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Hicks v. Washington State Human Rights Commission

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

August 8, 2019

ALICE HICKS, Plaintiff,
v.
WASHINGTON STATE HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION, Defendants.

          ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE OR AMEND THE COMPLAINT

          THERESA L. FRICKE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter has been referred to Magistrate Judge Theresa Fricke pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Rule MJR 3 and 4. Plaintiff has filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis status in this matter and a proposed complaint. Dkt 1; Dkt 1-1. Considering deficiencies in the complaint discussed below, however, the Court will not grant the application to proceed in forma pauperis status at this time. On or before September 6, plaintiff must either show cause why the complaint should not be dismissed or file an amended complaint. Plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis shall be re-noted for September 6, 2019.

         DISCUSSION

         Proposed Complaint

         In her proposed complaint, plaintiff claims to have suffered violations of the First Amendment right to petition the government, the Fourteenth Amendment rights to equal protection and due process, and the right to fair housing under Title VIII of 42 U.S.C. 3601. Plaintiff has named the Washington Human Rights Commission (“Commission”) as defendant in this action, alleging that the Commission violated the requirements of RCW 49.60.240 in failing to properly investigate plaintiff's complaint of housing discrimination.

         Plaintiff alleges she filed a claim with the Commission alleging that her rental agreement had been unfairly terminated because of her race. Dkt. 1-1 at 9. The assigned investigator from the Commission took “365 days and 2 months” to complete her investigation, rather than the 100 days allotted for investigation by the Commission's rules. Id., at 10. She further alleges that the investigator made a false report to the Commissioner finding “no reasonable cause” to find that an unfair housing practice had occurred, by failing to consider plaintiff's account of intimidation by her former landlord and Section 8 officials, or by failing to verify allegedly untrue information. Id., at 11-12.

         Alleging that this conduct was intentional on the part of the Commission-assigned investigator, plaintiff argues that this constitutes a violation of equal protection and due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. Id., at 5. She also alleges that the Commission's delay unlawfully prevented plaintiff from filing her own lawsuit in this court against the alleged discriminator by extending the investigation past the statute of limitations for her housing discrimination claims. Id., at 11. Plaintiff argues that this amounts to interference with her First Amendment right to petition the government for relief. Id.

         Plaintiff lists a single injury, emotional distress. Dkt. 1-1 at 7. She is seeking monetary damages for the above conduct by the investigator and for the Commission's finding of “no reasonable cause” regarding unfair practices in her situation. Id.

         The court must dismiss the complaint of an individual seeking to proceed in forma pauperis “at any time if the court determines” that the action: (a) “is frivolous or malicious”; (b) “fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted”' or (c) “seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a), (b). A complaint is frivolous when it has no arguable basis in law or fact. Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.3d 1221, 1228 (9th Cir. 1984).

         Standard of Review

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (FRCP) 8(a), a pleading that states a claim for relief must contain:

(1) A short and plain statement of the grounds for the court's jurisdiction, unless the court already has jurisdiction and the claim needs no new jurisdictional support;
(2) A short and plain statement of the claim showing the pleader is entitled to relief; and
(3) A demand for the relief sought, which may include relief in the alternative or ...

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