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Burrell v. Chicago Housing Authority

May 12, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Blanche M. Manning United States District Judge


In 2003, plaintiff Willie Burrell filed a pro se complaint asserting that the Chicago Housing Authority ("CHA"), Jane Addams Hull House Association ("Hull House"), and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD"), among others, had violated the Federal Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3601, et seq., and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by engaging in systematic and ongoing discrimination in the provision and administration of Chicago public housing. The defendants filed motions to dismiss, contending that Mr. Burrell lacked standing and that, in any event, his claims failed on the merits.

The court appointed counsel and after briefing, dismissed the complaint and allowed counsel to withdraw. Mr. Burrell filed an amended complaint and the CHA/Hull House defendants, HUD, and Alexander Polikoff filed renewed motions to dismiss.*fn1 The court recognizes Mr. Burrell's dissatisfaction with decisions made by the defendants. Nevertheless, for the following reasons, the defendants' motions are granted.

I. Background

The court will assume familiarity with its order addressing the first round of motions to dismiss. In short, Mr. Burrell is an African-American resident of Dorothy Gautreaux Northeast Scattered Sites ("DGNESS"), a CHA residential development. Mr. Burrell is the President of DGNESS's Advisory Council and DGNESS's Management Corporation. The amended complaint states that he is filing suit in his individual capacity as a resident of DGNESS as well as in his capacity as a duly elected official of the Advisory Council and the Management Corporation.

In the court's order addressing the motions to dismiss the original complaint, the court found that Mr. Burrell lacked standing to assert the bulk of his claims because: (1) his positions as the President of DGNESS's Advisory Council and Management Corporation did not entitle him to assert claims on behalf of DGNESS; and (2) the lack of allegations regarding personal injuries caused by actions taken by the CHA and HUD meant that he could not bring individual capacity claims against these defendants. It also reached the merits of the remaining claims brought by Mr. Burrell in his individual capacity. Mr. Burrell's pro se amended complaint attempts to address the deficiencies identified by the court regarding his individual capacity claims. For the following reasons, the amendments do not cure the problems with the original complaint so the amended complaint is dismissed with prejudice.

II. Discussion

The amended complaint is substantially similar to the original complaint. The court will thus highlight the differences stressed by Mr. Burrell in his response, as opposed to re-issuing a slightly edited version of its order addressing the original complaint. To the extent that the court does not comment on a specific portion of the complaint, it adopts its order addressing the original complaint.

A. Claims Against HUD

In his amended complaint, Mr. Burrell asserts that HUD "limited and interfered with [his] participation in the community where [he] live[s]." Amended Complaint, ¶ 31. Mr. Burrell restates his concern regarding HUD's refusal to give office space to DGNESS, and claims that he has been unable to convene resident meetings or assist residents with confidential problems due to lack of office space. Amended Complaint, ¶ 32; Plaintiff's Response at 7. In addition, Mr. Burrell contends that HUD failed to engage in good faith negotiations regarding a contract covering HUD's resident management program and failed to recognize the duly elected resident council. Finally, Mr. Burrell contends that HUD's actions caused him "acute anxiety and embarrassment and humiliation and resulted in loss of self esteem and sense of dignity." Amended Complaint, ¶ 71.

The court agrees with HUD that most of these allegations (specifically, everything except Mr. Burrell's emotional distress claims) relate to harms allegedly suffered by the resident management organization, as opposed to Mr. Burrell personally in his capacity as a public housing tenant. This conclusion is supported by Mr. Burrell's claims for relief, which ask the court to order HUD to change how it deals with certain entities.

Therefore, the court's findings as to the claims against HUD stand: (1) the court cannot exercise subject matter jurisdiction under the Fair Housing Act or Title VI of the Civil Rights because Mr. Burrell has not asserted that HUD intentionally discriminated against him in his individual capacity as a CHA resident, as opposed to in his capacity as a leader in various CHA organizations, (2) the Fair Housing Act does not provide a private right of action for Mr. Burrell's claims based on his status as a CHA tenant, (3) the court cannot exercise jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1343 because the complaint, even when construed generously, does not allege that HUD acted under color of any state law, (4) 24 C.F.R. § 964.15, which expresses HUD's policy of encouraging resident management, does not create any specific rights for tenants or resident management companies, so a claim that HUD violated § 964.15 does not provide jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and (5) to the extent that Mr. Burrell is attempting to raise tenanting claims, he must do so in the Gautreaux case.

With respect to Mr. Burrell's emotional distress claim, the court recognizes that Mr. Burrell is genuinely and understandably upset at what he perceives as numerous wrongs inflicted by HUD. Nevertheless, as the court previously explained, psychological distress is not sufficient to confer standing as it is not a direct injury, but is rather predicated on the observation of HUD's dealings with African-American residents generally. The amended complaint does not specify how HUD's actions were designed to cause him specific, direct, and personal injury in his individual capacity. Moreover, as discussed at length in the court's ...

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