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Kennedy v. Warren Properties, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division

November 30, 2017

WARREN PROPERTIES, INC, et al., Defendants.



         This action is before the Court on the motion for summary judgment and supporting documents filed by Defendants Warren Properties, Inc., Brian Adkins, Linda Prosi, Sabrina Gross, and Debra Ivy (the Warren Defendants); the responses and supporting documents filed by Plaintiff D. Angelina Kennedy; and the Warren Defendants' reply (docs. 21, 39, 53, 56). Upon consideration, and for the reasons set forth herein, Warren Defendants' motion for summary judgment is GRANTED as to Kennedy's claims arising under the Fair Housing Act; the Equal Protection Clause; the criminal conspiracy statutes, 18 U.S.C. § 241 and 18 U.S.C. § 371; and the civil conspiracy claim brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1985(2), against these Defendants.

         I. Factual and procedural background[1]

         Plaintiff Kennedy who is a black female, resided at Warren House Apartments from 2002 through February 2013. Defendant Warren Properties, Inc. owns the apartment complex (doc. 21-2, Exhibit A). At relevant times, Defendant Adkins was in-house counsel, Defendant Prosi was the reasonable accommodations facilitator, Defendant Gross was a manager, and Defendant Ivy was an area supervisor for Warren Properties. (Id.)

         During the time period from 2011 to 2012, Kennedy complained to Warren Apartment management about vandalism to her vehicle, racial harassment by white tenants, [2] sexual harassment by a white male juvenile tenant and that the juvenile's white mother was recruiting other white and black tenants to harass, threaten and intimidate her in retaliation for the allegation against the juvenile.[3] Also during this time, Apartment management addressed various allegations of improper conduct against Kennedy by other tenants, one of which resulted in Adkins and Prosi sending a non-compliance notice which Kennedy perceived as an attempt to get her to admit guilt for “talking about people” (doc. 4, p. 6).

         Based on the harassment, Kennedy made several criminal complaints to law enforcement against several co-tenants and the co-tenants made complaints against her.[4] These complaints resulted in a series of arrests and trials in the City of Mobile Municipal Court. The last event occurred in July 2012, when an altercation occurred in the apartment complex office. This event resulted in Kennedy's arrest for disorderly conduct and her charges for assault against another tenant. When Kennedy was arrested, an outstanding warrant issued from the Mobile County District Attorney resulted in a hold upon her. That warrant, based upon a bad check charge from twenty years earlier, was resolved and Kennedy was released. In September 2012, the tenant against whom Kennedy alleged assault was found not guilty. In February 2013, Kennedy moved out of Warren Apartments. (Doc. 4, Amended Complaint).

         Also, during Kennedy's residence she requested a downstairs apartment, but her repeated requests were denied. In early 2012, a white female tenant Jean McLeod was rented a downstairs apartment. (Id.) Soon thereafter, in June of 2012, Kennedy signed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) against Warren Properties for violations of the Fair Housing Act (doc. 39). In October 2012, the “final signing” occurred and the complaint was sent to Warren Properties (Id.; see also doc. 21-2, p. 12-13). On September 11, 2013, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama wrote Kennedy to explain that after conducting an investigation, the U.S. Department of Justice had determined that no further action by the Department was warranted, and the file would be returned to HUD for appropriate action (doc. 39, p. 9-10). On July 23, 2014, HUD dismissed Kennedy's complaint after informing Defendant Warren Properties that “[b]ased on the evidence obtained during the investigation, HUD has determined that no reasonable cause exists to believe that a discriminatory housing practice has occurred” (doc. 21-2, p. 12-13).

