Carter et al v. Montgomery Housing Authority et al

Filing 57

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER that plaintiffs' 29 MOTION to Amend Complaint is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part; that Plaintiffs may file an amended complaint which adds only a claim for attorneys' fees; it is denied in all other respects; that Plaintiffs must file their amended complaint no later than 5:00 p.m. on Friday, March 19, 2010. Signed by Hon. Chief Judge Mark E. Fuller on 3/12/2010. (Attachments: # 1 Civil Appeals Checklist)(cc, )

Download PDF
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 M E M O R A N D U M OPINION AND ORDER T h is cause is before the Court on Plaintiffs' Motion to Amend Complaint filed on D e c em b e r 31, 2009. (Doc. #29). Defendants have opposed this motion. For the reasons set f o rth in this Memorandum Opinion and Order, the Court finds that the motion is due to be G R A N T E D in part and DENIED in part. P la in tif f s 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"). Each plaintiff received a letter from MHA stating that M H A would end Section 8 assistance at the end of the month. As grounds for termination, M H A asserted engagement in "drug-related criminal activity or violent criminal activity or o th e r criminal activity that threatens the health, safety, or right to peaceful enjoyment of other re sid e n ts and persons residing in the immediate vicinity of the premises" in violation of P la in tif f s' Section 8 agreements. MHA also noted in each letter that Plaintiffs had the right to request a hearing to dispute this charge. Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983, Plaintiffs claim that D e f en d a n ts deprived them of rights guaranteed by 42 U.S.C. 1437 and the Fifth and F o u r te e n t h Amendments.1 O n November 5, 2009, the parties submitted a Report of Parties' Planning Meeting su g g e stin g a trial in March of 2010 and failing to propose a deadline for any amendments to th e pleadings. (Doc. #24). On November 6, 2009, this Court entered a Uniform Scheduling O rd e r pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16. (Doc. #25). This Uniform Scheduling O rd e r set a deadline of December 9, 2009 for the amendment of the pleadings by any party. P la in tiff s did not object to this deadline, nor did they file any motion seeking to extend it p rio r to its passing. F e d e ra l Rule of Civil Procedure 16(b) provides that a schedule, such as the one this C o u rt set by entering the Uniform Scheduling Order in this case, "may be modified only for g o o d cause" and by leave of court. Fed. R. Civ. P. 16(b) (emphasis added). This means that in making a motion for leave to amend a pleading after the deadline set by this Court's s c h e d u lin g order, Plaintiffs must show good cause exists for their untimely attempt to amend th e ir complaint. See Oravec v. Sunny Isles Luxury Ventures, L.C., 527 F.3d 1218, 1232 (11th C ir. 2008) (finding that Rule 16's good cause standard precludes modification of the s c h e d u lin g order unless the schedule cannot be met despite the diligence of the party seeking th e extension.); Sosa v. Airprint Sys., Inc., 133 F.3d 1417, 1419 (11th Cir. 1998) (applying Specifically, Plaintiffs cite to alleged violations of requirements given by 42 U.S.C. 1437d and 24 C.F.R. Part 982. 1 th e Rule 16 good cause standard rather than the more liberal standard of Rule 15 to attempt to amend pleading after deadline set by Court's scheduling order is appropriate). P lain tiff s seek to amend their complaint in two ways: (1) note the significance of both th e defects in Defendants' policy on Section 8 terminations and the lack of training provided to the hearing officer,2 and (2) add a claim for attorneys' fees.3 (See Doc. #29-2). W ith regards to the first purpose for amending, Plaintiffs added allegations that their b e n e fits were terminated without investigation and with the use of form letters by a hearing o f f ic e r that MHA failed to train. Plaintiffs also added allegations that Defendants' p ro c e d u re s were generally inadequate and failed to inform Plaintiffs of their rights, causing s u b s ta n tia l harm to Plaintiffs. In their prayer, Plaintiffs add requests that the Court make f i n d in g s on these assertions and enjoin Defendants from terminating benefits in the future w ith o u t first revising their policy for termination. Plaintiffs argue that these additions merely c la r if y their claims and do not prejudice Defendants.4 A s noted by Defendants, most if not all of these additions requested by Plaintiff are s ta te d in their memorandum in support of their motion for a preliminary injunction and te m p o r a ry restraining order. (Doc. #4). Therefore, it appears that Plaintiffs had all the in f o r m a t io n they needed to amend their complaint on October 19, 2009 but failed to seek Plaintiffs added paragraphs 20, parts of 22, 23, parts of 27, 32, 33, and 34. They also added subpart (d) and (e) and parts of subpart (c) to the prayer. 3 2 Plaintiffs added subpart (h) to the prayer. In their initial motion, Plaintiffs failed to give any reason for missing the deadline to amend with regards to these changes. Plaintiffs asserted these arguments for the first time in their reply to this Court's show cause order. 4 leave to amend their complaint until over two months thereafter. The Court is not satisfied th a t Plaintiffs have made a showing of good cause for allowing these amendments. F u rth e rm o re , since Plaintiffs say that these additions merely clarify rather than alter their c la im s , there is no need for an amended complaint to add these changes. Any clarification m ay be included in the pretrial order. P la in tif f s also argue that they should be allowed to amend their complaint to add a c la im for attorneys' fees because the statutory bar against Legal Services lawyers collecting a n d retaining attorneys' fees was not removed until December 16, 2009, after the deadline s e t in the Uniform Scheduling Order for filing amendments to pleadings. While Plaintiffs a n d Defendants agree that the 2010 appropriations bill removes the restriction on Legal S e rv ic e s attorneys seeking attorneys' fees, Defendants argue that prohibition remains in the re g u la tio n s . See 45 C.F.R. 1642. However, the Legal Services Corporation ("LSC") Board o f Directors issued a letter dated December 17, 2009 stating that LSC would not enforce the re g u la to ry restriction on claiming, collecting, and retaining attorneys' fees until it determined w h e th e r it would rescind or amend that regulatory restriction pursuant to the new legislation liftin g the statutory ban. Plaintiffs, despite their diligence, may not have known they could f ile a claim for attorneys' fees prior to the December 9, 2009 deadline for amendments given in the Uniform Scheduling Order. Once the letter from the LSC Board issued, Plaintiffs' f ile d their motion for leave to amend in less than two weeks. F o r the foregoing reasons, its is hereby ORDERED that Plaintiffs' Motion to Amend C o m p la in t (Doc. #29) is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. It is granted in that Plaintiffs may file an amended complaint which adds only a claim for attorneys' fees; it is d e n ie d in all other respects. It is further ORDERED that Plaintiffs must file their amended c o m p la in t no later than 5:00 p.m. on Friday, March 19, 2010. D O N E this the 12th day of March, 2010. /s/ Mark E. Fuller CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.

Why Is My Information Online?