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Kathie Sinisgallo, Steve Tsilimparis v. Town of Islip Housing Authority

May 23, 2012

KATHIE SINISGALLO, STEVE TSILIMPARIS, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
TOWN OF ISLIP HOUSING AUTHORITY,
RICHARD WANKEL, IN HIS CAPACITY AS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE TOWN OF ISLIP HOUSING AUTHORITY,
PAUL E. LEVITT, IN HIS CAPACITY AS HEARING OFFICER, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Spatt, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER

The Plaintiffs, Kathie Sinisgallo ("Sinisgallo") and Steve Tsilimparis ("Tsilimparis") bring this action against the Defendants Town of Islip Housing Authority ("IHA"), Richard Wankel, and Paul E. Levitt, alleging that the Defendants terminated their tenancy in public housing in violation of their constitutional due process rights; United States Housing Act, 42 U.S.C § 1437d(k); Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (the "Rehabilitation Act"), 29 U.S.C. § 794, the Fair Housing Act of 1968, as amended by the Fair Housing Amendments Act (the "FHA"), 42 U.S.C. § 3601 et seq.; and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (the "ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12131 et seq. Presently before the Court is the Plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction. For the reasons set forth below, the Plaintiffs' motion is granted.

I. BACKGROUND

The defendant Town of Islip Housing Authority is a municipal housing authority, created in accordance with the provisions of the New York State Public Housing Law. The IHA is categorized as a public housing authority ("PHA") under the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD") regulations. Pursuant to HUD regulations, the IHA maintains a public housing program ("the Program"), through which it provides housing for eligible families, including low income families and families with elderly and disabled individuals. The defendant Richard Wankel is the Executive Director in charge of the Program for the IHA.

On June 10, 2010, the plaintiffs, Kathie Sinisgallo and Steve Tsilimparis, entered into a lease for public housing provided by the IHA located at 81 Mill Pond Lane, Bay Shore, New York. On the lease, Sinisgallo is identified as the "tenant" and Tsilimparis is identified as a "co-tenant". Both Sinisgallo and Tsilimparis assert that they are mentally disabled individuals. Sinisgallo contends that she suffers from paranoid schizophrenia; receives psychiatric treatment for her illness from the Hands Across Long Island Personal Recovery Program; and that her income consists of Social Security Disability Insurance ("SSDI") payments because she is permanently disabled. According to Tsilimparis, he suffers from bipolar disorder; receives psychiatric care for his illness from the Family Service League's South Shore Family Center Clinic; and his income consists of Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") payments because he is permanently disabled. Although not married, the Plaintiffs have been engaged in a romantic relationship for more than thirty years and have lived together continuously for that period. The Plaintiffs described their relationship as one that is "[s]imilar to a spousal relationship". (Compl., ¶ 3.)

On or about May 23, 2011, Sinisgallo submitted a complaint to defendant Richard Wankel's office, stating that her neighboring tenant, Michael Collins, shot the Plaintiffs' pet cat with his BB gun and injured the cat superficially. Subsequently, on May 26, 2011, Tsilimparis confronted Collins while Collins was spraying the grass in front of the Plaintiffs' apartment. The culmination of this interaction resulted in Tsilimparis physically striking Collins.

On July 13, 2011, Collins filed a complaint with the Suffolk County Police Department regarding the May 26, 2011 altercation. The criminal violation was Adjourned in Contemplation of Dismissal, pursuant to New York Criminal Procedure Law § 170.55.

On May 27, 2011, Sinisgallo received a notice from the IHA terminating her tenancy and participation in the Program. On June 15, 2011, Sinisgallo requested an informal settlement telephone conference to review the determination to terminate her residency. This conference was held between Sinisgallo and Wankel. In this informal hearing, Sinisgallo was not represented by counsel, and argued that her tenancy should not be terminated because Tsilimparis struck Collins in self-defense. On August 1, 2011, Sinisgallo received a Summary Decision and termination notice, which stated that the IHA had determined to continue the eviction process. (Compl., Ex. B.) Consistent with IHA procedures, Sinisgallo made a written request for a formal administrative hearing, which was granted.

The administrative hearing to review the termination of the Plaintiff's tenancy was held over two sessions on December 20, 2011 and January 9, 2012. These proceedings were presided over by defendant Paul E. Levitt, a private attorney who was acting in his capacity as a the Hearing Officer.

