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Harrison v. Kennedy

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

October 26, 2018

Eugene P. Harrison, a/k/a Eugene Paul Harrison, Sr., Plaintiff,
v.
Jennifer C. Kennedy, HCV Senior Specialist Individually and/or in her Official Capacity as an Employee of the Sumter Housing Authority, Defendants.

          ORDER AND OPINION

          RICHARD MARK GERGEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on the Report and Recommendation ("R & R") of the Magistrate Judge (Dkt. No. 49) recommending that the Court grant Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 34). Plaintiff filed objections to the R & R. (Dkt. Nos. 51.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court adopts in part and rejects in part the R & R and grants in part and denies in part summary judgment.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff alleges that he was unlawfully denied housing under the Housing Choice Voucher Program, and discriminated against based on a disability. Plaintiff alleges that on October 18, 2017, he received a Section 8 Choice Housing Voucher. (Dkt. No. 1.) The voucher contained a statement that a copy of the lease and a request for tenancy approval ("RFTA") must be given to the agency by the expiration date for the voucher. (Dkt. No. 34-3 at 9 - 10.) The voucher also stated it would expire on December 17, 2017, unless the family requested an extension and the SHA granted the extension. (Id. at 11.) Plaintiff alleges that he returned the signed RFTA on December 16, 2017, but that Defendant Jennifer Kennedy, a case worker for the Sumter Housing Authority ("SHA") refused to approve his voucher. (Dkt. No. 1.) In support of their motion for summary judgment, Defendant included the last page of a document with Plaintiffs signature which allegedly was his RFTA. (Dkt. Nos. 34 at ¶ 12; 34-3 at 15.) The document has a stamped time of December 18, 2017 at 12:23pm, after his voucher had expired. (Id.) There is no evidence that Plaintiff informed SHA or Defendant of a disability, and the record contains forms for housing accommodations signed by Plaintiff where he failed to identify himself or anyone in his family as having a disability or need for an accommodation. (Dkt. No. 34-3 at 17 - 18.)

         Defendant moved for summary judgment, which Plaintiff opposed. (Dkt. Nos. 34, 37.) The Magistrate Judge recommended granting Defendant's motion for summary judgment, and Plaintiff filed objections. (Dkt. Nos. 49, 51.)

         II. Legal Standard

         A. Summary Judgment

         To prevail on a motion for summary judgment, the movant must demonstrate that there is no genuine issue of any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The party seeking summary judgment has the burden of identifying the portions of the "pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, any admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, which show there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The Court will construe all inferences and ambiguities against the movant and in favor of the non-moving party. U.S. v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962). The existence of a mere scintilla of evidence in support of the non-moving party's position is insufficient to withstand a motion for summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986). However, an issue of material fact is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in favor of the non-movant. Id. at 257.

         "When the moving party has carried its burden under Rule 56(c), its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). "In the language of the Rule, the nonmoving party must come forward with 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Id. at 587. "Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no 'genuine issue for trial.'" Id. (quoting First Nat'l Bank of Ariz. v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 289 (1968)).

         B. Pro Se Pleadings

         This Court liberally construes complaints filed by pro se litigants to allow the development of a potentially meritorious case. See Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319 (1972); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972). The requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the Court can ignore a clear failure in the pleadings to allege facts which set forth a viable claim, nor can the Court assume the existence of a genuine issue of material fact where none exists. See Weller v. Dep 't of Social Services, 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990).

         C. Report and Recommendation

         The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this Court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the responsibility for making a final determination remains with this Court. See Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270 - 71 (1976). This Court is charged with making a de novo determination of those portions of the Report and Recommendation to which specific objection is made. Additionally, the Court may "accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). In the absence of any specific objections, "a district court need not conduct a de novo review, but instead must only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation." See Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005). Plaintiff filed objections and the R & R is reviewed de novo.

         III. ...


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