PHA Can Evict Resident for 'One-Strike' Violation
Facts: A local PHA notified a resident that he had committed a “one-strike” violation when he had wrongfully assaulted one of its security guards, in violation of his lease agreement. The notice also stated that the resident had threatened to shoot another resident, while repeatedly knocking on her apartment door and calling her vile names, and inflict bodily harm upon members of the PHA’s staff.
In its notice, the PHA also informed the resident that this violation constituted a form of criminal activity that threatened “the health or safety of other residents, employees, or persons residing in the immediate vicinity of the premises” and that he wasn’t entitled to a grievance hearing. The PHA then filed an eviction lawsuit against the resident.
The state court ruled in favor of the PHA. The resident then sought a preliminary injunction that would restrain the state court from its eviction efforts. He claimed that the PHA didn't provide him with a required grievance procedure and thus violated his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process.
Ruling: A Michigan district court granted a judgment without a trial in the PHA’s favor.
Reasoning: The court ruled that the issues the resident raised were already litigated. Therefore, the resident’s claims are barred. The resident was a party in the state court eviction proceedings and he had the full opportunity to litigate the issue of whether he was denied access to the grievance procedure.
In addition, the issue of whether the resident was entitled to a grievance procedure was expressly resolved by the state court judge, who rejected his argument. The PHA is permitted by law to deny an administrative procedure in qualified jurisdictions that require a court proceeding prior to eviction. The trial judge permitted the resident to be evicted without an administrative procedure because of his alleged criminal activity. He concluded that no administrative procedure was required, and the state court proceedings provided the necessary due process. The state court’s entry of judgment constitutes a valid, final judgment. And the resident is barred from raising this issue as a new claim in federal court.
- Leaphart v. Detroit Housing Commission, March 2014