Roberts v. City of Lancaster Code Enforcement et al
ORDER denying 30 Motion to Strike ; granting 12 Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim; granting 12 Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction; granting 15 Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim; granting 17 Motion to D ismiss for Failure to State a Claim; finding as moot 20 Motion ; granting 21 Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction; granting 21 Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim; finding as moot 29 Motion to Strike. Signed by Judge Algenon L. Marbley on 3/29/2017. (cw)(This document has been sent by regular mail to the party(ies) listed in the NEF that did not receive electronic notification.)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
CITY OF LANCASTER CODE
ENFORCEMENT, et al.,
Case No. 2:16-cv-00317
JUDGE ALGENON L. MARBLEY
Magistrate Judge Kemp
OPINION & ORDER
This matter is before the Court on the motions to dismiss of Defendants GRADA, Ltd.
(“GRADA”); the City of Lancaster Code Enforcement (“Code Enforcement”); Fairfield
Metropolitan Housing Authority (“FMHA”); and the United States Department of Housing and
Urban Development (“HUD”). (Docs. 12, 15, 17, 21.) Also before the Court are Plaintiff
Christy Roberts’s (“Roberts”) Motion to Enter into Evidence 42 Exhibits in Support of Medical
Issues (Doc. 20) and Notice to the Court (Doc. 28), and various Defendants’ motions to strike the
same. (See Docs. 24, 25, 29, 30.)1 For the reasons set forth below, Defendants’ motions to
dismiss are GRANTED. Roberts’s motion and notice are DENIED, and Defendants’ motions to
strike are DENIED as MOOT.
A. Factual Background
Roberts’s forty-plus-page complaint (with addenda) is largely a stream-of-consciousness
work alleging an apparent conspiracy involving the Founding Fathers and their descendants,
Adolf Hitler, Osama Bin Laden, Michael Bloomberg, Mark Zuckerberg, the Clintons, American
Document Numbers 24 and 25 are styled as oppositions to Roberts’s Motion to Enter Evidence, but ask
the Court essentially to strike evidence from the record.
Christian Polygamists, Muslims, Bob Evans, September 11th, drug-dealing, beatings, rape, and
murder. (See generally Doc. 8.)
The few allegations that the Court can comprehend and that appear to be directed at the
Defendants in this action sound in a landlord-tenant dispute, with several vague references to
racial discrimination. Roberts was purportedly a participant in the HUD Section 8 Housing
Assistance Program and received rental assistance for twelve years at her Lancaster, Ohio
residence. (See Doc. 4 at 3.) According to Roberts, the conditions of her rental property were
substandard for the majority of the time she lived there. (See generally id.) Specifically, Roberts
alleges, among other things, that: (1) her sewer “backed up 38 times,” caused by landlord
GRADA’s failure to remove a tree branch; (2) she reported the sewer issue to a HUD office and
to FMHA “12 times” but they were no help; (3) Code Enforcement was called to inspect the
property on multiple occasions, but either “found nothing” wrong or refused to inspect; and (4)
Code Enforcement’s refusal to inspect the property benefited a “white supremacist.” (See id. at
5.) Roberts also alludes to the fact that she was eventually evicted from her rental property. (See
Doc. 8.) Roberts asks this Court to “call [the] Inspector General in to check this prejudice” and
“fix things,” and seeks damages against GRADA, FMHA, and HUD. (See Doc. 4 at 6.)
B. Procedural Background
In March 2016, Roberts filed a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (Doc. 1.)
The Court granted Roberts’s motion and docketed her complaint one month later. (Docs. 3, 4.)
In May 2016, Roberts filed a thirty-nine page addendum to her complaint,2 which does not
appear to have been served on Defendants. (Doc. 8.) Shortly thereafter, all Defendants moved
to dismiss Roberts’s complaint. (Docs. 12, 15, 17, 21.)
Roberts’s complaint was attached to her motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (Docs. 1-1, 4.)
Before the Court granted Roberts’s motion, she filed a two-page addendum to her complaint. (Doc. 2.)
The Court therefore considers Documents 1-1, 2, 4, and 8 as Roberts’s complaint.
