United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northeastern Division
K. KALLON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Yarbrough brings this action against Decatur Housing
Authority (“DHA”) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983,  alleging violations of her federally
protected rights under Section 8 of the U.S. Housing Act of
1937, 42 U.S.C. § 1437 (“Section 8”) and
various amendments to the United States Constitution. Doc. 1
at 3. The court has for consideration DHA's motion for
summary judgment, doc. 30, which is fully briefed, docs. 31;
34; 35, and Yarbrough's motion for summary judgment, doc.
40, which raises the same arguments she raised in her
opposition to DHA's own motion. For the reasons stated
below, DHA's motion is due to be granted and
Yarbrough's motion is due to be denied.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), summary judgment is proper “if the
movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any
material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law.” To support a summary judgment motion,
the parties must cite to “particular parts of materials
in the record, including depositions, documents,
electronically stored information, affidavits or
declarations, stipulations, admissions, interrogatory
answers, or other materials.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c).
Moreover, “Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary
judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion,
against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to
establish the existence of an element essential to that
party's case, and on which that party will bear the
burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The moving party
bears the initial burden of proving the absence of a genuine
issue of material fact. Id. at 323. The burden then
shifts to the nonmoving party, who is required to “go
beyond the pleadings” to establish that there is a
“genuine issue for trial.” Id. at 324
(citation and internal quotation marks omitted). A dispute
about a material fact is genuine “if the evidence is
such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
court must construe the evidence and all reasonable
inferences arising from it in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party. Adickes v. S. H. Kress &
Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970); see also
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255 (all justifiable inferences
must be drawn in the non-moving party's favor). Any
factual disputes will be resolved in the non-moving
party's favor when sufficient competent evidence supports
the non-moving party's version of the disputed facts.
See Pace v. Capobianco, 283 F.3d 1275, 1276 (11th
Cir. 2002) (a court is not required to resolve disputes in
the non-moving party's favor when that party's
version of events is supported by insufficient evidence).
However, “mere conclusions and unsupported factual
allegations are legally insufficient to defeat a summary
judgment motion.” Ellis v. England, 432 F.3d
1321, 1326 (11th Cir. 2005) (per curiam) (citing Bald
Mountain Park, Ltd. v. Oliver, 863 F.2d 1560, 1563 (11th
Cir. 1989)). Furthermore, “[a] mere
‘scintilla' of evidence supporting the opposing
party's position will not suffice; there must be enough
of a showing that the jury could reasonably find for that
party.” Walker v. Darby, 911 F.2d 1573, 1577
(11th Cir. 1990) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252).
standards governing cross-motions for summary judgment are
the same, although the court must construe the motions
independently, viewing the evidence presented by each moving
party in the light most favorable to the non-movant.”
Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach, 39 F.Supp.3d 1392,
1404 (S.D. Fla. 2014) (citing Shazor v. Professional
Transit Management, Ltd., 744 F.3d 948 (6th Cir. 2014));
see also U.S. v. Oakley, 744 F.2d 1553, 1555 (11th
Cir. 1984) (applying the Rule 56 summary judgment standard
where both parties moved for summary judgment). However,
“cross-motions for summary judgment will not, in
themselves, warrant the court in granting summary judgment
unless one of the parties is entitled to judgment as a matter
of law on facts that are not genuinely disputed.”
Bricklayers, Masons & Plasterers Int'l Union v.
Stuart Plastering Co., 512 F.2d 1017, 1023 (5th Cir.
1975). Nonetheless, “[c]ross motions for summary
judgment may be probative of the nonexistence of a factual
dispute when . . . they demonstrate a basic agreement
concerning what legal theories and material facts are
dispositive.” Id. “Indeed, when both
parties proceed on the same legal theory and rely on the same
material facts the court is signaled that the case is ripe
for summary judgment.” Shook v. U.S., 713 F.2d
662, 665 (11th Cir. 1983). That is precisely the case here,
as the parties appear to be in agreement that the material
facts are undisputed and that certain narrow legal issues -
namely, the legal sufficiency of the indictments - are
dispositive of the claims joined herein.
was a participant in the Section 8 Housing Assistance program
provided through the Department of Housing and Urban
Development (“HUD”). Docs. 1 at 1; 17-1 at 2-3.
The Section 8 Voucher Program provides low income families
assistance with rental payments and is administered by public
housing authorities (“PHAs”), such as DHA.
Id. On April 6, 2011, Yarbrough signed a copy of
Obligations of the Participating Family from HUD,
which provided, in part, that “members of the family
may not engage in drug-related criminal activity.” Doc.
32-7 at 2-3. As of April 4, 2013, the DHA “must
terminate program assistance for a participant . . . [i]f any
member of the family commits drug-related . . . criminal
activity in violation of Section 2.3 of this Administrative
Plan and 24 CFR 982.551.” Doc. 17-3 at 2-3.
