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Allen v. State of North Carolina Office of Administrative Hearings

United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina

December 6, 2019



          L. Patrick Auld United States Magistrate Judge

         This case comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (the “Application”)(Docket Entry 1) filed in conjunction with his pro se Complaint (Docket Entry 2). For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant Plaintiff's instant Application for the limited purpose of recommending dismissal of this action, under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii), for failure to state a claim.


         “The federal in forma pauperis [‘IFP'] statute, first enacted in 1892 [and now codified at 28 U.S.C. § 1915], is intended to guarantee that no citizen shall be denied access to the courts ‘solely because his poverty makes it impossible for him to pay or secure the costs.'” Nasim v. Warden, Md. House of Corr., 64 F.3d 951, 953 (4th Cir. 1995) (en banc) (quoting Adkins v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., 335 U.S. 331, 342 (1948)). “Dispensing with filing fees, however, [is] not without its problems. Parties proceeding under the statute d[o] not face the same financial constraints as ordinary litigants. In particular, litigants suing [IFP] d[o] not need to balance the prospects of successfully obtaining relief against the administrative costs of bringing suit.” Nagy v. Federal Med. Ctr. Butner, 376 F.3d 252, 255 (4th Cir. 2004).

         To address this concern, the IFP statute provides, in relevant part, that “the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that the action or appeal fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). A complaint falls short when it does not “contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (emphasis added) (internal citations omitted) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). This standard “demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Id. In other words, “the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id.[1] The Court may also anticipate affirmative defenses that clearly appear on the face of the complaint. Nasim, 64 F.3d at 955.


         Asserting claims under “42 U.S.C. § 1983” for “[v]iolation[] of [his] constitutional [r]ights [under] the 8th [Amendment] Cruel [and] Unusual Punishment, [and] 14th [A]mendment of [the] U.S. Constitution section one” (Docket Entry 2 at 3 (internal brackets omitted)), Plaintiff initiated this action against six defendants: (1) “Mr. Lamont Goins” (“Defendant Goins”) (id. at 2); (2) “Elouise Williams” (“Defendant Williams”) (id.); (3) “Richard Bou[l]den” (“Defendant Boulden”) (id. at 3); (4) “Gene Troy” (“Defendant Troy”) (id.); (5) “State of North [Carolina] Office of Administrative Hearings” (the “OAH”) (id. at 1); and (6) “Civil Rights Division Human Relations Commission” (the “NCHRC”) (id.). The Complaint states the following as its basis for asserting claims under Section 1983:

Human relations refuse[d] to [i]nvestigate [Plaintiff's] Fair Housing complaint . . . . The refusal is based on either inaccurate information derived from [Plaintiff's] criminal record in which some offenses [were] dismissed, expunged by the courts . . . [or] are listed mult[i]ple times in a feeble attempt to exasperate or make wors[e Plaintiff's] criminal record . . . .

(Id. at 4.) The Complaint's “Statement of Claim” states the following in its entirety: “[h]uman relations refused to investigate [Plaintiff's] claim of housing discrimination based upon in[ac]curate reports derived from third party reporting agencies associated with [E]quifax, [T]rans[]union, and [E]xperian.” (Id. at 5.) The Complaint also alleges that Plaintiff has “been subjected to housing discriminati[on] and employment discrimination” (id.), and further requests “compensat[ion] for [] mental anguish and punitive damages in accordance with federal law” (id. at 6).


         I. The OAH and the NCHRC

         As an initial matter, neither the OAH nor the NCHRC qualify as a “person” subject to suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In that regard, to state a claim for relief under Section 1983, Plaintiff must assert “that [he was] deprived of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States, and that the alleged deprivation was committed under color of state law.” American Mfrs. Mut. Ins. Co. v. Sullivan, 526 U.S. 40, 49-50 (1999).[2]

         Pursuant to North Carolina law, “[t]he [OAH] is an independent, quasi-judicial agency under Article III, Sec. 11 of the Constitution and, in accordance with Article IV, Sec. 3 of the Constitution, has such judicial powers as may be reasonably necessary as an incident to the accomplishment of the purposes for which it was created.” N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7A-750. North Carolina law similarly places the NCHRC under the Civil Rights Division of the OAH. See N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7A-761.[3]

         “[A] State is not a person within the meaning of [Section] 1983.” Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 64 (1989). As such, states and state agencies do not constitute “persons” subject to suit under Section 1983. Id. at 67-71. ...

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