JONES v. 1260 HOUSING DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION
MEMORANDUM AND OPINION. SIGNED BY HONORABLE J. WILLIAM DITTER, JR ON 4/11/18. 4/12/18 ENTERED & COPY MAILED TO JONES.(fdc)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
IRVING COURTLEY JONES,
1260 HOUSING DEVELOPMENT
APRIL 11, 2018
Plaintiff Irving Courtley Jones, proceeding pro se, has filed this civil action against the
1260 Housing Development Corporation. He has also filed a motion to proceed in forma
pauperis. For the following reasons, the Court will grant Mr. Jones leave to proceed in forma
pauperis, dismiss his Complaint, and provide leave to amend.
In his Complaint, Mr. Jones alleges that he is a “mature African American male of 62
years of age.” (Compl. at 6.) On October 2, 2017, “defendant, 1260 Housing Development
Corp., also known as Mission First Housing, Inc. a private contractor and property manager of
section 8 housing units for Philadelphia Housing Authority, knocked on the door of [his]
apartment.” (Id.) Mr. Jones contends that three (3) individuals “demanded that [he] vacate the
premises.” (Id.) Mr. Jones recognized one of the individuals as the property manager and
another as the maintenance worker. (Id.) The third individual “wore a holstered pistol and
claimed he was from the sheriff’s department.” (Id.)
Mr. Jones “closed the door and locked it.” (Id.) However, the individuals opened the
door and “the employee with the holstered gun entered the apartment.”
demanded that he leave, but the employee “upholstered [sic] his weapon and pointed the loaded
revolver in the plaintiff’s face.” (Id.) Mr. Jones “managed to get to the telephone and called 911
and Ron Harper, esq. an attorney, [he] had worked with as a member of the NAACP.” (Id.)
Shortly thereafter, police arrived on scene. (Id.) “After speaking to the lawyer, [Mr. Jones] was
urged to leave the apartment because ‘you don’t want to lose your life.’” (Id.)
Public dockets reflect that the 1260 Housing Development Corporation brought an
eviction suit against Mr. Jones in the Philadelphia Municipal Court. Mr. Jones appealed the
outcome of that proceeding to the Court of Common Pleas for Philadelphia. 1 See generally 1260
Housing Development Corp. v. Jones, Docket No. 171000304 (Phila. Ct. Common Pleas). On
November 29, 2017, Judge Anders denied Mr. Jones’s petition to open the judgment. Id. Mr.
Jones filed a motion for reconsideration, which was denied by Judge Anders on January 3, 2018.
Mr. Jones subsequently appealed to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania.
Development Corp. v. Jones, 360 EDA 2018 (Pa. Super. Ct.). On March 29, 2018, the Superior
Court quashed Mr. Jones’s appeal, noting that the order denying his motion for reconsideration
was not appealable and did not extend the appeal period relative to the order which denied Mr.
Jones’s petition to open the judgment. Id.
Mr. Jones now contends that “[d]espite a [42 U.S.C. §] 1985 violation the Pa.
Commonwealth states that it cannot reach the merits of the case because under the English
common law it does not have proper jurisdiction.” (Compl. at 7.) He “feels his rights have been
denied and the Pennsylvania Court has erred.” (Id.) Mr. Jones “demands a day in court.” (Id.)
The Municipal Court proceedings are not publicly available and therefore cannot be accessed
by the Court. However, Mr. Jones has attached to his Complaint a copy of his brief to the
Superior Court of Pennsylvania. It appears that the 1260 Housing Development Corporation
initiated eviction proceedings against Mr. Jones and that the Municipal Court entered a default
STANDARD OF REVIEW
The Court will grant Mr. Jones leave to proceed in forma pauperis because it appears that
he is incapable of paying the fees necessary to commence this action. Accordingly, 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) applies, which requires the Court to dismiss the Complaint if it fails to state a
claim. Whether a complaint fails to state a claim under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is governed by the
same standard applicable to motions to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6),
see Tourscher v. McCullough, 184 F.3d 236, 240 (3d Cir. 1999), which requires the Court to
determine whether the complaint contains “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a
claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)
(quotations omitted). Conclusory statements and naked assertions will not suffice. Id. As Mr.
