E-Alert Case Updates
Plaintiff Fails to State a Claim Under Section 8 of Housing Act Against Individual Housing Authority Employees
Gary Jones v. Paul Graziano, et al.
In this recently issued opinion from Judge James K. Bredar of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, the U.S. District Court dismissed the Plaintiff’s suit holding that his Complaint failed to state a claim for relief pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6).
Gary Jones filed his Complaint in the U.S. District Court—pursuant to federal question jurisdiction—making claims against multiple individuals employed by the Housing Authority of Baltimore City (“HABC”) including Mr. Graziano, the Housing Commissioner. HABC was not itself a party to the suit. Mr. Jones sought $400,000 in damages and an injunction ordering “[a]n emergency transfer into a Section 8 unit and deterent [sic] against future retaliation.” Jones at *1.
As the Court noted, the term “Section 8” refers to the portion of the United States Housing Act of 1937, Act Sept. 1, 1937, which is codified in 42 U.S.C. § 1437 et seq. Section 8 provides that eligible individuals can receive vouchers to pay for rent at privately owned residences if the owner of the residence complies with certain requirements.
Mr. Jones sought damages based on his allegations that various HABC employees did not properly carry out their duties with the agency. Mr. Jones alleged that this led to an individual that he believed was involved in stabbing him in 2007 improperly being allowed to become a resident of the same public housing project where he resided. He also claimed employees spread rumors about him, and that another employee labeled him a “snitch” for complaining about other tenants.
The Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Complaint on the basis that he failed to state a claim on which relief could be granted, and likewise failed to meet his burden for obtaining injunctive relief. The Court noted that pursuant to Iqbal, a complaint must contain sufficient facts to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).
The Court noted the high burden for obtaining a preliminary injunction, or any injunctive relief, stating: “Courts are called upon to balance a plaintiff’s claims of injury against the burdens to be imposed upon the defendant, and they must “pay particular regard for the public consequences in employing the extraordinary remedy of injunction.”” Jones at *3 (quoting Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7 (2008)).
The Court then held that under Section 8, there was no legal basis to direct HABC or its employees to award Section 8 placement to Mr. Jones. Judge Bredar stated that public housing agencies (“PHA”) are vested with discretion to execute housing policies, and that it was beyond the purview of the Court to mandate HABC exercise that discretion in a particular fashion to suit Mr. Jones. As such, Mr. Jones failed to state a claim that he was entitled to injunctive relief under the Federal Law.
Likewise, Judge Bredar found that Mr. Jones’ various other claims and grievances were insufficient to meet the standard of Iqbal. In § 1437d(k) of the law PHAs are required to establish and implement an administrative grievance procedure. Mr. Jones filed numerous grievances to HABC on which he did not prevail. The Court found, however, that none of those grievances involved the deprivation or infringement of any right Jones may have under the Housing Act, and as such he had failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.
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