September 2012, through a newspaper article, DHA learned that
Yarbrough was arrested on charges of drug-related criminal
activity. Doc. 20-2 at 38:00-41:00. As a result, DHA notified
Yarbrough that it intended to terminate her program
assistance. Id. In response, Yarbrough denied any
involvement in unlawful drug activity and requested a
hearing. Id. At the hearing, the hearing officer
found that Yarbrough had carried out unlawful drug-related
activity and would have to move from her home. Id.
However, based on legal advice, DHA decided that Yarbrough
could keep her voucher and that it would postpone any
decision to terminate her housing assistance subsidies
“until a court date or decision was rendered.”
Id. at 10:00-10:30; 38:00-41:00.
April 11, 2013, based on the September 2012 arrest, a grand
jury at the Limestone County Circuit Court of Alabama
indicted Yarbrough on two counts of unlawful distribution of
a controlled substance for selling “a quantity of
Lortab” and “a quantity of Xanax” to an
undercover police officer. Docs. 17-5 at 2-5. The last
substantive update from Yarbrough's case stated that
“[t]he state moves to dismiss the case upon payment of
court costs and the Defendant occurs [sic]. It is the order
of the court that this case will be dismissed upon payment of
court costs.” Docs. 20-2 at 25:21-29:20; 34-1 at 7. The
state court has since continued the case to allow Yarbrough
to pay court fees and the case is still pending. Id.
October 8, 2015, DHA sent Yarbrough a new notice, advising
her that it intended to terminate her participation in the
Section 8 program on November 30, 2015, due to violations of
Housing Choice Voucher #4: Obligations of the
Family. Allegedly, in addition to her arrest and
subsequent indictment for drug-related activity, Yarbrough
failed to (1) notify DHA of a change in family income and
composition in January 2015; (2) report her household income
from 2011 through 2013; and (3) make required payments to DHA
since February 2015. Docs. 1 at 2; 1-1 at 2. At
Yarbrough's request, DHA held a hearing. Doc. 1-1 at 2.
Thereafter, the hearing officer issued a decision finding
that DHA failed to establish violations on all counts except
for the accusation that Yarbrough had “violated her
agreement with the Authority and her lease by engaging in
drug-related criminal activity.” Doc. 1-1 at 4, 6-7. As
a result, the hearing officer upheld DHA's decision to
terminate Yarbrough's participation in the program.
Id. at 6.
written decision, the hearing officer explained that DHA
sufficiently established that Yarbrough had engaged in
drug-related criminal activity by presenting evidence of
Yarbrough's arrest and subsequent indictment for two
felony counts of unlawful distribution of a controlled
substance. Doc. 1-1 at 3. The hearing officer further noted
that although Yarbrough presented “credible evidence
that the cases will be dismissed on payment of court costs,
” id. at 4; doc. 34-1 at 7, the fact that the
charges remain pending and that the indictments were issued
by “a duly impaneled grand jury” is sufficient
proof that “more likely than not, i.e., by a
preponderance of the evidence, [that] Ms. Yarbrough engaged
in drug related criminal activity in violation of the terms
of her agreement with the Authority.” Doc. 32-2 at 3-4.
The hearing officer also considered Yarbrough's assertion
that she and DHA had reached an agreement precluding DHA from
acting on the termination of benefits until after the court
issued a decision on the criminal cases. Id. at 4.
To support her contention, Yarbrough relied on an internal
note produced by DHA, which indicated that DHA's legal
counsel had advised it to continue paying Yarbrough's
subsidy “until a court decision is rendered.”
Id.; doc. 20-2 at 10:00-10:30; 38:00-41:00. However,
the hearing officer ultimately found that “[t]his note
falls woefully short of an agreement to withhold termination
action pending final adjudication of the criminal
action.” Doc. 32-2 at 3-4. As such, the hearing officer
determined that Yarbrough had violated her agreement due to
her involvement in drug-related criminal activity and upheld
DHA's termination of Yarbrough's Section 8 housing
benefits. Id. at 7. Following the hearing, DHA
informed Yarbrough that her benefits would cease on December
31, 2015. Docs. 1-2 at 3; 6 at 3.
complaint pleads two counts - (1) alleged violations of HUD
regulations and requirements by issuing a “decision
[that] was based completely on hearsay evidence without legal
or factual support” and by failing to “provide a
hearing with an impartial hearing officer,
” doc. 1 at 2; and (2) alleged denial of due
process in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments
to the Constitution, id. at 3. More specifically,
Yarbrough contends that DHA violated her rights under the
Constitution when it terminated her housing assistance
payments without providing her due process by failing to
provide her with adequate notice, a meaningful opportunity to
be heard, and by basing the decision to terminate solely on
unreliable hearsay evidence. Doc. 1 at 2-3. The court
addresses these contentions below, and, for the reasons that
follow, finds that Yarbrough has failed to meet her burden,
that her motion for summary judgment is due to be denied, and
DHA's motion is due to be granted.
DHA Provided ...