Jones is proceeding pro se, the Court construes his allegations liberally. Higgs v. Att’y Gen., 655
F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir. 2011).
Request for Review of State Case
As noted above, Mr. Jones contends that the “Pennsylvania Court has erred.” (Compl. at
7.) Essentially, Mr. Jones wants this Court to review the state courts’ decisions in the eviction
proceedings brought against him by the 1260 Housing Development Corporation. Pursuant to
the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, however, “federal district courts lack jurisdiction over suits that
are essentially appeals from state-court judgments.” Great W. Mining & Mineral Co. v. Fox
Rothschild LLP, 615 F.3d 159, 165 (3d Cir. 2010). Based on that principle, the Rooker-Feldman
doctrine deprives a federal district court of jurisdiction over “cases brought by state-court losers
complaining of injuries caused by state-court judgments rendered before the district court
proceedings commenced and inviting district court review and rejection of those judgments.” Id.
at 166 (quotations omitted). To the extent Mr. Jones seeks review and reversal of any of the
orders entered by the state courts in the eviction proceedings, the Court lacks jurisdiction to do
Claims Under 42 U.S.C. § 1985
Mr. Jones vaguely alludes to a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985 by the 1260 Housing
Development Corporation. “[T]o state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3), a plaintiff must allege
(1) a conspiracy; (2) motivated by a racial or class based discriminatory animus designed to
deprive, directly or indirectly, any person or class of persons to the equal protection of the laws;
(3) an act in furtherance of the conspiracy; and (4) an injury to person or property or the
deprivation of any right or privilege of a citizen of the United States.” Lake v. Arnold, 112 F.3d
682, 685 (3d Cir. 1997); Farber v. City of Paterson, 440 F.3d 131, 136 (3d Cir. 2006)
(explaining that “§ 1985(3) defendants must have allegedly conspired against a group that has an
identifiable existence independent of the fact that its members are victims of the defendants'
tortious conduct”). 2 While Mr. Jones seems to suggest that the 1260 Housing Development
Corporation conspired against him and mentions that he is African-American, he fails to allege
the type of race- or class-based discrimination that is required to state a claim under § 1985(3).
Therefore, the Court will dismiss Mr. Jones’s § 1985(3) claim as well. 3
Section 1985(1) and 1985(2) have no applicability here, as nothing in the Complaint suggests
that Mr. Jones was either an officer who was prevented from performing his duties or was
deterred from attending a court proceeding to testify therein.
Review of the appellate brief Mr. Jones attached to his Complaint reveals that he asserted a
§ 1985 violation in that brief. At this juncture, however, the Court cannot determine whether his
§ 1985 claim would be barred by res judicata.
Claims Under the Fair Housing Act
While Mr. Jones does not explicitly refer to it, it is possible that he is attempting to also
raise a claim under the Fair Housing Act. The Fair Housing Act renders it unlawful “[t]o refuse
to sell or rent after the making of a bona fide offer, or to refuse to negotiate for the sale or rental
of, or otherwise make unavailable or deny, a dwelling to any person because of race, color,
religion, sex, familial status, or national origin.” 42 U.S.C. § 3604(a). Again, however, while
Mr. Jones mentions that he is African-American, nothing in the Complaint suggests that the 1206
Housing Development Corporation evicted him based upon his race. Thus, to the extent Mr.
Jones asserts claims under the Fair Housing Act, those claims will also be dismissed.
For the foregoing reasons, the Court will grant Mr. Jones’s motion to proceed in forma
pauperis and will dismiss his Complaint. This dismissal is without prejudice to Mr. Jones’s right
to file an amended complaint within thirty (30) days in the event that he can cure the defects
noted above. See Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 114 (3d Cir. 2002). An
appropriate Order follows, which shall be docketed separately.
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