The Court granted Roberts a two-month extension of time to respond to Defendants’
motions. (See Docs. 18, 19.) Rather than file responses, Roberts filed a “Motion to Enter into
Evidence 42 Exhibits in Support of Medical Issues.” (Doc. 20.) These “exhibits” are various
medical records, housing- and public transit-related documents, several e-mails, and
documentation of a gym membership. (See id.) GRADA and Code Enforcement opposed
Roberts’s motion. (See Docs. 24, 25.) In September 2016, Roberts filed a “Notice to the Court”
that she had been diagnosed with “osteomyelitis of the spine.” (Doc. 28.) Code Enforcement
and FMHA moved to strike Roberts’s notice. (Docs. 29, 30.)
In August 2016, prior to filing the aforementioned motion and notice, Roberts had
requested an additional extension of time to file a response to Defendants’ motions. (See Doc.
The Court did not take note of Roberts’s motion until February 2017.
intervening six months, Roberts did not respond to Defendants’ motions. On February 23, 2017,
this Court ordered Roberts to respond to Defendants’ motions to dismiss by March 10, 2017, and
notified Roberts that it would rule on the motions without considering her response if she failed
to meet the deadline. (Doc. 31.) The Court’s Order explicitly stated that no further extensions of
time to respond would be permitted. (Id.) Roberts did not respond. Accordingly, the Court
considers Defendants’ motions as-filed.
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
All Defendants move to dismiss Roberts’s pro se complaint under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6); HUD and GRADA also move to dismiss due to this Court’s lack of subjectmatter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1). (See Docs. 12, 17.)
A pro se litigant’s allegations are held to a less stringent standard than those in pleadings
drafted by attorneys. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). Even so, however, courts are
unwilling to “abrogate basic pleading essentials in pro se suits.” See Wells v. Brown, 891 F.2d
591, 594 (6th Cir. 1989) (collecting cases). Indeed, courts are not required to entertain a pro se
plaintiff’s claim that “defies comprehension” or allegations that amount to nothing more than
“incoherent ramblings.” Roper v. Ford Motor Co., No. 1:09-cv-427, 2010 WL 2670827, at *4
(S.D. Ohio Apr. 6, 2010), report and recommendation adopted, 2010 WL 2670697 (S.D. Ohio
July 1, 2010) (internal citations omitted).
A. Motion To Dismiss for Lack of Subject-Matter Jurisdiction.
Motions to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) “are categorized as either a facial attack or a
factual attack.” Bell v. United States, 4 F. Supp. 3d 908, 913 (S.D. Ohio 2014) (quoting
McCormick v. Miami Univ., 693 F.3d 654, 658 (6th Cir. 2012)). A facial attack on subjectmatter jurisdiction is a “challenge to the sufficiency of the pleading itself,” and therefore is
resolved under the familiar Rule 12(b)(6) standard. Id. Where, as here, a plaintiff’s standing is
challenged under a Rule 12(b)(1) motion at the pleading stage of the litigation and discovery has
not yet commenced, it is proper for the Court to construe Defendants’ motions as facially
challenging subject-matter jurisdiction. See Kal Kan Foods, Inc. v. Iams Co., 197 F. Supp. 2d
1061, 1066–67 (S.D. Ohio 2002).
B. Motion To Dismiss for Failure To State a Claim under Rule 12(b)(6).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) allows for a case to be dismissed for “failure to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Such a motion “is a test of the plaintiff’s cause
of action as stated in the complaint, not a challenge to the plaintiff’s factual allegations.” Golden
v. City of Columbus, 404 F.3d 950, 958–59 (6th Cir. 2005). Thus, the Court must construe the
complaint in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Total Ben. Planning Agency, Inc.
v. Anthem Blue Cross & Blue Shield, 552 F.3d 430, 434 (6th Cir. 2008). The Court is not
required, however, to accept as true mere legal conclusions unsupported by factual
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 664 (2009).
Although liberal, Rule
12(b)(6) requires more than bare assertions of legal conclusions. Allard v. Weitzman, 991 F.2d
1236, 1240 (6th Cir. 1993) (citation omitted). Generally, a complaint must contain a “short and
plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed. R. Civ. P.
8(a)(2). In short, a complaint’s factual allegations “must be enough to raise a right to relief
above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). It must
contain “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570.
