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Montgomery v. City of New York

September 10, 2010

KEALA MONTGOMERY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF NEW YORK, NEW YORK POLICE AND ORDER DEPARTMENT, NEW YORK CITY ADMINISTRATION FOR HEALTH SERVICES, AND UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard J. Holwell, U.S. District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

On May 20, 2009, Keala Montgomery ("Montgomery") filed suit in New York Supreme Court against the City of New York, the New York Police Department ("NYPD"), the New York City Administration for Children's Services ("ACS"), and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD"). Montgomery alleged that the defendants had wrongfully subjected her to harassment and unlawful arrest and detention and sought damages for those injuries. On July 8, 2009, HUD removed the action to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1442. Then it moved to dismiss the complaint for lack of any substantive allegation against HUD. In a submission dated June 1, 2010, and styled an "Amended Complaint," Montgomery requested permission to amend her complaint. The Court will treat that letter as a motion for leave to amend. For the reasons given below, HUD's motion to dismiss is granted and Montgomery's motion for leave to amend is denied.

BACKGROUND

Montgomery's complaint makes the following allegations, which, for purposes of this motion, are accepted as true. In March 2009, a woman who lived in Montgomery's building falsely reported Montgomery to the police for assaulting her. (Compl. ¶ 4.)*fn1

Montgomery was subsequently arrested "without due process" and "detained for over 5 hours at a holding cell." (Id.) Montgomery separately alleges that security guards at a "public facility" called the police for an "unknown reason," and that the NYPD "harassed" her by "look[ing] through [her] bags" and "interrogat[ing] [her] on the street." (Id.)*fn2 The complaint seeks ten million dollars in damages. (Id. ¶ 8.)

On July 8, 2009, HUD removed the action to this Court. It subsequently filed a motion to dismiss on the ground that the complaint did not make any substantive allegations against HUD. Plaintiff obtained an enlargement of time to file an opposition; on March 25, 2010, she submitted a document styled as "Opposing Motion: Plaintiff's Motion to Amend the Petition." That document did not attach a proposed amended complaint, and its only mention of HUD was the assertion that Montgomery "was a HUD transfer in Dec[ember] of 2005." HUD notified the Court that plaintiff's allegations remained deficient and that there was no need for it to file a reply brief.

On June 1, 2010, Montgomery submitted a letter titled "Amended Complaint." In the letter, Montgomery concedes that "[i]n the original complaint, there were not plausible factors stated... to prove HUD acted as a liability to the case." (June 1 Letter at 1.) She requested permission to amend her complaint "with relevant information that has plausible facts that will connect the facts to this case." (Id.) The June 1 letter, which was titled "Amended Complaint," apparently constitutes plaintiff's proposed amended complaint.

The June 1 letter alleges that the condition of Montgomery's apartment, which is located in a building privately managed by "Manhattan North Management," has deteriorated since 2005 despite Montgomery's repeated complaints. (Id. at 1--2.) Montgomery says she took the management company to court over its failure to address her complaints, after which the company "retaliated against her" in unspecified ways. (Id. at 2.) She describes having to break a window to get into her apartment tin December 2008 because her doorknob was broken, and complains that the building's property manager and ACS subsequently investigated whether she had left her child alone in her apartment. (Id.) The ACS investigation supposedly stemmed from a conspiracy between individuals from her building and management, the details of which Montgomery does not set forth. The June 1 letter also alleges that Montgomery was the target of false criminal charges and a false report that she was trying to commit suicide. (Id.)

The letter explains that HUD is a named defendant because the management company, Manhattan North Management ("MNM"), "is a subsidiary of HUD.... It is part of a Section 8 program that requires private landlords to rent apartments according to affordability of income." (Id. at 1.) Montgomery pays a rent subsidized by HUD; she says that, "[i]n addition, the landlords have to be compliant with building inspections that comply [with] the standards of HUD/federal government programs. This is why I am including them in my petition." (Id.)

DISCUSSION

On a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a court must accept the allegations of the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in plaintiff's favor. See Rescuecom Corp. v. Google Inc., 562 F.3d 123, 124 (2d Cir. 2009). Still, a complaint must contain "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007); see Starr v. Sony BMG Music Entertainment, 592 F.3d 314, 321 (2d Cir. 2010) (quoting Twombly ). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, --- U.S. ----, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (May 18, 2009). Pro se submissions are entitled to "special solicitude," Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 475 (2d Cir. 2006), and even after Twombly and Iqbal courts "remain obligated to construe a pro se complaint liberally." Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 72 (2d Cir. 2009). But even a pro se complaint must "plead[] factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949; see Fuentes v. Tilles, No. 09-2954, 2010 WL 1838702 (2d Cir. May 10, 2010) (quoting Iqbal and dismissing pro se complaint for failure to state a claim).

There is no question that the complaint as originally pled is deficient as against HUD. Its allegations do not implicate HUD or any person acting on behalf of HUD. See Garcia v. Watts, No. 08-7778, 2009 WL 2777085, at *13 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 1, 2009) (Pitman, M.J.) ("Where, as here, a complainant names a defendant in the caption but the complaint contains no substantive allegation against the defendant, dismissal of the complaint is appropriate."). That much the plaintiff concedes in her June 1 letter. (See June 1 Letter (acknowledging that the original complaint did not state "plausible factors" to prove HUD's liability).)

The Court, however, must still determine whether to grant Montgomery's motion for leave to amend her complaint in the manner proposed in her letter of June 1, 2010.*fn3

Motions for leave to amend should be "freely give[n]... when justice so requires." Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2). Courts "are normally accommodating to motions for leave to amend pro se complaints, but may deny them when amendment would be futile." Fulton v. Goord, 591 F.3d ...


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