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Heritage Hunter Knoll, LLC v. Lamar County

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Eastern Division

August 19, 2019

HERITAGE HUNTER KNOLL, LLC PLAINTIFFS
v.
LAMAR COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI; BOARD OF SUPERVISORS OF LAMAR COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI; STEVE LAMPTON, WARREN BYRD, PHILLIP CARLISLE, individually and in their official capacities as Supervisors of Lamar County, Mississippi, and JOE BOUNDS, and DALE LUCAS in their official capacities as Supervisors of Lamar County, Mississippi DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          KEITH STARRETT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This cause came before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings as to Federal Claims [10]. Plaintiff filed a Response [20], and Defendants have filed a Reply [25]. Having reviewed the parties' submissions and the relevant legal authority, the Court finds the motion will be denied for the reasons set forth below.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case arises from the Lamar County Board of Supervisors' amendment to Lamar County's Unauthorized Dumping and Litter Ordinance, which amendment discontinued waste collection and disposal services for all multi-family properties in Lamar County, Mississippi and required property owners to privately contract for replacement services. Plaintiff is a limited liability company that owns several multi-family residential properties and regularly enters into lease contracts with tenants who are predominantly minorities. Plaintiff contends that members of the Board of Supervisors amended the Ordinance based on discriminatory animus, which allegedly infringes not only on Plaintiff's own constitutional rights but also those of its tenants. Plaintiff seeks to recover damages for violations of 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1981, 1983 (Due Process and Equal Protection), and 3613 (Fair Housing Act or “FHA”); and several state statutes. At issue in this motion are the federal claims only.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Relevant Legal Standard

         Defendants bring this action as a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). “The standard for dismissal under Rule 12(c) is the same as that for dismissal for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6). Edionwe v. Bailey, 860 F.3d 287, 291 (5th Cir. 2017) (quoting Johnson v. Johnson, 385 F.3d 503, 529 (5th Cir. 2004)). “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotation marks omitted)). The Court must “accept all well-pleaded facts as true, viewing them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Id. The Court is generally limited to the contents of the complaint and any attachments thereto. Bosarge v. MS Bureau of Narcotics, 796 F.3d 435, 440 (5th Cir. 2015).

         B. Analysis

         Defendant brings this motion based on two grounds: lack of standing and qualified immunity for the individual Defendants, arguing that Plaintiff has failed to comply with the heightened pleading standard to overcome qualified immunity. The Court will address each ground separately.

         1. Standing

         As the Fifth Circuit has explained:

Every party that comes before a federal court must establish that it has standing to pursue its claims. . . . The Supreme court has described standing as “contain[ing] two strands: Article III standing, which enforces the Constitution's case-or-controversy requirement; and prudential standing, which embodies judicially self-imposed limits on the exercise of federal jurisdiction.” . . . Even if a plaintiff establishes Article III standing, we may consider whether prudential standing principals nonetheless counsel against hearing the plaintiff's claims. . . . [A]s the Supreme Court has observed, prudential standing: “[E]ncompasses ‘the general prohibition on a litigant's raising another person's legal rights, the rule barring adjudication of generalized grievances more appropriately addressed in the representative branches, and the requirement that a plaintiff's complaint fall within the zone of interests protected by the law invoked.'”

Cibolo Waste, Inc. v. City of San Antonio, 718 F.3d 469, 473-474 (5th Cir. 2013) (internal citations omitted). Defendants do not appear to take issue with Plaintiff's Article III standing, but rather argue on each claim that Plaintiff does not have standing to vindicate the rights of third parties, namely its tenants.

         a. Section 1981, ...


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