III. LAW AND ANALYSIS
A. The Court Lacks Subject-Matter Jurisdiction Over Roberts’s Claim Against HUD.
Both HUD and GRADA move to dismiss Roberts’s complaint for lack of subject-matter
jurisdiction. The Court will address each Defendant’s arguments in turn.
HUD argues that the Court lacks jurisdiction over any of Roberts’s claims against it
because she has failed to identify an applicable waiver of sovereign immunity. (See Doc. 21 at
4–6.) “Sovereign immunity shields the United States from suit absent a consent to be sued that is
‘unequivocally expressed.’” United States v. Bormes, 133 S. Ct. 12, 16 (2012) (citation omitted);
see also F.D.I.C. v. Meyer, 510 U.S. 471, 475 (1994) (noting that sovereign immunity shields
federal agencies from suit). Sovereign immunity is a jurisdictional doctrine; the “terms of the
United States’ consent to be sued in any court define that court’s jurisdiction to entertain the
suit.” Meyer, 510 U.S. at 475. A plaintiff bears the burden of identifying a waiver of sovereign
immunity before a lawsuit against the United States can go forward; she may not simply invoke
the “general federal-question-jurisdiction statute,” 28 U.S.C. § 1331, as Roberts has done here.
See Toledo v. Jackson, 485 F.3d 836, 838 (6th Cir. 2007); (see also Doc. 4 at 2.) Roberts has
failed to point to any legal authority permitting a suit of this type against the United States in her
complaint. For this reason, the Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over any claim against
GRADA moves to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) due to Roberts’s alleged failure to plead a
federal question in her complaint. (See Doc. 12 at 1.) As bases for this Court’s jurisdiction over
her claims, Roberts cites 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1343(3). (Doc. 4 at 2.) “The presence or absence
of federal-question jurisdiction is governed by the ‘well-pleaded complaint rule,’ which provides
that federal jurisdiction exists only when a federal question is presented on the face of plaintiff’s
properly pleaded complaint.” Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987).
While GRADA is correct that the body of Roberts’s complaint does not “allege a
violation of a specific constitutional right, federal statute or treaty,” it also “assumes for the sake
of argument that Plaintiff has made sufficient  allegations for a discrimination claim” under
federal law. (Doc. 12 at 4–5.) The Court will do the same, in order to honor its obligation to
construe pro se pleadings liberally. See Boswell v. Mayer, 169 F.3d 384, 387 (6th Cir. 1999).
Accordingly, the Court will construe the few references to racial discrimination in Roberts’s
complaint as sufficient to invoke the Court’s subject-matter jurisdiction over claims of racial
discrimination in federal housing, and will address GRADA’s argument that Roberts has not
pleaded “sufficient factual allegations of a viable federal claim” below, as it is more
appropriately considered under Rule 12(b)(6). (See Doc. 12 at 4–5.)
B. Roberts Fails to State a Claim Against Defendants.
Even assuming that Roberts’s complaint properly invokes this Court’s subject-matter
As HUD also correctly points out in its motion, Roberts’s complaint contains virtually no factual
allegations pertaining to HUD. Roberts alleges only that she reported an issue with her property to a
“HUD office” and that her property was not inspected to “HUD standards.” (See Doc. 4 at 4; Doc. 8 at
jurisdiction, it fails to state a claim against Defendants under Rule 12(b)(6). Under Twombly and
Iqbal, this Court need not accept as true “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Here, Roberts’s
complaint does not even meet that—still insufficient—standard. Indeed, Roberts’s complaint
fails to pinpoint any law Defendants have allegedly violated, or identify any cause of action or
the elements thereof. Thus, the complaint does not even meet the former “notice” pleading
standard, as Defendants could not possibly know “what [Roberts’s] claim is and the grounds
upon which it rests.” Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957), abrogated by Twombly, 550
U.S. 44 (2007).
