, alleging
he was given "unfavorable or less favorable terms or
conditions" with regard to the return of his deposit.
For the reasons discussed below, the complaint fails to state
a claim. Furthermore, plaintiff has not demonstrated that he
is the real party in interest to bring a claim on behalf of
Failure to State a Claim
Fair Housing Act prohibits property owners and municipalities
from blocking or impeding the provision of housing on the
basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or
national origin." Gallagher v. Magner, 619 F.3d
823, 831 (8th Cir. 2010). See also Khan v.
City of Minneapolis, 2019 WL 1907212, at *1
(8th Cir. 2019) (stating that the FHA is "a
federal law that generally prohibits making unavailable or
denying a dwelling because of a person's race, color,
religion, sex, familial status, or national origin"). A
tenant subjected to discrimination in violation of the FHA
can bring a private cause of action for damages. See
Neudecker v. Boisclair Corp. , 351 F.3d 361, 363
(8th Cir. 2003). However, the party asserting a
housing discrimination claim under the FHA has the initial
burden of proving a prima facie case of discrimination by a
preponderance of the evidence. See Radecki v. Joura,
114 F.3d 115, 116 (8th Cir. 1997).
plaintiff alleges that he is a member of a protected class,
but does not describe the nature of that class. He also
states that defendants imposed upon him "unfavorable or
less favorable terms or conditions" on the return of his
deposit, but does not provide any indication as to what those
terms were, or how they were unfavorable. He claims he was
treated differently than similarly-situated former tenants,
but provides no support for this conclusion. In short,
plaintiff has done nothing more than state the elements of a
cause of action using conclusory language. This is not
sufficient to adequately state a claim. See Wiles v.
Capitol Indent. Corp.,280 F.3d 868, 870 (8th
Cir. 2002) (stating that "the court is free to ignore
legal conclusions, unsupported conclusions, unwarranted
inferences and sweeping legal conclusions cast in the form of
factual allegations"); and ...