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7th Circuit affirms ruling against woman kicked out of public housing

December 1, 2011

A woman who challenged the Housing Authority of South Bend’s decision to terminate her lease for federally subsidized public housing because of criminal activity lost her appeal before the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

In Bridgett Stevens v. Housing Authority of South Bend, Indiana, et al. and State of Indiana, No. 10-2724, Bridgett Stevens filed a lawsuit after receiving a notice from the housing authority that alleged she violated lease provisions that prohibited criminal activity on the property. A shooting between Stevens’ daughter’s boyfriend and the father of her children led to the first notice. She received two subsequent notices after police responded to her apartment to investigate a fight and the discovery of marijuana at the apartment. She left the apartment after the third notice.

Her lawsuit – which only dealt with the first notice – alleged that the HASB and other individuals violated the Fair Housing Act, the 14th Amendment, and the Indiana law. The District Court ruled in favor of the defendants, finding her challenges to the Indiana ejectment statute to be moot because she left after she received the second and third notices and that her due process rights weren’t violated because she was held responsible for the actions of persons who were not under her control. It found although one of the men involved in the shooting was not literally under her control in the colloquial sense, he was present at the apartment only because a household member had invited him.

“Given that she ultimately left her apartment for reasons unrelated to the acts that form the basis of the lawsuit, the appropriate question is whether she retains a legally cognizable interest in the outcome of the suit and whether the court’s decision could affect her rights,” wrote Judge Ilana Diamond Rovner. “Injunctive relief is therefore no longer available to her. Declaratory relief suffers from the same mootness problem because it would have no impact on Stevens going forward.”

The judges also noted that the fact Stevens lied on her application about ever having lived in public housing and the presence of illegal drugs in her apartment would support terminating the lease.  
 

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