The opinion of the court was delivered by: FREDERIC BLOCK, District Judge
Plaintiff Enrique Reid ("Reid") brings this pro se action
against his former landlord, defendant Jeffrey Zackenbaum
("Zackenbaum"), alleging that Zackenbaum violated his rights by
locking Reid out of his apartment and discarding Reid's medicines
and other personal property. The Court grants Reid's request to
proceed in forma pauperis and reviews the sufficiency of his
complaint sua sponte, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
Although Reid's complaint does not allege any cognizable federal
claim, he is granted leave to amend his complaint within 30 days
of the filing of this Memorandum and Order to afford him the
opportunity to do so.
The Court gleans the following facts and circumstances from a
liberal reading of Reid's complaint. See McEachin v. McGuinnis,
357 F.3d 197, 200 (2d Cir. 2004) ("when [a] plaintiff proceeds pro se, . . . a court is obliged to
construe his pleadings liberally"). For some time until February
20, 2005, Reid lived in an apartment building owned by Zackenbaum
at 200 Irving Avenue, Brooklyn. On February 20, 2005, thinking he
would be admitted to a hospital later that day, Reid signed a
document which Zackenbaum or his employees said was "just a
move-out form." Complaint at ¶ 4. Reid, who alleges that he is
legally blind and dying of AIDS, apparently could not or did not
read the document. While the exact nature and legal significance
of the document is therefore not alleged in the complaint, the
injunctive relief requested by Reid suggests that this document
was an agreement terminating Reid's lease.
Shortly after signing this document, Reid learned that he would
not be admitted to the hospital after all. He made prompt efforts
to rescind the February 20 agreement. On February 21, 2005, Reid
verbally informed Zackenbaum that he would not be moving. The
next day, Reid sent Zackenbaum a notarized letter to that effect
by certified mail. Despite being so notified, Zackenbaum locked
Reid out of the apartment. Zackenbaum also discarded medicines
and other personal property that Reid had left in the apartment.
On February 25, 2005, Reid went to "court" to attempt to regain
access to the apartment. Reid's complaint does not identify the
"court," although the fact that Reid seeks to recover "court
cost[s]" incurred in "Landlord Tenant Civil Court Applet [sic]
Court and Federal Court," id. at ¶ 5, suggests that Reid
pursued this action in the Landlord-Tenant Division of the
Housing Part of the Civil Court of the City of New York and, perhaps, appealed to the Supreme Court, Appellate Term. The
complaint also does not indicate the outcome of these legal
proceedings. The complaint implies that the court, referring to
papers filed by Zackenbaum in an earlier action, errantly
believed that Reid owed $2,000 in rent and denied him relief.
Id. at ¶ 4. However, the ad damnum clause of the complaint,
which requests that this Court "enforce a judgment," id. at ¶
5, suggests that Reid obtained a judgment in his favor.
On March 17, 2005, Reid commenced this action. Although the
caption of the complaint names only Zackenbaum as a defendant,
allegations in the body of the complaint provide addresses for
both Zackenbaum and his attorney, Benjamin Epstein. Id. at ¶ 2.
The complaint alleges that "Defendant and Attorney for Defendant
Violated the Federal American Disability Act . . . and may also
have violated the civil law of Enrique Reid 42 USC 1331." Id.
at ¶ 3. Reid seeks monetary damages to compensate for the "mental
anguish" caused by the lockout and the "pain [and] suffering"
resulting from exacerbation of Reid's physical ailments. Id. at
¶¶ 4-5. Reid also seeks "to enforce a judgment . . . that [he]
retain . . . apartment 1B or other vacant apartment at 200 Irving
Avenue . . . or that [he] be grant[ed] financial restitution . . .
sufficient for a new apartment and medicines as well as
personal property." Id. at ¶ 5. Finally, Reid seeks injunctive
relief: an order requiring Zackenbaum (1) to read aloud to a
tenant the provisions of any document he asks the tenant to sign,
and (2) to grant a tenant five days to move his or her property
from his or her apartment after signing "an agreement." Id. II.
Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), 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). "[A] court may
dismiss a complaint only if it is clear that no relief could be
granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent
with the allegations." Swierkiewicz v. Sorema, 534 U.S. 506,
514 (2002) (quoting Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73
(1984)). However, 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. 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). See also Frazier v. Coughlin,
850 F.2d 129, 130 (2d Cir. 1988) ("A pro se plaintiff who
brings a civil rights action should be `fairly freely' afforded
an opportunity to amend his complaint") (citing Satchell v.
Dilworth, 745 F.2d 781, 785 (2d Cir. 1984)).
B. Claims Arguably Indicated
Reid's complaint implies that Reid is seeking to establish
federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, which
grants district courts jurisdiction over "all civil actions
arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United
States." Reid attempts to identify specific federal statutes, alleging that
Zackenbaum and his attorney violated "the Federal American
Disability Act" and may have violated "the civil law of Enrique
Reid 42 USC 1331." Complaint at ¶ 3. The Court will construe
Reid's complaint as suggesting violations of the Fair Housing
Amendments Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3601 et seq. (the "FHAA"), the
public accommodations and public services provisions of the
Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et
seq. (the "ADA"), section 504 of the Rehabilitation Services
Administration Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794 (the "Rehabilitation Act"),
and the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("§ 1983").
The FHAA provides, in relevant part, that it is unlawful to
"discriminate in the sale or rental, or to otherwise make
unavailable or deny, a dwelling to any buyer or renter because of
a handicap of . . . that buyer or renter."
42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(1). The FHAA applies to the sale and rental of any
property "designed or intended for occupancy as a residence by
one or more families." 42 U.S.C. § 3602(b). A plaintiff seeking
recovery under the FHAA can establish discrimination under three
theories: (1) disparate treatment; (2) disparate impact; (3)
failure to make a reasonable accommodation. See Tsombanidis v.
West Haven Fire Dept., 352 F.3d 565, 573 (2d Cir. 2003). Reid
fails to state a claim under the disparate impact or reasonable
accommodation theories; however, a liberal reading of his
complaint suggests that he may be able to state a claim of
To establish disparate impact, the plaintiff must show "(1) the
occurrence of certain outwardly neutral practices, and (2) a
significantly adverse or disproportionate impact on persons of a
particular type produced by the defendant's facially neutral acts
or practices." Tsombanidis, 352 F.3d at 575. The basis for a
successful disparate impact claim involves a comparison between
those groups who are adversely affected by a practice because of
their disability, and those unaffected by it. See id.
Construing Reid's complaint liberally, the Court will assume that
the facially neutral act alleged by Reid is Zackenbaum's practice
of not reading documents to tenants. Reid's complaint does not
allege, nor is there any indication in the complaint, that there
are other ...