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Sharnae Trust v. St. Louis Housing Authority

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

March 3, 2015

SHARNAE TRUST, Plaintiff,
v.
ST. LOUIS HOUSING AUTHORITY, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

RONNIE L. WHITE, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 21). The motion is fully briefed and ready for disposition. Upon review of the pleadings, the Court finds that summary judgment in favor of Defendants is warranted.

Background

Plaintiff participated in the federal Section 8 rental assistance program. (Compl. ¶ 26, ECF No. 1) Defendant St. Louis Housing Authority ("SLHA") paid Plaintiffs landlord $900 per month, and Plaintiff paid zero, for an apartment located in Florissant, Missouri. (Id. at ¶¶ 26-27) However, SLHA terminated Plaintiffs rental assistance on July 30, 2013, after Plaintiff stabbed her brother with a metal tool on May 22, 2013, allegedly in self-defense. (Id. at ¶¶ 27-28, 33) Plaintiff was arrested and charged with first degree assault and armed criminal action. (Id. at ¶34)

The SLHA issued a "Notice of Program Termination" to Plaintiff on May 31, 2013 and attached a copy of a newspaper article and a copy of the charge information printed from the Missouri court website "Case.net." (Id. at ¶¶ 35-36) Plaintiff requested an informal hearing, which was held on July 11, 2013. (Id. at ¶¶ 39-40) Plaintiff was represented by counsel during the hearing. (Id. at ¶ 41) Plaintiff testified on her own behalf, claiming that she acted in selfdefense and denying that she engaged in criminal activity. (Id. at ¶ 46) In addition, Plaintiffs mother corroborated Plaintiffs story, and Plaintiff introduced a copy of an Ex Parte Order of Protection she obtained against her brother in 2012. (Id. at ¶¶47-48) On July 17, 2013, the hearing officer affirmed the termination of Plaintiffs Section 8 Voucher assistance, finding sufficient evidence to support the termination. (Id. at ¶ 50) The hearing officer considered Plaintiffs testimony, which indicated that she and her brother had an altercation and that she called the police. During the police inquiry, Plaintiff and her brother continued to argue, and Plaintiff picked up a metal object and stabbed her brother. (Hearing Decision, Pl.'s Ex. B, ECF No. 1-2)

On August 27, 2013, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in federal court alleging a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim for alleged violation of her Fourteenth Amendment right to Due Process (Count I); violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1437(f) and 24 C.F.R. § 982.555(e)(6) for alleged deprivation of her right to a fair and impartial hearing with a decision based on a preponderance of the evidence (Count II); and violation of the Missouri Administrative Procedure Act, Mo. Rev. Stat.§ 536.100, et seq. by terminating her Section 8 assistance without rendering the decision based on a preponderance of credible evidence (Count III). Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment on June 16, 2014, asserting that no genuine issue of material fact exists with regard to Plaintiffs Complaint because Plaintiff violated the Obligations of the Family thereby justifying the termination of Section 8 assistance. Plaintiff responds that self-defense is an absolute defense to Defendants' claims that she violated the Section 8 Voucher Program rules. She also asserts that Defendants violated her due process rights by relying on hearsay evidence to terminate her assistance.

Legal Standards

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), a court may grant a motion for summary judgment only if all of the information before the court show "there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The court must view the evidence and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Hutson v. McDonnell Douglas Corp., 63 F.3d 771, 775 (8th Cir. 1995).

The moving party has the initial burden to establish the non-existence of any genuine issue of fact that is material to a judgment in its favor. City of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa v. Associated Elec. Co-op., Inc., 838 F.2d 268, 273 (8th Cir. 1988). Once this burden is discharged, if the record does in fact bear out that no genuine dispute exists, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party, who must set forth affirmative evidence and specific facts showing there is a genuine dispute on that issue. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986).

When the burden shifts, the non-moving party may not rest on the allegations in its pleadings, but by affidavit and other evidence must set forth specific facts showing that a genuine issue of material fact exists. Fed. R. Civ.P. 56(e). The non-moving party "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 fact, the nonmoving party must present sufficient evidence favoring the non-moving party which would enable a jury to return a verdict for that party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249; Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. Self-serving, conclusory statements, standing alone, are insufficient to defeat a wellsupported motion for summary judgment. O'Bryan v. KTIV Television, 64 F.3d 1188, 1191 (8th Cir. 1995).

Discussion

Defendants argue that Plaintiff is unable to show that Defendants violated her constitutional right to due process, her rights to an informal hearing under Housing and Urban Development ("HUD") regulations, and her rights under the Missouri Administrative Act.[1] Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State... subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States... to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law...

In order to establish liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiff "must [first] show she was deprived of a right secured by the Constitution and the laws' of the United States; second, she must also show that the defendants acted under color of state law." Lind v. Midland Funding, L.L.C., 688 F.3d 402, 405 (8th Cir. 2012) (quoting Flagg Bros., Inc. v. Brooks, 436 U.S. 149, 155 (1978)). Here, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants deprived her of her right to Due Process under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution.[2] Although the Complaint does not specify whether Plaintiffs claim alleges a substantive or procedural due process claim, review of th¶ ...


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