At the hearing, Levitt heard the testimony of Collins, Wankel, Sinisgallo, Tsilimparis, and Lillian Barnes, a neighbor who witnessed the altercation. The Plaintiffs were represented by counsel and had an opportunity to cross-examine witnesses, present evidence, and submit post-hearing written briefs. At the hearing, the Plaintiffs argued that they were disabled individuals and that Tsilimparis's conduct was caused by his disability. In support of this contention, the Plaintiffs submitted a letter dated September 26, 2011 from Meredith Braddock, Licensed Master Social Worker ("LMSW") to the Nassau Suffolk Law Services, stating as follows:

Mr. Tsilimparis has been a client at our South Shore Family Center Clinic since 9/08. Mr. Tsilimparis is being treated for Bipolar Disorder. On 5/27/11 Mr. Tsilimparis' medication was adjusted and therapy was intensified due to present symptoms. He is now being seen for weekly individual therapy with Licensed Master Social Worker and monthly medication management with our Psychiatrist. He is being treated with Symbyax, Tegretol and Clonazepam. . . . . (Compl., Ex. C.) According to the Plaintiffs, during the hearing, they requested a reasonable accommodation based on their various disabilities, which they contend would have permitted them to continue to participate in the Program. In particular, they sought a probationary period during which a further determination could be made that the change to Tsilimparis's medical treatment would continue to prevent a recurrence of his violent behavior towards Collins or other tenants.

Following the hearing, counsel for both sides submitted written memoranda. (Compl., Ex. E.) The Plaintiffs' submission primarily argued that the IHA's decision to terminate their tenancy violated the FHA because they were disabled individuals and therefore entitled to a reasonable accommodation. In addition to other exhibits, the Plaintiffs attached to their submission the Joint Statement of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Justice, Reasonable Accommodations Under the Fair Housing Act 14 (May 17, 2004) ("Joint Statement"). (Compl., Ex. E at Ex. A.) For its part, the IHA argued that it was not required to offer a reasonable accommodation to a tenant that engages in illegal behavior, or, in the alternative, that no reasonable accommodation existed that would eliminate the threat posed by Tsilimparis to the other tenants. Finally, the Plaintiffs submitted a supplemental letter on January 27, 2012, arguing that the empirical evidence indicated that the attack was an isolated incident insofar as, since the changes to Tsilimparis's medication, no further incident had occurred despite continued provocation by Collins. (Compl., Ex. F.) In this letter submission, the Plaintiffs reiterated their request for a reasonable accommodation and that the termination of their tenancy be rescinded pursuant to the FHA. (Id.)

On March 1, 2012, Levitt issued a decision finding that Sinisgallo had violated lease provision paragraphs XIV(a)(7) and IX(k)(L)(1) ("the Decision"). (Compl., Ex. D.) In the Decision, after summarizing the testimony, Levitt stated that, based on "the evidence presented at the hearing and the post-hearing arguments", he found that "Steven Tsilimparis did strike Michael Collins with his fist causing injury and bleeding to Collins' left eye on or about May 26, 2011." (Decision at 4.) As a result, Levitt held:

I find that since Sinisgallo violated lease provision paragraph XIV(a)(7) which provides that a lease may be terminated for serious or repeated violations such as criminal activity by tenant, household member, guest or other person under tenant's control. Tsilimparis struck Michael Collins with his fist causing injury and bleeding to Collins' left eye and nose. This was unprovoked activity and was not in self-defense. Tsilimparis threatened the health, safety, and right to peaceful enjoyment of the public housing premises by Collins, a resident of the same project. I also find that Sinisgallo and Tsilimparis violated the "Tenant's Obligations", more specifically, paragraph IX(k)(L)(1).

(Decision at 7.) Although Levitt discussed the credibility of the various witnesses with respect to the incident, absent from the Decision was any reference to the Plaintiffs' request for a reasonable accommodation or the allegation that the termination of their tenancy violated the FHA. In addition, while Levitt referenced the existence of the letter from Social Worker Braddock regarding Tsilimparis's disability and treatment, he did not explain whether or to what extent it affected his decision.

Thereafter, the IHA commenced a summary holdover proceeding in the Fifth District Court of Suffolk County, Index Number ISLT 12-588, to enforce the eviction of the Plaintiffs ("the eviction proceedings" or the "summary holdover proceeding").

On April 4, 2012, the Plaintiffs commenced the present lawsuit asserting five causes of action as against all of the Defendants, alleging that: (1) the Defendants' policies and practices of denying requests for reasonable accommodations made by persons with disabilities constitutes discrimination against persons with disabilities in violation of the ADA, FHA, and Rehabilitation Act, and (2) by failing to provide a reasonable accommodation for Tsilimparis's disability, the Defendants' termination of their participation in the Program violated the FHA, ADA, and Rehabilitation Act. In addition the Plaintiffs assert claims for relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983"), alleging that the Defendants: (1) deprived them of their Fourteenth Amendment right to due process by failing to provide them with an impartial hearing officer and (2) acted under color of law, custom or policy in the administration of their duties to deprive the Plaintiffs of their rights under the ADA, FHA, Rehabilitation Act, and United States Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1437d(k). The Plaintiffs filed an application for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction, along with their summons and complaint.

