The opinion of the court was delivered by: BLANCHE MANNING, District Judge
Plaintiffs Willie Burrell ("Burrell"), the Dorothy Gautreaux
Northeast Scattered Site Local Advisory Council ("Advisory
Council"), and the Northeast Scattered Site Resident Management
Corporation ("Management Corporation") contend that federal and
local authorities have engaged in a longstanding pattern of
discrimination in the provision and administration of public
housing units in Chicago. Burrell filed a pro se complaint on
behalf of all the plaintiffs alleging racial discrimination
pursuant to the Federal Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3601, et
seq., and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The court appointed counsel for
Burrell and subsequently denied counsel's motion to withdraw. The
defendants seek to dismiss Burrell's complaint, alleging that he
lacks standing or his claims fail on the merits. For the
following reasons, the motions to dismiss are granted.
The following facts are deemed true for the purpose of the
defendants' motion to dismiss. Burrell is African-American and a
resident of the Chicago Housing Authority ("CHA") development
known as the Dorothy Gautreaux Northeast Scattered Sites
("DGNESS"). Burrell is the President of the Advisory Council and
the Management Corporation. Since 1992, the Management Corporation has repeatedly requested
office space from the CHA and United States Department of Housing
and Urban Development ("HUD"). Likewise, since 1995, the Advisory
Council has repeatedly asked the CHA and HUD for office space.
However, the CHA and HUD have routinely denied these requests.
The plaintiffs allege racial discrimination as the reason for the
defendants' denial of office space. Moreover, the plaintiffs
claim that defendants Housing Resource Center ("HRC"), Jane Adams
Hull House Association ("HHA"), Alderman Shiller ("Shiller"), and
Alexander Polikoff ("Polikoff") have directed or supported CHA
and HUD's allegedly discriminatory denials.
On June 24, 1995, the Management Corporation held a meeting
with HUD Assistant Secretary Joseph Shuldiner to request office
space, a memorandum of understanding, and a dual management
contract with CHA. Defendant Shiller allegedly stood in front of
HUD Secretary Joseph Shuldiner for ten minutes to delay
Shuldiner's arrival at the meeting. Moreover, Shiller has
allegedly used her office to influence decisions related to the
activities and management of the DGNESS.
Despite the delay, the Management Corporation negotiated a
contract to manage the DGNESS. However, HRC and HHA maintenance
persons allegedly told DGNESS residents that the Management
Corporation intended to discriminate against Hispanic residents.
HRC subsequently released a newsletter which, contrary to the
Management Corporation's intentions, claimed that the Management
Corporation planned to hire a company to manage the DGNESS.
Defendants CHA, HRC, and HHA have allegedly solicited,
processed, and approved tenant applications based on race. In one
particular incident, HHA, HRC and CHA allegedly discarded
approximately 4600 tenancy applications filed primarily by
African-Americans. The defendants have failed to inform African-American residents of
their rights to transfer to a Scattered Site unit, in opposition
to the Gautreaux Tenant Assignment Plan Addendum approved on July
12, 1989. Since 1994, HRC and HHA have allegedly labored to
prevent African-American residents from transferring into the
DGNESS, leaving African-American residents in areas of high crime
and poverty. Moreover, HRC has allegedly begun to withdraw
maintenance services to public housing units in census tracks
primarily occupied by African-American residents.
The plaintiffs' complaint asserts that the defendants have
engaged in racial discrimination in violation of the Fair Housing
Act and the Civil Rights Act, committed torts against the
plaintiffs, and generally discriminated against African-American
residents of public housing.
A. Claims Brought by Plaintiffs Management Corporation and
Complaints brought by an organization or corporation must be
signed by a person representing the parties. Fed.R.Civ.P.
11(a). Although individuals may represent themselves pro se,
corporations and organizations must be represented by a lawyer.
Navin v. Park Ridge Sch. Dist. 64, 270 F.3d 1147, 1149 (7th
Cir. 2001) (a non-lawyer cannot prosecute a suit on behalf of
another); Scandia Down Corp. v. Euroquilt, Inc., 772 F.2d 1423,
1427 (7th Cir. 1985) ("A `corporation' is an abstraction, and
abstractions cannot appear pro se").
