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Morgan v. Highland Heights of Kentucky, LP

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

December 31, 2013

VERONICA MORGAN, Plaintiff,
v.
HIGHLAND HEIGHTS OF KENTUCKY, LP, et. al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

WILLIAM O. BERTELSMAN, District Judge.

This is an action under the Fair Housing Amendments Act ("FHAA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601, et seq. , and a state law defamation claim. Further, the Court has supplemental jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a) for the state law claim.

This matter is before the Court on the Defendants' motion to dismiss (Doc. 10).

FACTS

Veronica Morgan ("Plaintiff") lived at Hampton Farms Apartments operated by the defendants, Highland Heights of Kentucky, LP, Village Green Management Company, LLC, Tracy Roy, and Jennifer Bevins ("Defendants"). (Doc. 10 p. 2). Plaintiff requested her son, a black male, be added to the lease, which the Defendants denied. (Doc. 10 p.2). Shortly thereafter, on July 31, 2011, Plaintiff's lease was renewed by Defendants. Id. The renewed lease terminated on August 15, 2012. Id. On July 12, 2012, Defendants exercised their right to deny Plaintiff a further renewal of her lease. Id. Plaintiff failed to vacate the premise by August 15, 2012, the lease's termination date. Id.

The apartment complex initiated an eviction action against Plaintiff on August 22, 2012. (Doc. 10-1 p. 1). On August 30, 2012, the Campbell County District Court found Plaintiff guilty of forcibly detaining the apartment and ordered that she vacate the apartment by September 6, 2012. (Doc. 10-2). On September 5, 2012 Plaintiff appealed this decision to the Campbell County Circuit Court, which affirmed the District Court's prior ruling on June 17, 2013. (Doc. 10-1).

In addition, on August 30, 2012, Plaintiff filed a complaint with the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights (the "KCHR")[1] alleging that Hampton Farms' decision to deny renewal of her lease was based on racial discrimination. (Doc. 15-1). The KCHR, on February 21, 2013, denied Plaintiff's racial discrimination complaint, stating: "This complaint is dismissed with prejudice upon a finding of no probable cause to believe that the Respondent has engaged in an unlawful practice in violation of the Kentucky Civil Rights Act." (Doc. 10-3). Plaintiff failed to appeal KCHR's decision and time has expired for her to seek additional review of it.

ANALYSIS

Plaintiff's complaint fails to state a clear cause of action under the FHAA. However, Plaintiff is acting pro se and this Court grants parties the right to freely amend their complaint. As such, Plaintiff could cure this defect. Thus, the Court assumes Plaintiff has pled a proper FHAA claim.

A. Plaintiff's FHAA claim is barred because the KCHR already decided this exact issue.

1. Kentucky state administrative agency decisions are given preclusive effect.

The Supreme Court has held that when a state administrative agency "acting in a judicial capacity... resolves disputed issues of fact properly before it which the parties have had an adequate opportunity to litigate, federal courts must give the agency's factfinding the same preclusive effect to which it would be entitled in the State's courts." Univ. of Tennessee v. Elliott , 478 U.S. 788, 799 (1986) (internal citations and quotations omitted).

"Kentucky has for many years followed the rule that the decisions of administrative agencies acting in a judicial capacity are entitled to the same res judicata effect as judgments of a court." Godbey v. Univ. Hosp. of Albert B. Chandler Med. Ctr., Inc. , 975 S.W.2d 104, 105 (Ky. Ct. App. 1998). The KCHR acts in a judicial capacity. See Kentucky Comm'n on Human Rights v. Fraser , 625 S.W.2d 852, 854 (Ky. 1981) ("The mere fact that the Commission is involved in adjudication does not in itself render the statute unconstitutional as a usurpation of judicial power.") Thus, this Court must give preclusive effect to KCHR's decisions, as it is a state administrative agency acting in a judicial capacity.

Further, KRS § 344.270 states: "A final determination by a state court or a final order of the commission of a claim alleging an unlawful practice under KRS 344.450 shall exclude any other administrative action or proceeding brought in accordance with KRS Chapter 13B by the same person based on the same grievance." Further, the statute allows for civil remedies for civil right violations. See KRS § 344.450. The statute also allows for judicial review of ...


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