Carter et al v. Montgomery Housing Authority et al

Filing 23

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER that: (1) Plaintiffs' 3 Motion for Preliminary Injunction is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. It is DENIED at this time as to Plaintiff Vaughns Motion for Preliminary Injunction; it is GRANTED as to all other Pl aintiffs; (2) With the exception of Plaintiff Vaughn, Defendants are DIRECTED to reinstate Section 8 benefits and eligibility for all Plaintiffs whose Section 8 benefits and/or eligibility have been terminated, retroactive to the date of termination; (3) With the exception of Plaintiff Vaughn, Defendants are DIRECTED to maintain Section 8 benefits and eligibility for all Plaintiffs whose Section 8 benefits and/or eligibility have not yet been terminated; and (4) Plaintiffs shall pay no security in connection with this preliminary injunction. Signed by Hon. Chief Judge Mark E. Fuller on 11/3/2009. (dmn)

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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT F O R THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA N O R T H E R N DIVISION D E L O R IS CARTER, et al., P l a i n t if f s , v. M O N T G O M E R Y HOUSING A U T H O R IT Y , et al., D e f e n d a n ts . ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) C A S E NO. 2:09-cv-971-MEF-CSC (W O ) M E M O R A N D U M OPINION AND ORDER T h is cause is before the Court on Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction (Doc. # 3). Plaintiffs are nine women who all participate in the Housing Assistance program p u rsu a n t to 42 U.S.C. 1437f ("Section 8"), administered locally by the Housing Authority o f the City of Montgomery ("MHA"). From September 4 to October 4, 2009, Plaintiffs each re c eiv e d a letter from MHA stating that MHA would end Section 8 assistance at the end of th e month. As grounds for termination, MHA asserted engagement in "drug-related criminal a c tiv ity or violent criminal activity or other criminal activity that threatens the health, safety, o r right to peaceful enjoyment of other residents and persons residing in the immediate v ic in ity of the premises" in violation of Plaintiffs' Section 8 agreements. MHA also noted in each letter that Plaintiffs had the right to request a hearing to dispute this charge. P u rsu a n t to 42 U.S.C. 1983, Plaintiffs claim that Defendants deprived them of rights g u a ra n tee d by 42 U.S.C. 1437 and the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.1 Plaintiffs state th a t Defendants violated due process by failing to give them proper notice with these letters, tu rn over necessary documents to Plaintiffs, present evidence at the hearings, and give them p rop er notice with the written decisions issued following hearings. Plaintiffs also assert s u b s ta n tiv e ly that Defendants cannot properly terminate their benefits because no sufficient v io la tio n had occurred. P la in tif f s are not all similarly situated. Only some Plaintiffs have requested and re c e iv e d a hearing at this point. MHA has not yet terminated Section 8 assistance to all P la in tif f s. For those plaintiffs whose Section 8 benefits have terminated, Plaintiffs seek in ju n c tiv e relief to restore, retroactive to date of termination, those benefits and Section 8 e lig ib ility. For those plaintiffs whose Section 8 benefits have not yet terminated, Plaintiffs s e e k injunctive relief preventing Defendants from terminating those benefits or those p la in tif f s ' Section 8 eligibility. A district court may issue a preliminary injunction where the moving party d em o n strat es (1) a substantial likelihood of success on the merits; (2) that irreparable injury w ill be suffered unless the injunction issues; (3) the threatened injury to the movant o u tw e ig h s whatever damage the proposed injunction may cause the opposing party; and (4) if issued, the injunction would not be adverse to the public interest. Palmer v. Braun, 287 F .3 d 1325, 1329 (11th Cir. 2002). Specifically, Plaintiffs cite to alleged violations of requirements given by 42 U.S.C. 1437d and 24 C.F.R. Part 982. 1 U p o n consideration of the evidence and arguments presented in the parties' briefings a n d at the hearing for a preliminary injunction, held on October 29th, this Court makes the f o l lo w in g findings: P la in ti f f s have a substantial likelihood of success on the merits in their claims that D e f en d a n ts committed procedural due process violations in conducting hearings for plaintiffs C a rte r, Prevo, Lewis, Moore, White, McCall, and Sellers. Defendants failed to provide any o f these defendants with their criminal records either prior to or during their hearing or prior t o terminating benefits. See, e.g., 42 U.S.C. 1437d(q)(2); 24 C.F.R. 982.555(e)(2)(i). A d d itio n a l ly, Defendants have the burden of persuasion in informal Section 8 termination h e a rin g s and "must initially present sufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case" that P la in tif f s violated their Section 8 agreements in a manner justifying termination. Basco v. M a c h in , 514 F.3d 1177, 1182 (11th Cir. 2008). Defendants failed to establish a prima facie c a se that those plaintiffs who received a hearing committed such a violation. Plaintiff Prince a ls o has a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of her claim. Undisputed testimony b y Prince establishes that Defendants could not terminate her benefits under their stated g r o u n d s for termination.2 Plaintiff Vaughn does not have a substantial likelihood of success o n the merits of her claim.3 Defendants had information that a man in Prince's household was charged with possession of marijuana on August 1, 2009. Prince testified that she notified Defendants in July 2009 that the man in question had moved out of her residence. The Court also finds that all Plaintiffs who have not received a hearing would have a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of their claims for violation of procedural due process, were Defendants to use procedures substantially similar to those used in the hearings already conducted. 3 2 A ll plaintiffs satisfy the final three elements considered in determining whether to g ra n t a preliminary injunction. No plaintiff can afford to pay her full rent. Without Section 8 benefits, they will all have to leave their current homes. Therefore, all plaintiffs will suffer irre p a ra b le injury unless the injunction issues. The threatened injury to all plaintiffs o u t w e i g h s whatever damages the proposed injunction may cause Defendants in time and e x p e n se . Finally, an injunction in this case--one that would aid in keeping Plaintiffs in their h o m e s -- w o u ld not be adverse to the public interest. In granting a preliminary injunction, the movant must pay a security "in an amount th a t the court considers proper to pay the costs and damages sustained by any party found to h av e been wrongfully enjoined or restrained." Fed. R. Civ. P. 65(c). Therefore, this Court h a s the discretion to determine the proper amount of the required security, including re q u irin g no security. See, e.g., Corrigan Dispatch Co. v. Casa Guzman, S.A., 569 F.2d 300, 3 0 3 (5th Cir. 1978).4 Because Plaintiffs are indigent, this Court exercises its discretion to w a iv e the requirement of payment of security. A c c o rd in g ly, it is hereby O R D E R E D that: (1 ) Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. It is DENIED at this time as to Plaintiff Vaughn's Motion for Preliminary Injunction; it is GRANTED as to all other Plaintiffs; In Bonner v. City of Prichard, Ala., 661 F.2d 1206, 1209 (11th Cir. Nov. 3, 1981) (en banc), the Eleventh Circuit adopted as binding precedent all Fifth Circuit decisions handed down prior to the close of business on September 30, 1981. 4 (2) With the exception of Plaintiff Vaughn, Defendants are DIRECTED to reinstate S e c tio n 8 benefits and eligibility for all Plaintiffs whose Section 8 benefits and/or eligibility h a v e been terminated, retroactive to the date of termination; (3 ) With the exception of Plaintiff Vaughn, Defendants are DIRECTED to maintain S e c tio n 8 benefits and eligibility for all Plaintiffs whose Section 8 benefits and/or eligibility h a v e not yet been terminated; and (4 ) Plaintiffs shall pay no security in connection with this preliminary injunction. D O N E this the 3rd day of November, 2009. /s/ Mark E. Fuller CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

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