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Dickey v. City of Boston

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

September 17, 2019

James Dickey, Plaintiff,
City of Boston, et al., Defendants.


          Nathaniel M. Gorton, United States District Judge.

         James Dickey (“plaintiff” or “Dickey”) brings claims under the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”) against the City of Boston, Edward Coburn in his capacity as a lawyer for the City of Boston, Martin Walsh in his capacity as Mayor of the City of Boston and William Christopher in his capacity as Commissioner of the Inspectional Services Department of the City of Boston (collectively, “the City Defendants”), Maria Theophilis, MaryLou Muirhead and Jefrey Winik, each in their official capacities as judges for the Housing Court Department of the Massachusetts Trial Court (“Massachusetts Housing Court”), (collectively, “the Judicial Defendants”), and Stuart Schrier in his capacity as receiver appointed by the Massachusetts Housing Court to bring the disputed property into compliance with the state sanitary code (“Schrier”), (collectively, “defendants”).

         Pending before the Court are the motions of the City Defendants, the Judicial Defendants and Schrier to dismiss plaintiff's complaint.

         I. Background

         James Dickey avers that he is the sole manager and member of the East Fourth St. LLC, which, in turn, is the record owner of the real property at 97 Mount Ida Road, Dorchester, MA (“the Mount Ida Property”).

         The Mount Ida Property fell into severe disrepair after it was damaged by a fire in August, 2011. In 2013, the Inspectional Services Department of the City of Boston (“ISD”) issued a citation finding the Mount Ida Property structurally unsound and in violation of the state sanitary code. ISD issued a second violation in 2014 because the property remained in disrepair. Finally, in September, 2015, ISD issued an order to raze the building on the Mount Ida Property.

         Shortly thereafter, in October, 2015, Dickey filed his first lawsuit with respect to the Mount Ida Property. Dickey sued ISD in Massachusetts Superior Court, alleging that ISD's raze order was unenforceable. Upon ISD's motion, the case was dismissed.

         In April, 2017, finding the property still in disrepair, ISD brought an action in Massachusetts Housing Court against Dickey seeking a restraining order and authorization to abate the conditions at the Mount Ida Property. Dickey removed that action to this Court and simultaneously filed a federal civil action against ISD. Another session of this Court dismissed Dickey's civil complaint and remanded ISD's case to the Massachusetts Housing Court.

         ISD then filed a receivership action in the Massachusetts Housing Court, which Dickey again removed to federal court. United States District Judge Richard G. Stearns granted ISD's motion for remand to the state court. Judge Stearns also noted that Dickey had failed to comply with a previous order by United States District Judge Leo T. Sorokin that required Dickey to inform the Court in any future filings that he had previously been admonished for filing frivolous and vexatious lawsuits. Judge Stearns warned Dickey that if he continued to disregard Court orders, he would be required to seek Court permission for any future filings. Dickey appealed that decision to the First Circuit Court of Appeals where it is still pending.

         In the instant action, Dickey alleges that the defendants participated in an elaborate scheme to seize properties in African American neighborhoods and place them into receivership for the purpose of selling those properties to “friends of the court.” Dickey alleges in Count I that defendants violated the FHA and in Count II that he is entitled to equitable and ancillary relief as a result of the FHA violation. Specifically, Dickey seeks a declaratory judgment that defendants violated the FHA and an injunction to prevent defendants from enforcing the receivership of the Mount Ida Property.

         II. Motion to Dismiss

         A. Standard of Review

         To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). In considering the merits of a motion to dismiss, the Court may only look to the facts alleged in the pleadings, documents attached as exhibits or incorporated by reference in the complaint and matters of which judicial notice can be taken. Nollet v. Justices of Trial Court of Mass., 83 F.Supp.2d 204, 208 (D. Mass. 2000), aff'd, 228 F.3d 1127 (1st Cir. 2000).

         Furthermore, the Court must accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Langadinos v. Am. Airlines, Inc., 199 F.3d 68, 69 (1st Cir. 2000). If the facts in the complaint are sufficient to state a cause of action, a motion to dismiss the complaint must be denied. See Nollet, 83 F.Supp.2d at 208.

         Although a court must accept as true all the factual allegations in a complaint, that doctrine is not applicable to legal conclusions. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009). Threadbare recitals of legal elements which are supported by mere conclusory statements do not suffice to state a cause of action. Id. Accordingly, a complaint does not state a claim of relief where the well-pled facts fail to warrant an inference of any more than the mere possibility of misconduct. Id. at 1950.

         B. City Defendants' Motion to Dismiss

         The City Defendants move to dismiss plaintiff's complaint for the following independently sufficient reasons: 1) plaintiff lacks standing; 2) plaintiff fails to state a cognizable claim for relief; 3) plaintiff cannot represent the East Fourth Street, LLC pro se; and 4) plaintiff has failed to follow Court orders. The City Defendants also ask this Court to issue an injunction barring plaintiff from filing additional complaints without Court permission.

         1. ...

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