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Steven Perkins, et al v. Fort Lincoln Ii Condominium Association

May 27, 2011

STEVEN PERKINS, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
FORT LINCOLN II CONDOMINIUM ASSOCIATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rosemary M. Collyer United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Steven Perkins and Lenya Gregory-Perkins brought suit against the Fort Lincoln II Condominium Association alleging race discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, along with three causes of action under District of Columbia law. After Defendant's motion for summary judgment became ripe, the Court ordered the parties to file supplemental briefs to address further whether Plaintiffs have standing to litigate their sole federal claim. The Court finds Plaintiffs lack standing to pursue a claim under § 1981, and that even if they had standing, Defendant is entitled to summary judgment. The Court will dismiss the § 1981 claim. Without a basis for federal jurisdiction, the Court will decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining counts arising under District of Columbia law. These remaining counts will be dismissed without prejudice.

I. FACTS

Certain facts underlying this case are undisputed and others are hotly contested. The Court provides all sides but finds that the differences are immaterial to the legal issues.

The following facts are not in dispute. Plaintiffs are husband and wife, both African-American residents of the District of Columbia. Mr. Perkins purchased a condominium at Fort Lincoln II (New Town) Condominiums in January 2008. Fort Lincoln II Condominiums are located in and around the 2800 block of 31st Place in Northeast D.C. Specifically, Mr. Perkins's unit is located at 2867 31st Place. Mr. Perkins is the sole owner of the unit. Defendant Fort Lincoln II Condominium Association (the "Association") is a private homeowners association incorporated and doing business in the District. It governs the Fort Lincoln II Condominiums complex. The complex is managed by Vista Management.

The Association's Bylaws and Rules and Regulations ("Rules") govern the unit owners at Fort Lincoln II Condominiums. Mr. Perkins knew that he would be subject to the Rules when he purchased the unit. However, he did not receive a copy of the Rules at settlement on the condominium in January 2008, but the real estate agent told him that he would receive a packet with such information. Mr. Perkins did not make immediate efforts to obtain a copy of the Rules, at least in part because no one was expected to move into the unit immediately. Mr. Perkins received an email forwarding the nineteen-page set of Rules no later than May 16, 2008. The Rules contain a table listing the categories of violations and the range of possible fees imposed for each category of violation. The Rules enumerate possible violations, which among other things include noise disturbances, nuisances and offensive activity which disturbs residents, parking lot rules violations, articles left in or on common grounds, failure to have a copy of a rental/lease agreement on file with management or failure to submit a copy upon request from the Association, and failure to provide current contact information upon request, all of which can be enforced by fines. Mr. Perkins does not contend that the Rules were not properly adopted.

Mr. Perkins's unit remained vacant from January to June 2008, when he rented it to Talatha Carter, an African-American woman, and her two sons. Ms. Carter rented the unit under the Department of Housing and Urban Development Section 8 Tenant-Based Assistance Housing Choice Voucher Program ("Section 8").*fn1 The instant dispute centers on $3,300.00 in fines and $800.00 in legal fees that were assessed against Mr. Perkins by the Association for violations of the Rules stemming from Ms. Carter's tenancy. During this time, every unit but one at Fort Lincoln II Condominiums was owned and occupied by African-Americans; all persons mentioned by name herein are African-American, and the entire board of the Association was made up of African-Americans.

It is undisputed that on June 6, 2008, at about 4:30 p.m., Ms. Carter, her sons, and some movers began moving her belongings into the unit from a mid-sized moving truck. Ms. Carter parked her car in the parking space assigned to the unit. The moving truck was apparently parked so that it blocked a parking space belonging to Hazel Bell, which prevented her husband from parking in that space until the truck was emptied, a period of at least a few minutes. Ms. Bell promptly sent an email to the Association's board and called board member Leila Odom to complain. That evening, Ms. Odom sent an email to Mr. Perkins to remind him about parking lot rules and his failure to submit a lease agreement for the unit.

The parties proffer additional, disputed facts to explain the incident. Ms. Bell recalls that the moving truck was parked in her space and the space of another tenant during the afternoon and that the movers had parked their cars in the spaces of two other tenants. Ms. Bell asked the movers to move the truck but they refused, and refused again later in the day when Mr. Bell returned home and needed to park. Ms. Carter, on the other hand, acknowledges that Ms. Bell's parking space was blocked, but explains that when Ms. Bell approached her to complain, Ms. Carter told her that they needed to move in and Ms. Bell agreed to let the truck occupy her space until her husband returned. Ms. Carter recalls that when Mr. Bell returned home only a few items were left to be moved, so he kindly waited and let them finish their move; he only had to wait a few minutes before being able to park his car in the Bells' designated space. Ms. Carter apologized several times to the Bells.