Roberts’s complaint is also factually deficient. As a threshold matter, the complaint
contains very few allegations about Defendants. As set forth above, while Roberts expresses
dissatisfaction with her rental property; with GRADA’s services as her landlord; and with Code
Enforcement, FMHA, and HUD’s purported failure to inspect or fix issues with the property, the
vast majority of the complaint is dedicated to Roberts’s incomprehensible “ramblings.” Roper,
2010 WL 2670827, at *4.
The factual allegations directed at Defendants, however, do not give rise to a claim for
For example, assuming that Roberts intended to plead a claim for federal housing
discrimination, using the familiar McDonnell Douglas test, she has not specifically pleaded that
she was evicted from her property because of her race, or that her property remained available
after she was evicted, or that members of a non-protected class were treated more favorably than
her. See Lindsay v. Yates, 498 F.3d 434, 438–39 (6th Cir. 2007). And although she invokes the
jurisdictional statute for claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, see Lynch v. Household Fin. Corp., 405
U.S. 538, 543 n.7 (1972), Roberts fails to identify any policy or custom of a government agency
that caused an alleged deprivation of her rights, which is a required element of a claim against a
municipal entity in its official capacity. See Garner v. Memphis Police Dep’t, 8 F.3d 358, 363
(6th Cir. 1993) (citing Monell v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978)).
In short, Roberts’s vague allegations that the conditions of her rental property were
somehow connected to race are insufficient to “state a claim for relief that is plausible on its
face,” particularly given that she wholly fails to refer to any law or cause of action. Twombly,
550 U.S. at 570. Even under the more “liberal” standard for pro se pleadings, this Court is not
required to entertain allegations that “def[y] comprehension,” Roper, 2010 WL 2670827, at *4,
or “discover or create a claim that is not pleaded.” Saunders v. Obama, No., 2012 WL 1030473,
at *9 (S.D. Ohio Mar. 27, 2012), report and recommendation adopted by 2012 WL 1606664
(S.D. Ohio May 7, 2012). For these reasons, Roberts’s complaint fails to state a claim against
C. Roberts’s Motion to Admit Evidence, Notice, and Defendants’ Motions to Strike.
As previously stated, also pending before the Court are Roberts’s Motion to Enter into
Evidence 42 Exhibits in Support of Medical Issues (Doc. 20) and Notice to the Court of her
osteomyelitis diagnosis. (Doc. 28.) With regard to the Motion to Enter Evidence, as GRADA
properly notes, exhibits are generally introduced at trial—not via motion—and must be properly
authenticated and a foundation laid under the Federal Rules of Evidence before they may be
Various Defendants raise additional arguments for dismissal of Roberts’s complaint under Rule
12(b)(6). For example, Code Enforcement correctly argues that it is not a proper party, as there is no
statutory authority affording it to be sued; it is a division of a municipal corporation that has no existence
separate from the city itself. (See Doc. 15 at 4–5); see also Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 715.01; Saint
Torrance v. Firstar, 529 F. Supp. 2d 836, 850 (S.D. Ohio 2007); Collins v. I.R.S., No. 1:94-CV-685, 1995
WL 545285, at *7 (N.D. Ohio May 26, 1995). HUD notes that it has no role aside from providing funds
to housing agencies, and therefore “could not take any of the actions of which Plaintiff complains.” (Doc.
21 at 7–8.) FMHA asserts that the federal regulations governing housing quality standards do not create a
right of action against it. (See Doc. 17 at 4 (citing 24 C.F.R. § 983.101 (2014)). Because the Court finds
that Roberts’s complaint fails to meet the pleading requirements delineated by Twombly and Iqbal, it need
not address these supplemental arguments in detail.
admitted into evidence. (See Doc. 24.) Similarly, as to Roberts’s notice, Code Enforcement and
FMHA correctly state that neither the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure nor the Local Rules of
this Court provide a “mechanism” for the filing of such a notice. (See Docs. 29, 30.)
Procedure aside, the information Roberts provides the Court in her motion and notice is
wholly irrelevant to this action. Even “admitting this information into evidence” would have no
impact on the merits of Defendants’ motions to dismiss. For these reasons, the Court DENIES
Roberts’s Motion to Enter Evidence and disregards her notice. Defendants’ motions to strike
these documents are denied as MOOT.
For the reasons detailed above, the Court GRANTS Defendants’ motions to dismiss,
DENIES Roberts’s Motion to Enter Evidence and disregards her notice, and DENIES
Defendants’ Motions to Strike as MOOT. Roberts’s complaint is DISMISSED in its entirety.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
s/Algenon L. Marbley
ALGENON L. MARBLEY
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
DATED: March 29, 2017
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