The opinion of the court was delivered by: FREDERIC BLOCK, District Judge
Plaintiffs Michael Walker ("Mr. Walker") and his half-sister,
Pastor Sheryl Walker ("Pastor Walker") (collectively, "the
Walkers"), bring this pro se action pursuant to the Fair
Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3601, et seq., principally seeking to
enjoin Mr. Walker's eviction by the New York City Housing
Authority ("NYCHA"). The Court grants the Walkers' request to
proceed in forma pauperis and reviews the sufficiency of their
complaints sua sponte, pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).*fn1 For the reasons set forth below, the complaints are hereby dismissed.
This action is the latest in a long series of cases which the
Walkers have pursued in both state and federal courts to prevent
NYCHA from evicting Mr. Walker from an apartment the Walkers both
occupy at 50-20 31st Avenue in Woodside, Queens. There is no need
to chronicle the history of this litigation in great detail. The
following excerpt from the last of three opinions which Judge
Nickerson authored in an earlier related case in this epic
eviction battle nonetheless provides some context for the instant
[Pastor Walker] lives in her half-brother Michael
Walker's Housing Authority apartment in the Woodside
Houses housing development in Woodside, Queens. In
March, 1992, she moved into the apartment without Mr.
Walker's permission, refused to move out, and
threatened him with unspecified harm if she were to
be removed from the premises.
By letter dated September 11, 1993, Michael Walker
advised defendant Ronald Cox, manager of the Woodside
Houses housing development, that [Pastor Walker],
although not an authorized occupant, had been
residing in the Apartment since March, 1992.
On March 3, 1994, Mr. Walker signed a Resident Lease
Cancellation Agreement indicating that he would
cancel the 1992 Lease to the four-bedroom apartment
he had been living in and move into a smaller Housing
Authority apartment. * * * About a week later, on
March 9, 1994, Mr. Walker informed the Housing
Authority that he could not give clear title to the
four-bedroom apartment and voided the lease to the
one-bedroom. He explained that [Pastor Walker] and
her fiancé, Mark Hundly, were living in his apartment
without his permission, and that he could not take
action against them because he feared for his life.
The Housing Authority thereupon initiated
[proceedings to terminate] Mr. Walker's tenancy. * * *
On July 27, 1994, after an administrative hearing
at which neither [of the Walkers] appeared, the
Housing Authority notified Michael Walker that his
tenancy had been terminated.
Walker v. Cox, No. 95-CV-1219, 1999 WL 294723, at *1 (E.D.N.Y.
Mar. 17, 1999).
In 1995, after NYCHA instituted eviction proceedings in the
Housing Part of the Civil Court of the City of New York, Pastor
Walker brought a pro se action in the Eastern District of New
York, alleging violations of the Fair Housing Act and seeking to
enjoin NYCHA from "evicting her from her residence because she is
a `light skinned black female with a perceived disability.'"
Id. After almost four years of litigation, during which Judge
Nickerson concluded that Pastor Walker was not a lawful tenant of
the apartment and was not entitled to join her half-brother as a
tenant of record, see Walker v. Cox, No. 95-CV-1219, 1997 WL
177854 (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 27, 1997), the Court dismissed the action
for lack of standing. See Walker v. Cox, 1999 WL 294723, at
*4-5 (E.D.N.Y. 1999).
At some point during the course of this litigation, Mr. Walker
was adjudicated mentally incapacitated pursuant to Article 81 of
the New York State Mental Hygiene Law. In 1995, upon learning
that Mr. Walker was "at risk" of an emotional or psychological
disorder, NYCHA postponed the scheduled eviction and reopened the
administrative tenancy termination hearing. Walker v. Cox, 1999
WL 294723 at *2. Although the New York State Supreme Court
initially appointed Pastor Walker as Mr. Walker's guardian, NYCHA
refused to accept rent payments tendered by her in March Civil Court's order, ruling that Mr. Walker's "moving papers
failed to set forth sufficient facts to establish a meritorious
defense to the action and an excusable default." Id. The
Appellate Term also upheld the Civil Court's refusal to stay Mr.
Walker's eviction during the pendency of a bankruptcy case that
had been filed by Mr. Walker in the United States Bankruptcy
Court for the Eastern District of New York on December 16, 2004.