Undisputed is that Ms. Carter returned a second time to finish her move at approximately 7:00 p.m. the same day. This time, even though the moving truck parked in a "no parking zone," Ms. Odom found her parking space blocked when she returned home. The situation led to an argument, apparently between Ms. Carter's sons, the moving men, Ms. Odom, and others. Ms. Carter was called outside, where Ms. Odom told Ms. Carter that she could not park in her designated space. Ultimately, Ms. Odom called the police, who came to the scene. Ms. Odom sent an email to Vista Management and the Association to complain of the second incident, and also sent Mr. Perkins an email the next morning.

The parties offer supplemental, disputed facts about this second incident. Ms. Odom says that when she returned home, she merely asked the people unloading the moving truck to pull it forward so she could park. The movers belligerently told her she had to wait or park elsewhere. She called the police and again asked the movers to allow her to park in her space. Ms. Odom remembers that even Ms. Carter personally told her she had to wait, and that the movers' behavior was threatening, boisterous and profane.

Ms. Carter was inside when the dispute began and is unsure whether her sons or anyone else threatened any of the residents. Her account is that when she came outside and encountered Ms. Odom, she asked Ms. Odom how she could move in without blocking the space. Ms. Odom responded that Ms. Carter could not park in her designated parking space, that Ms. Carter was supposed to park in the street, and that she was going to call the police. Ms. Carter then responded: "fine call [the] police." Pls.' Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. [Dkt. # 22] ("Pls.' Opp'n"), [Attach. 6] Talatha Carter Witness Statement at 3. According to Ms. Carter, Ms. Odom continued: "You guys are not suppose [sic] to be up here anyway because you are ghetto. This is for [] a new high class upper N.E. neighbor [sic]. There are people who own their houses around here. We have $400,000.00 houses around here." Id. at 4.

On either June 7 or 8, Ms. Carter and her son were bringing in groceries when a grocery bag ripped and some items spilled onto the parking lot. Ms. Carter gave her son a shovel and some hot water to clean up, and says that her son did the best he could to remove any debris. On June 9, Ms. Bell complained by email to the Association's board that she had observed Ms. Carter's son drop grocery items in the parking lot without cleaning them up. Ms. Bell further complained that Ms. Carter's son had left a bottle of window cleaner in Ms. Carter's designated parking space. On June 10, Mr. Perkins's real estate agent delivered a copy of the Rules and other condominium documents to Ms. Gregory-Perkins. Ms. Gregory-Perkins then delivered these documents to Ms. Carter and discussed the Association Rules with her. The lease was executed that day.

As early as February 2008, Mr. Perkins had been notified by Vista Management that if he were to rent the unit he would need to provide a copy of a valid lease agreement to the Association. Mr. Perkins does not recall whether he submitted the proposed lease with Ms. Carter to the Association prior to its execution. Mr. Perkins believes he submitted a copy of the executed lease to the Association sometime in mid-June, whereas the Association claims Mr. Perkins did not submit a copy of the lease to the Association until July 8, 2008. Further, on June 4, the Association had sent an email to Mr. Perkins, asking for his mailing address since he did not reside in the unit. Mr. Perkins emailed his home address to the Association on June 10.

By letter dated June 11, 2008, the Association fined Mr. Perkins for violations of the Rules associated with these events. In total, Mr. Perkins was fined $3,300.00 for various violations. The fines included: (a) $300.00 for failure to timely provide the Association with a copy of the lease and additional items requested; (b) $300.00 for failure to provide the Association with Mr. Perkins's contact information; (c) $1,800.00 representing six violations for keeping six unit owners from parking in their designated parking spaces, each violation prompting a $300.00 fine, all arising from the day Ms. Carter moved into the unit; (d) $300.00 for the alleged offensive conduct of the movers on the day of the move; (e) $300.00 for the loud profanities uttered by those involved in the move; and (f) $300.00 for the debris and bottle of window cleaner left in the parking lot by Ms. Carter's son.

Mr. Perkins requested a hearing on the assessed fines, which occurred on September 11, 2008. The Association's board met on October 7, 2008, upheld the fines, and included $800.00 in legal fees incurred by the Association due to the request for a hearing. The Carters moved out of the unit in September 2009, some months after their one-year lease expired.

Plaintiffs filed suit against the Association on March 10, 2009, alleging race discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981; discrimination based on race and source of income in violation of the D.C. Human Rights Act, D.C. Code § 2-1402 et seq.; and breach of contract. See Compl. [Dkt. # 1]. After mediation, the Association filed a counterclaim against Plaintiffs alleging breach of contract. See Order, Def.'s Counterclaim [Dkts. ## 14, 15]. The parties engaged in discovery after which the Association filed a motion for summary judgment. See Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. [Dkt. # 21]. The Court denied the Association's motion for summary judgment without prejudice on ...


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