         On March 10, 2017, Kennedy filed a complaint in this Court (doc. 1). On April 4, 2017, she amended her complaint (doc. 4). Kennedy alleges violations of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. 3601, et seq, based on race and violations of the anti-retaliation provision of the FHA, 42 U.S.C. § 3617, which makes it unlawful to coerce, intimidate or threaten a person in the exercise of their rights protected by the Act (doc. 4, p. 8, 10). Kennedy also alleges violations of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment (“Class of One” based on race) (doc. 4, p. 8-9) Although she did not specifically invoke § 1983 as to her constitutional claim, a liberal reading of her amended complaint indicates that this claim is brought pursuant to that statute. See Gilmore v. Hodges, 738 F.3d 266, 281 (11th Cir. 2013) (citations omitted) (“The law is clear that pro se pleadings are held to a less demanding standard than counseled pleadings and should be liberally construed.”).

         Kennedy also alleges claims for criminal conspiracy under 18 U.S.C. § 241 and 18 U.S.C. § 371, and conspiracy to interfere with civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1985(2) (doc. 4, p. 9-10). With regard to her conspiracy claims, Kennedy alleges that the “last overt act” in the “continued conspiracy” claim brought pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 371, occurred on March 10, 2015 (doc. 4, p. 9).[5]

         Kennedy seeks to “recover damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983”. She also seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, actual and compensatory damages, punitive or exemplary damages, and other relief, as the Court deems just and appropriate (doc. 4, p. 11).

         II. Conclusions of Law

         A. Standard of Review

         “The court shall grant summary judgment 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) (Dec. 2010). The Warren Defendants, as the parties seeking summary judgment bear “the initial burden to show the district court, by reference to materials on file, that there are no genuine issues of material fact that should be decided at trial.” Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir. 1991). The party seeking summary judgment “always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of ‘the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, ' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Clark, 929 F.2d at 608 (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2553 (1986)). In deciding whether the Warren Defendants have met their initial burden, the Court must review the record and draw all reasonable inferences therefrom in a light most favorable to Kennedy, as the non-moving party. See Whatley v. CNA Ins. Co., 189 F.3d 1310, 1313 (11th Cir. 1999).

         Once the Warren Defendants meet this responsibility, the burden shifts to Kennedy, as the non-movant, to show the existence of a genuine issue of material fact that would preclude summary judgment. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). “In reviewing whether the [non-movant has met the] burden, the court must stop short of weighing the evidence and making credibility determination of the truth of the matter. Instead, the evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.” Tipton v. Bergrohr GMBH-Siegen, 965 F.2d 994, 999 (11th Cir. 1992) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505 (1986) ((bracketed text added). However, the Warren Defendants would be entitled to summary judgment if Kennedy fails “to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of her case with respect to which she has the burden of proof.'” In re Walker, 48 F.3d 1161, 1163 (11th Cir. 1995) (quoting Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323, 106 S.Ct. at 2552) (bracketed text added). Overall, the Court must “resolve all issues of material fact in favor of [Kennedy], and then determine the legal question of whether [Defendants are] entitled to judgment as a matter of law under that version of the facts.” McDowell v. Brown, 392 F.3d 1283, 1288 (11th Cir. 2004) (citing Durruthy v. Pastor, 351 F.3d 1080, 1084 (11th Cir. 2003)) (bracketed text added).

         However, the mere existence of any factual dispute will not automatically necessitate denial of a motion for summary judgment; rather, only factual disputes that are material preclude entry of summary judgment. Lofton v. Secretary of Dept. of Children and Family Services, 358 F.3d 804, 809 (11th Cir. 2004). “An issue of fact is material if it is a legal element of the claim under the applicable substantive law which might affect the outcome of the case. It is genuine if the record taken as a whole could lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party.” Reeves v. C.H. Robinson Worldwide, Inc., 594 F.3d 798, 807 (11th Cir. 2010) (citation omitted).

         B. Analysis

         1. Pending Motions

         a. Motion for Leave to Extend Time to Finish Responding to Summary Judgment for Cause (doc. 54).

         Kennedy moves the Court for leave to extend the time to respond and includes her additional response in the motion. The Warren Defendants object to the extension (doc. 57). They point out that Kennedy has already filed two responses. They also argue that Kennedy does not explain why she needs additional time, but instead she simply presents an additional narrative in support of her earlier responses. Kennedy filed her first response on August 4, 2017 (doc. 39) and also moved for additional time ...

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