Before NYCHA could take any action to evict Mr. Walker, the
bankruptcy petition was dismissed. By order entered May 5, 2005,
Bankruptcy Judge Jerome Feller dismissed Mr. Walker's petition on
the grounds that Mr. Walker (1) lacked the capacity to file a
bankruptcy petition; (2) had filed the petition in bad faith; (3)
had failed to file various required documents, and (4) had failed
to attend a Section 341 meeting. In re Walker, No. 04-27545
(jf), slip op. at p. 2, (Bankr. E.D.N.Y. May 4, 2005). Judge
Feller not only lifted the automatic stay in that case, but also
ruled that in the event any of the Walkers filed another
bankruptcy petition, the automatic stay provision of the
bankruptcy law*fn2 would "not take effect against the New
York City Housing Authority, its employees, agents and/or
representatives, or against any New York City Marshal or Sheriff
so as to bar the New York City Housing Authority from having
executed on its behalf a warrant of eviction to regain
[possession of Mr. Walker's premises]." Id. at 3-4.
Mr. Walker did not appeal Judge Feller's order. Rather, on June
3, 2005 almost one month after the bankruptcy petition was
dismissed but just hours before the scheduled eviction the
Walkers filed the two underlying complaints. The first (the
"Feller complaint") names only Judge Feller as a defendant; it alleges
that the Judge was biased and had discriminated against Mr.
Walker on account of his "mental disability." Feller Complaint,
¶¶ 4, 6. The complaint further alleges that Judge Feller
"superceded his authority" by denying Mr. Walker's mother
(Dolores Walker) and Pastor Walker neither of whom were parties
to the bankruptcy proceedings the benefit of an automatic stay
in any future bankruptcy actions. Id. at ¶ 5.
The second complaint (the "NYCHA complaint") alleges that the
Civil Court of the City of New York, Queens County; the New York
City Housing Authority; City Marshall #45, Catherine Stringer;
and Self Help Community Services, Inc., were biased and had
discriminated against the Walkers on account of their
disabilities. Specifically, the complaint asserts that the Civil
Court deprived the Walkers of due process by refusing to compel
SHCS to appear in court, and discriminated against Mr. Walker by
denying him a hearing on his allegations of fraud against NYCHA,
id. at ¶¶ 5-6; that NYCHA had attempted to "defraud [Mr.
Walker] out of [his] apartment" by "not promptly pursuing rent"
in violation of an unspecified "Federal law," NYCHA Complaint, ¶¶
5, 8; that Marshal Stringer failed "to properly serve the
eviction notice pursuant to [New York] Real Property Law and
Rules 749 (2) and 735 (1)," and discriminated against Mr. Walker
by refusing to refer him to PDA Adult Protective Services, id.
at ¶ 4; and that SHCS had "abandoned" Mr. Walker by failing to
"take control of [his] income to preserve [his] property [and to]
. . . pay [his] bills," including his rent. Id. at ¶ 7.
In both actions, the Walkers requested money damages; a
permanent injunction prohibiting the defendants "from denying [the Walkers]
access to a fair hearing and equal protection of the law
regardless of [their] disabilit[ies]"; and an injunction and
restraining order (1) preventing Marshal Stringer or NYCHA from
evicting them, (2) reversing the order dismissing the bankruptcy
petition, and (3) reinstating the automatic stay. In addition,
the Walkers filed orders to show cause requesting a preliminary
injunction and temporary restraining order preventing their
eviction. By order dated June 3, 2005, the Court denied
preliminary injunctive relief because the Walkers had failed to
demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits.
Because the Walkers are proceeding pro se, their pleadings
must be read liberally and interpreted as raising the strongest
arguments they suggest. See McEachin v. McGuinnis,
357 F.3d 197, 200 (2d Cir. 2004); Burgos v. Hopkins, 14 F.3d 787, 790
(2d Cir. 1994). If a liberal reading of the complaint "gives any
indication that a valid claim might be stated," the Court must
grant leave to amend the complaint. See Cuoco v. Moritsugu,
222 F.3d 99, 112 (2d Cir. 2000); Gomez v. USAA Fed. Sav. Bank,
171 F.3d 794, 795 (2d Cir. 1999).
Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), however, a district court must
dismiss a case if the court determines that the action "(i) is
frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which
relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a
defendant who is immune from such relief." An action is frivolous
as a matter of law when, inter alia, it is based on an
"indisputably meritless legal theory" that is, when it "lacks
an arguable basis in law . . ., or [when] a dispositive defense
clearly exists on the face of the complaint." Livingston v. Adirondack Beverage Co., 141 F.3d 434, 437 (2d
Cir. 1998) (internal quotations and citations omitted). For
example, "[a] complaint will be dismissed as ...