Here, Burrell has signed the complaint on behalf of all three
plaintiffs, two of whom are organizations. Burrell may pursue a
claim on his own behalf, but he is not an attorney and thus may
not pursue claims on behalf of the remaining plaintiffs.
Therefore, the court must either appoint council for plaintiffs Advisory Council and Management
Corporation or dismiss their claims.
Civil litigants do not have a right, either constitutional or
statutory, to counsel. Zarnes v. Rhodes, 64 F.3d 285, 288 (7th
Cir. 1995). The court may nevertheless, in the exercise of its
discretion, request counsel to represent indigents in appropriate
cases. Id. A litigant who seeks appointment of counsel must
first, as a threshold matter, make a reasonable attempt to secure
private counsel. Id. If a litigant satisfies this burden, the
court should consider the following nonexhaustive list of
factors: "(1) the merits of the plaintiff's claims; (2) whether
the plaintiff can investigate crucial facts; (3) whether trained
counsel will better expose the truth; (4) the plaintiff's ability
to present the case; and (5) the complexity of the relevant legal
issues." Id. In essence, this inquiry boils down to the simple
question, "given the difficulty of the case, [does] the plaintiff
appear to be competent to try it himself and, if not, would the
presence of counsel [make] a difference in the outcome?" Id.
As organizations without representation, plaintiffs Advisory
Council and Management Corporation are incapable of trying this
case. Nevertheless, the court believes that appointing counsel
will not affect the disposition of the claims brought by the
organizational plaintiffs. The Management Corporation asserts
that it has a right to training, office space, and rental
management opportunities, while the Advisory Council seeks the
right to participate in meetings with the CHA and enter into an
agreement with the CHA regarding relocation and other issues
concerning the CHA Plan for Transformation, which is grounded in
the CHA Relocation Rights Contract. In support of its claims, the Management Corporation directs
the court's attention to 24 C.F.R. § 964.15, which provides that:
It is HUD's policy to encourage resident management.
HUD encourages HAs, resident councils and resident
management corporations to explore the various
functions involved in management to identify
appropriate opportunities for contracting with a
resident management corporation. Potential benefits
of resident-managed entities include improved quality
of life, experiencing the dignity of meaningful work,
enabling residents to choose where they want to live,
and meaningful participation in the management of the
The Supreme Court, however, has held that a regulation only
creates an enforceable right if its language unambiguously
confers a specific, enforceable right upon its beneficiaries.
See Suter v. Artist M., 503 U.S. 347, 362-63 (1992). Section
964.15 expresses HUD's policy of encouraging resident management,
but does not create a right for the Management Corporation to
control any aspects of resident management. Any claim based on
the policy statement in § 964.15 must, therefore, fail. See
Perry v. Housing Authority of the City of Charleston,
664 F.2d 1210
, 1217 (4th Cir. 1981) (policy statements do not create
legally cognizable rights to tenants of programs funded under the
With respect to the Advisory Council's claims, the CHA
Relocation Rights Contract runs between the CHA and CHA
leaseholders and only applies when leaseholders face relocation.
The Advisory Council is obviously not a leaseholder who is facing
relocation so it does not have standing to raise claims arising
under the CHA Relocation Rights Contract.
In addition, the Advisory Council has offices at 4429 North
Clifford. Burrell contends that the defendants were obligated to
provide the Advisory Council with additional office space on the
second floor of 4429 South Clifford. In support, Burrell directs
the court's attention to a HUD policy that encourages but does
not require housing authorities to provide office space to a duly recognized resident council. See 24 C.F.R. 964.18 ("If
requested, a Housing Authority should provide a duly recognized
Resident Council office space and meeting facilities. . . .").
The Advisory Council is not a resident council, so even if the
policy was mandatory, it would still be inapplicable.
Accordingly, regardless of whether the Management Corporation
and the Advisory Council have counsel, therefore, they would
either be unable to state a claim or lack standing. Accordingly,
the court declines to appoint counsel for them and dismisses
their claims with prejudice.
HUD contends that the court lacks jurisdiction over the claims
against it under the Fair Housing Act and 28 U.S.C. ...