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Mulcahy v. Aspen/Pitkin County Housing Authority

United States District Court, D. Colorado

September 16, 2019

EDWARD L. MULCAHY JR., Plaintiff,
v.
ASPEN/PITKIN COUNTY HOUSING AUTHORITY, a multi-jurisdictional housing authority, Defendant.

          ORDER

          PHILIP A. BRIMMER CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Aspen/Pitkin County Housing Authority's Motion to Dismiss First Amended Complaint Pursuant to F.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) [Docket No. 15].

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case arises out of a dispute over property located at 53 Forge Road in Aspen, Colorado.[1] Defendant Aspen/Pitkin County Housing Authority (“APCHA”) is a housing authority that, among other things, oversees and administers the affordable housing program in Pitkin County, Colorado. Docket No. 13 at 2, ¶ 4-7. As part of the affordable housing program, defendant conveys deed-restricted property to Aspen and Pitkin County residents at below-market prices. Id., ¶ 6. Prospective buyers are chosen by lottery and must meet certain employment and income demographics, which are determined by defendant. Id. at 2-3, ¶¶ 6, 10.

         Plaintiff Edward L. Mulcahy, Jr. (“Mulcahy”) has been a permanent resident of Aspen since 1995. Id. at 3-4, ¶ 10. In October 2006, plaintiff received the deed to the property at 53 Forge Road after purchasing the property through APCHA's housing lottery process. Id. at 3, ¶ 9. Plaintiff's deed to the property is subject to certain restrictions enforceable by defendant, namely, plaintiff must use the property as his primary residence and must

be a full-time employee working in Pitkin County for an employer whose business address is located within Aspen or Pitkin County, whose business employs employees within Pitkin County, whose business license is in Aspen or Pitkin County, and/or the business taxes are paid in Aspen or Pitkin County (if an employer is not physically based in Pitkin County, an employee must be able to verify that they physically work in Pitkin County a minimum of 1500 hours per calendar year for individuals, business or institutional operations located in Pitkin County) . . . .

Docket No. 13-3 at 19.

         On July 17, 2015, plaintiff received a letter from defendant alleging that he was not in compliance with the deed restrictions. Id. at 6, ¶ 16. The letter stated that plaintiff had fourteen days to respond to the letter and sixty calendar days to resolve the issues identified in the letter. Id. at 8, ¶ 22. Plaintiff communicated with defendant's qualifications specialist in an attempt to resolve the situation. Id. at 7-8, ¶¶ 19-22. On August 5, 2015, defendant sent a second compliance letter to plaintiff. Id. at 11, ¶ 27. On August 25, 2015, defendant sent an “official notice of violation” to plaintiff finding a breach of the deed restriction. Id. The official notice of violation indicated that plaintiff had fifteen days to contest the finding. Id. Because plaintiff was traveling outside the country, he was not aware of the notice of violation and did not respond. Id. at 12, ¶ 30. Subsequently, defendant issued a final letter, indicating that because plaintiff failed to timely request a hearing he had lost the right to contest defendant's findings. Id. Defendant ordered that plaintiff list the 53 Forge Road property for sale. Id.

         On December 2, 2015, defendant brought an action in the District Court for Pitkin County, Colorado, seeking to force plaintiff to sell the property. Id. at 13, ¶ 32. On March 3, 2016, the district court granted summary judgment for defendant, concluding that, since plaintiff had failed to exhaust his administrative remedies, the court did not have jurisdiction to hear his defenses and defendant was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id. On August 8, 2016, the district court denied plaintiff's motion for reconsideration. Id. at 14, ¶ 34. On September 14, 2017, the Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's order. Id. at 14-15, ¶ 35. On April 30, 2018, the Colorado Supreme Court denied plaintiff's petition for writ of certiorari. Docket No. 11-3.[2] On January 7, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court denied plaintiff's petition for writ of certiorari. Docket No. 55-2. On March 6, 2019, the district court granted defendant's motion to lift the stay of its original judgment and denied plaintiff's motion to vacate the judgment. Docket No. 55-1.

         On July 29, 2018, plaintiff filed this lawsuit. Docket No. 1. The operative complaint brings claims for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for (1) deprivation of plaintiff's due process rights and (2) deprivation of plaintiff's equal protection rights. Docket No. 13 at 16-21, ¶¶ 38-62. Plaintiff requests as relief, in part, “[a]n order declaring [defendant's] August 25, 2015 prematurely issued notice of violation to be invalid” and an order to defendant to “properly issue a notice of violation.” Id. at 21, ¶¶ 62(a), (b).

         On September 21, 2018, APCHA filed this motion to dismiss. Docket No. 15.[3]APCHA asserts that the complaint should be dismissed on the grounds that (1) plaintiff's claims are barred by the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel, (2) plaintiff has failed to exhaust administrative remedies, (3) plaintiff has failed to allege a procedural due process violation, and (4) plaintiff's claims are barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. Docket Nos. 13, 15.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A. Rule 12(b)(1)

         A motion under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) is a request for the Court to dismiss a claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). A plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that the Court has jurisdiction. Basso v. Utah Power & Light Co., 495 F.2d 906, 909 (10th Cir. 1974). When the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over a claim for relief, dismissal is proper under Rule 12(b)(1). See ...


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