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Jackson v. City of Aiken Housing Authority

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

September 24, 2017

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.

          ORDER AND OPINION

          Richard Mark Gergel United States District Court Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs motion for partial summary judgment as to liability and Defendants' motion for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants in part and denies in part Plaintiffs motion for partial summary judgment, and grants in part and denies in part Defendants' motion for summary judgment.

         I. Background

         This Court's previous findings of fact (Dkt. No. 48) provide most of the necessary background for this case. Plaintiff is a single mother of four children. The City of Aiken Housing Authority ("CAHA") is a public housing agency as defined in 42 U.S.C. § 1437a(b)(6) and 24 C.F.R. § 982.4(b). CAHA is a federally funded state entity administering the housing voucher program authorized by Section 8 of the Housing Act of 1937, 42 U.S.C. § 1437f. Section 8 authorizes the payment of rental housing assistance to private landlords on behalf of low-income households. Public housing authorities like CAHA receive federal funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to administer the voucher program. A family issued a housing voucher is responsible for finding suitable housing where the owner agrees to rent under the program. The housing subsidy is paid to the landlord directly by the public housing authority on behalf of the participating family. The family then pays the difference between the actual rent charged by the landlord and the amount subsidized by the program.

         Plaintiff is a participant in the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher ("HCV") program managed by CAHA. Plaintiff began participating in the Section 8 HCV program operated by CAHA in approximately 2010. On August 1, 2012, Plaintiff entered into a residential lease agreement with Frances W. Allred for use of property located at 5018 Trotter Court in Jackson, South Carolina. 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.

         In May 2016, Plaintiff received an offer of employment in Fort Mill, South Carolina and she decided to move to take the offer. Plaintiff contacted CAHA, which informed her that she must have her landlord, Mr. Allred, sign a form, referred to as a 'blue form, ' indicating that the tenancy was terminated. CAHA would need to have that form at least 30 days before Plaintiff moved from 5018 Trotter Court. Between May 24 and June 7, 2016, Plaintiff attempted unsuccessfully to procure a signed blue form from Mr. Allred. Plaintiff asserts Mr. Allred believed that she owed him money under the lease and that he would not sign the blue form unless she paid him.

         On July 1, 2016, Plaintiff moved out of the Trotter Court residence. In July 2016, Plaintiff and Mr. Allred continued to disagree on the amount of damages Plaintiff would have to pay in order for Mr. Allred to sign the blue form. CAHA would not provide Plaintiffs HCV without the signed blue form. Without her HCV, Plaintiff and her four children were forced to move into her sister's home in Fort Mill. On July 28, 2016, Defendant Debra Young, director of the HCV program, received a letter of representation from Plaintiffs 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." (Dkt. No. 45-1 at 3 ¶ 6.) On August 15, 2016, Plaintiff filed the present action against Defendants asserting claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violation of Plaintiff s procedural due process rights and violation of the South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act ("SCUTPA"). Later on that day, Ms. Young contacted Plaintiffs counsel "to schedule the grievance hearing" and was told "that suit had already been filed in U.S. District Court." (Dkt. No. 45-1 at 3 ¶ 8.) No grievance hearing was ever scheduled.

         On August 16, 2016, Plaintiff moved for a preliminary injunction, seeking an order "requiring Defendants to immediately process Plaintiffs request to move and permit her to utilize her HCV program rental assistance at an appropriate home of her choosing." (Dkt. No. 9 at 1.) The Court granted a preliminary injunction on December 14, 2016. (Dkt. No. 48.) CAHA issued Plaintiff a voucher in January 2017. Plaintiff ultimately was able to secure housing with her voucher in April 2017. Plaintiff alleges that she received no rental assistance under CAHA's HCV program from July 2016 to April 2017, causing her to move five times between relatives' homes and a temporary shelter for homeless persons.

         II. Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate if a party "shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact" and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In other words, summary judgment should be granted "only when it is clear that there is no dispute concerning either the facts of the controversy or the inferences to be drawn from those facts." Pulliam Inv. Co. v. Cameo Props., 810 F.2d 1282, 1286 (4th Cir. 1987). "In determining whether a genuine issue has been raised, the court must construe all inferences and ambiguities in favor of the nonmoving party." HealthSouth Rehab. Hosp. v. Am. Nat'l Red Cross, 101 F.3d 1005, 1008 (4th Cir. 1996). The party seeking summary judgment shoulders the initial burden of demonstrating to the court that there is no genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323(1986).

         Once the moving party has made this threshold demonstration, the non-moving party, to survive the motion for summary judgment, may not rest on the allegations averred in his pleadings. Id. at 324. Rather, the non-moving party must demonstrate that specific, material facts exist that give rise to a genuine issue. Id. Under this standard, "[c]onclusory or speculative allegations do not suffice, nor does a 'mere scintilla of evidence'" in support of the non-moving party's case. Thompson v. Potomac Elec. Power Co., 312 F.3d 645, 649 (4th Cir. 2002) (quoting Phillips v. CSX Transp., Inc., 190 F.3d 285, 287 (4th Cir. 1999)).

         III. Discussion

         A. Section 1983 Claims

         To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two elements: (1) "the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States" and (2) this violation "was committed by a person acting under color of state law." West v. Atkins,487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). A municipality is a person amenable to suit under § 1983, but municipal liability requires the plaintiff to show that the municipal custom or policy deprived a federally protected right. Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs.,436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978). "[C]ourts have found actions of state and municipal agencies administering federally funded programs to be ...


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