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Loring v. United States

United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Southern Division

December 18, 2018




         Plaintiff Daniel Loring ("Loring") brought this pro se lawsuit against the United States for the alleged misconduct of two Assistant United States Attorneys in their handling of an earlier civil lawsuit filed under the Fair Housing Act on Loring's behalf. Loring filed a motion for summary judgment in this case. (Doc. 14.) Defendants filed a motion to dismiss. (Doc. 23.) Having carefully considered the entire record, the Court will grant Defendants' motion to dismiss in part and deny it in part. Loring's motion for summary judgment will be denied.


         This case arises out of a Fair Housing Act lawsuit filed on August 28, 2015 by the United States on behalf of Loring alleging that the owners of Loring's apartment improperly discriminated against Loring, who is an individual with a disability because he required the use of a wheelchair due to an injury. See CIV 15-4137, Doc. 1. This unlawful discrimination ultimately resulted in the eviction of Loring from the apartment and an unfavorable rental reference from the owners. Loring was unable to find permanent housing as a result. The United States alleged that the apartment owners' violations were intentional, willful, and taken in reckless disregard of Loring's rights. The Complaint sought injunctive relief against the owners to prohibit them from continuing their discriminatory practices against individuals with disabilities, to order them to take any affirmative steps necessary to restore Loring to the position he would have been in but for the discriminatory conduct, and to take such steps as would be necessary to prevent the recurrence of any discriminatory conduct in the future. The lawsuit also sought an award of monetary damages to Loring pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 36l2(o)(3) and 3613(c)(1).

         Loring had the right to obtain a private lawyer of his choice to represent him in the Fair Housing Act case, but he never did so. Loring also had the right to intervene in the Fair Housing Act case. See42 U.S.C. § 36l2(o)(2)(" Any aggrieved person with respect to the issues to be determined in a civil action under this subsection may intervene as of right in that civil action."). Loring never intervened.

         After over two years of litigation, the parties to the Fair Housing Act case reached a settlement in November 2017. (Doc. 1-11 at 96-102, Executed Settlement Agreement.) The owners agreed to pay Loring $20, 000 in exchange for a release of all claims against them. (Id. at 98, ¶ 8.) The Settlement Agreement noted that the apartments had been sold and that none of the defendants were in the business of owning or managing residential property to which the Fair Housing Act applies. (Id. at 98, ¶ 11.) The district court dismissed the Fair Housing Act case on November 27, 2017. See CIV 15-4137, Doc. 23.

         Loring filed this lawsuit against the United States on April 3, 2018. (Doc. 1.) In his Complaint and its attachments, Loring asserts numerous claims against his lawyers in the underlying litigation in their roles as Assistant United States Attorneys. He claims, among other things, that the lawyers made misrepresentations, had conflicts of interests, colluded with the defense attorney, threatened him, and otherwise mishandled his Fair Housing Act case and its settlement. Loring contends these acts by the lawyers violated their obligations to him, caused him even more harm than the housing discrimination, and induced him to accept a less advantageous settlement in that case. Loring asserts and Defendants do not deny that he filed an administrative claim for the issues he raises in this Complaint.[1]


         Defendants have moved for dismissal under both Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted.

         The party asserting subject matter jurisdiction has the burden of proving that jurisdiction is proper. VS Ltd. P'ship v. Dep't of Hous. and Urban Dev., 235 F.3d 1109, 1112 (8th Cir. 2000) (citing Nucor Corp. v. Nebraska Pub. Power Dist., 891 F.2d 1343, 1346 (8th Cir. 1989)). "The district court has the authority to consider matters outside the pleadings on a motion challenging subject matter jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1)." Drevlow v. Lutheran Church, Mo. Synod, 991 F.2d468, 470 (8thCir. 1993) (citing Osborn v. United States, 918F.2d724');">918F.2d724, 729 (8th Cir. 1990)). "Because jurisdiction is a threshold issue for the court, the district court has 'broader power to decide its own right to hear the case than it has when the merits of the case are reached.' "Bellecourt v. United States, 994F.2d427, 430 (8thCir. 1993) (quoting Osborn, 918F.2d at 729).

         When reviewing a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a court must accept as true all factual allegations contained in the complaint, and review the pleading to determine whether its allegations show the pleader is entitled to relief. See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The purpose of a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim is to test the legal sufficiency of the pleading. A complaint must be dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6) if it does not plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570 (abrogating the traditional 12(b)(6) "no set of facts" standard set forth in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)). While the complaint need not provide specific facts in support of the claims contained therein, it must give the defendant fair notice of the claims and the grounds on which the claims rest. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (per curiam). This obligation requires a plaintiff to plead "more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

         The Supreme Court elaborated on the less stringent pleading standard for pro se litigants in Erickson v. Pardus: "A document filed pro se is to be liberally construed, and a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." 551 U.S. at 94 (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).

         Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that summary judgment shall be granted "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party bears the burden of showing both the absence of a genuine issue of material fact and its entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,477 U.S. 242, 256-257 (1986). Once the moving party has met its burden, the non-moving party may not rest on the allegations of its pleadings but must set forth specific facts, by affidavit or other evidence, showing that a genuine issue of material fact exists. Fed. R. Crv. P. 56(c); Anderson, 477 U.S. at 257; City of Mt. Pleasant v. Associated Elec. Coop., Inc.,838 F.2d 268, 273-74 (8th Cir. 1988). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the Court is required to view the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and must give that party the benefit of all reasonable inferences to be drawn from the underlying facts. AgriStor Leasing v. Farrow, 826 F.2d 732, 734 (8th Cir. 1987). All facts presented to the district court by the non-moving party are accepted as true if properly supported by the record. See Beck v. Skon,253 F.3d 330, 332-33 (8th Cir. 2001). Moreover, "at the summary judgment stage the judge's function is not himself to weigh the evidence ...

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