On May 29, 1997, mentally disabled tenants of the New York City Housing Authority ("Housing Authority") who have been subjected to eviction proceedings filed a lawsuit, on behalf of themselves and those similarly situated, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against the Housing Authority alleging violation of Due Process Clause and 42 U.S.C. § 1983; the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12131, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794, and the Fair Housing Amendments Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3604.
The plaintiffs, represented by the Legal Aid Society of New York, asked the court for both declaratory and injunctive relief and attorney's fees. The complaint alleged that the Housing Authority discriminated against the plaintiffs by (1) failing to ensure that mentally disabled tenants where represented in eviction actions by those who were familiar with both Housing Authority actions and the rights of the mentally disabled, (2) failing to inform Housing Court that tenants they were suing for non-payment of rent in that court were potentially mentally disabled, and (3) arbitrarily terminating some of the plaintiffs' tenancies.
On December 1, 1999, after two years of litigation and the addition of three third-party plaintiff interveners, the District Court (Judge Denny Chin) certified the class.
After eight years of discovery and litigation and both sides' motion for summary judgment, on March 30, 2005 the District Court (Judge Laura Taylor Swain) ruled that:  occupants who do not have tenant interests in their homes do not have a property interest protected by the 14th Amendment;  the Housing Authority's policies violate the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment by failing to provide mentally disabled tenants that cannot meaningfully represent themselves with some form of meaningful representation in eviction hearings and failing to notify Housing Court of potentially mentally disabled;  the Housing Authority may have violated the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act by failing to take sufficient actions to inform persons who were potentially mentally disabled of their rights to reasonable accommodations in the course of the eviction proceedings and the non-payment proceedings in Housing Court, but the court does not resolve this issue;  the Housing Authority and plaintiffs should negotiate the terms of an effective injunction that will ensure adequate detection of mentally disabled tenants who are incapable of representing themselves and the provision of representation for those tenants both in eviction proceedings and proceedings for non-payment of rent in Housing Court;  Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the ADA do not require provision of professional representative services as they are individualized accommodations that are not provided for by the statutes and thus the plaintiffs were not entitled to representation under either statute;  the claims of arbitrary rulings are dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Blatch v. Franco
, 360 F.Supp.2d 595 (S.D.N.Y. 2005).
After three years of negotiation, on December 16, 2008, the District Court (Judge Swan) approved a permanent injunction that required the appointment of legal guardians for mentally incompetent tenants facing eviction, the creation of a family grievance process, the communication of information about mental disability to the Housing Court, adoption of certain procedures by New York City Housing Authority to test for a tenant's mental competency, and process whereby the plaintiffs' counsel monitors the Housing Authority's compliance with the agreement.
On March 11, 2009, the District Court (Judge Swan) approved $575,000 in attorneys fees for plaintiff's class counsel.
On November 7, 2012, the District Court (Judge Swain) approved an amendment to the settlement agreement that extended the injunction until November 7, 2014 due to the plaintiffs' allegations that the defendants failed to follow the settlement agreement through the defendants' failing to inform the Housing Court of potentially mentally incompetent tenants in cases the defendants brought in that court for non-payment of rent.
On October 22, 2013, the parties agreed that the defendant would pay plaintiff counsel $35,000 for monitoring the defendants' compliance with the injunction.
As of this writing, the injunction is still in force so the case could be reopened.Brian Kempfer - 01/19/2014