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Jackson v. City of Aiken Housing Authority

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Aiken Division

December 14, 2016

Kenisha Jackson, Plaintiff,
v.
City of Aiken Housing Authority, Reginal Barner, in his official capacity as Chief Executive Officer of the City of Aiken Housing Authority, and Debra Young, in her official capacity as Director of the Housing Choice Voucher Program for the City of Aiken Housing Authority, Defendants.

          FINDINGS OF FACT, CONCLUSIONS OF LAW, AND ORDER AND OPINION GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION [1]

         Plaintiff Kenisha Jackson (“Plaintiff”) filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants City of Aiken Housing Authority (“CAHA”), Reginal Barner (“Barner”), in his official capacity as Chief Executive Officer of the City of Aiken Housing Authority, and Debra Young (“Young”), in her official capacity as Director of the Housing Choice Voucher Program for the City of Aiken Housing Authority, (collectively “Defendants”) alleging violation of her rights protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. (ECF No. 1.)

         This matter is before the court on Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction, which is generally opposed by Defendants. (ECF Nos. 9 & 45.) For the reasons set forth below, the court GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction.

         I. FINDINGS OF FACT RELEVANT TO PENDING MOTION

         1. “Plaintiff is a citizen and resident of York County, South Carolina.” (ECF No. 1 at 2 ¶ 5.)

         2. Plaintiff is a single mother of four children. (ECF No. 9-1 at 1.)

         3. “CAHA is a federally-funded state entity which is authorized to administer the Section 8 voucher program pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1437f.” (ECF No. 1 at 2 ¶ 5.)

         4. “CAHA is a public housing agency (“PHA”) as defined in 42 U.S.C. § 1437a(b)(6) and 24 C.F.R. § 982.4(b).” (Id.)

         5. Plaintiff “is a participant in the . . . [Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher (“HCV”)] program managed by CAHA . . . .” (ECF No. 1 at 2 ¶ 5.)

         6. “The housing choice voucher program is the federal government's major program for assisting very low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market.” U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, https://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/topics/housingchoicevoucherprogramsection8 (last visited Dec. 13, 2016). “The PHAs receive federal funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to administer the voucher program.” Id.

         7. “A family that is issued a housing voucher is responsible for finding a suitable housing unit of the family's choice where the owner agrees to rent under the program.” Id. “A housing subsidy is paid to the landlord directly by the PHA on behalf of the participating family.” Id. “The family then pays the difference between the actual rent charged by the landlord and the amount subsidized by the program.” Id.

         8. “Plaintiff began participating in the Section 8 HCV program operated by Defendant CAHA in approximately 2010.” (ECF No. 1 at 6 ¶ 22.)

         9. On August 1, 2012, Plaintiff entered into a residential lease agreement with Frances W. Allred (“Allred”) for use of property located at 5018 Trotter Court in Jackson, South Carolina. (ECF No. 1-2.) When the residential lease expired on July 31, 2013, Plaintiff continued to live at the Trotter Court property as a month to month tenant until July 1, 2016. (ECF No. 1 at 6 ¶ 24.)

         10. “In May 2016, Plaintiff received an offer of employment in Fort Mill, South Carolina and she decided to move in order to take advantage of this offer and for other reasons.” (Id. at ¶ 25.) Plaintiff contacted CAHA and was informed that she “would need to have her landlord, Mr. Allred, sign a form, referred to as a ‘blue form' indicating that the tenancy was terminated and that CAHA would need to have that form at least 30 days before Plaintiff moved from 5018 Trotter Court.” (Id. at ¶ 26.)

         11. Between May 24 and June 7, 2016, Plaintiff attempted unsuccessfully to procure a signed blue form from Allred. (Id. at 6 ¶ 27-7 ¶ 30.) Plaintiff learned that “Allred believed that Plaintiff owed him money for a variety of things and that he would not sign the blue form unless she paid.” (Id. at ¶ 30.)

         12. On July 1, 2016, Plaintiff moved out of the Trotter Court residence. (Id. at 7 ¶ 32.)

         13. In July of 2016, Plaintiff and Allred continued to disagree on the amount of damages Plaintiff would have to pay in order for Allred to sign the blue form. (Id. at 8 ¶¶ 34- 37.) “Throughout . . .Plaintiff's dispute with . . . [Allred], CAHA . . . maintained its willingness to issue the requested Voucher upon . . . Plaintiff resolving her dispute with . . . [Allred] over the damages and rental amounts claimed to be due, with . . . [Allred] then signing the Mutual Agreement to Vacate Form.” (ECF No. 45-1 at 4 ¶ 9.)

         14. Without her HCV, Plaintiff and her four children were forced to move into Plaintiff's sister's home in Fort Mill. (ECF No. 1 at 8 ¶ 38.)

         15. On July 28, 2016, Young received a letter of representation from Plaintiff's counsel “advising that he was representing the Plaintiff, setting forth her position on the dispute with her Landlord, and requesting a grievance hearing to be scheduled within 14 days.” (ECF No. 45-1 at 3 ¶ 6 (referencing ECF No. 45-1 at 17-18).)

         16. On August 15, 2016, Plaintiff filed the instant action against Defendants alleging a cause of action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. (ECF No. 1 at 9 ¶ 45-10 ¶ 49.) Later on that day, Young contacted Plaintiff's counsel “to schedule the grievance hearing” and was told “that suit had already been filed in U.S. District Court.” (ECF No. 45-1 at 3 ¶ 8.) “No grievance hearing was ever scheduled.” (Id.)

         17. On August 16, 2016, Plaintiff filed the instant Motion for Preliminary Injunction (ECF No. 9) seeking an order “requiring Defendants to immediately process Plaintiff's request to move and permit her to utilize her HCV program rental assistance at an appropriate home of her choosing . . . .” (Id. at 1.)

         18. The court heard argument from the parties on this matter on November 28, 2016. (ECF No. 43.)

         II. LEGAL STANDARD AND ANALYSIS

         A. Preliminary Injunctions Generally

         19. The court's authority to issue preliminary injunction arises from Rule 65, [2] but “it is an extraordinary remedy never awarded as of right.” Winter v. Nat'l Res. Def. Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 24 (2008).

         20. A party seeking a preliminary injunction must establish all four of the following elements: (1) he is likely to succeed on the merits; (2) he is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief; (3) the balance of equities tips in his favor; and (4) an injunction is in the public interest. Id.; The Real Truth About Obama, Inc. v. Fed. Election Comm'n, 575 F.3d 342, 346-47 (4th Cir. 2009).

         21. The Fourth Circuit no longer recognizes a “flexible interplay among the four criteria for a preliminary injunction.” Real Truth, 575 F.3d at 347. Each of these requirements “must be fulfilled as articulated.” De la Fuente v. S.C. Dem. Party, CA No. 3:16-cv-00322-CMC, 2016 WL 741317, at *2 (D.S.C. Feb. 25, 2016). A plaintiff must first prove the first two elements before a court considers whether the balance of the equities tips in his favor. See Real Truth, 575 F.3d at 346-47. Additionally, the court pays particular attention to the public consequences of employing this extraordinary form of relief via injunction. Real Truth, 575 F.3d at 347 (citing Winter, 555 U.S. at 24).

         22. “The traditional purpose of a preliminary injunction is to protect the status quo and to prevent irreparable harm during the pendency of the lawsuit ultimately to preserve the court's ability to render a meaningful ...


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