Because the Plaintiffs seek to have this Court enjoin a state court proceeding, the Court directed the parties to submit supplemental briefing addressing whether: (1) the Anti-Injunction Act precluded the Court from enjoining the eviction proceeding, and (2) Younger abstention warranted the dismissal of the complaint. Thereafter, on April 11, 2012, the Court held a hearing. At the conclusion of the hearing, the IHA agreed to voluntarily stay the eviction proceeding until April 26, 2012. On April 23, 2012, at the request of the Court, the IHA agreed to an extension of the voluntary stay until May 10, 2012. Finally, on May 10, 2012, the IHA agreed to an additional voluntary stay of the eviction proceeding until May 24, 2012. As a practical matter, based on the calendar of the Suffolk County district court, under the current extension, the earliest date the eviction proceeding would recommence would be May 31, 2012.

As set forth below, the Court finds that neither the Anti-Injunction Act, nor Younger abstention prevent the Court from enjoining the state court eviction proceeding. Furthermore, while the Court finds that the Plaintiffs are not entitled to injunctive relief on their claims asserted pursuant to Section 1983, the Court finds that the Plaintiffs' have met the requisite standard for obtaining preliminary injunctive relief based on their claim that the IHA violated their rights under the FHA, ADA, and Rehabilitation Act claims ("the federal disability claims").

II. DISCUSSION

A. Whether the Younger Abstention Doctrine and the Anti-Injunction Act Preclude Preliminary Relief

The threshold issue before this Court is whether the Anti-Injunction Act or the Younger abstention doctrine preclude the Court from granting the Plaintiffs the preliminary injunctive relief they seek.

As an initial matter, the Court notes that neither party, either in their written submissions or at the hearing, addressed the impact of the Plaintiffs' claims pursuant to Section 1983 on the Court's Anti-Injunction Act and Younger abstention analysis. However, because the Court ultimately finds that the Plaintiffs do not show a sufficient likelihood of success on the merits of their Section 1983 claims to warrant a preliminary injunction, the Court, like the parties, focuses its analysis exclusively on the Plaintiffs' claims under the federal disability statutes.

The federal Anti-Injunction Act provides that "[a] Court of the United States may not grant an injunction to stay proceedings in a State court except as expressly authorized by Act of Congress, or where necessary in aid of its jurisdiction, or to protect or effectuate its judgments."

28 U.S.C. § 2283. This Act presents an absolute ban on enjoining any state court proceeding, unless the facts of the case bring the matter within one of the three narrowly construed exceptions. Vendo Co. v. Lektro-Vend Corp., 433 U.S. 623, 630, 97 S. Ct. 2881, 2887, 53 L. Ed. 2d 1009 (1977); Mitchum v. Foster, 407 U.S. 225, 228--29, 92 S. Ct. 2151, 32 L. Ed. 2d 705 (1972).

[A] federal court does not have inherent power to ignore the limitations of § 2283 and to enjoin state court proceedings merely because those proceedings interfere with a protected federal right or invade an area pre-empted by federal law, even when the interference is unmistakably clear. Rather, when a state proceeding presents a federal issue, even a preemption issue, the proper course is to seek resolution of that issue by the state court.

Chick Kam Choo v. Exxon Corp., 486 U.S. 140, 149--50, 108 S. Ct. 1684, 100 L. Ed. 2d 127 (1988) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). "The three excepted circumstances are (i) the express provisions of another act of Congress authorizing such an order; (ii) necessity in aid of the federal court's jurisdiction and (iii) the need to protect or effectuate the federal court's judgments." Standard Microsystems Corp. v. Texas Instruments Inc., 916 F.2d 58, 60 (2d Cir. 1990) (citing Atl. Coast Line R.R. Co. v. Bhd. of Locomotive Eng'rs, 398 U.S. 281, 287--88, 90 S. Ct. 1739, 1743--44, 26 L. Ed. 2d 234 (1970)).

At the hearing, the Plaintiffs argued that, because they are seeking to enjoin the IHA from prosecuting the state court action, and not the state court action itself, the Anti-Injunction Act is inapplicable. However, this is a distinction without a difference. As the United States Supreme Court found in Atlantic Coast Line, the Anti--Injunction Act "cannot be evaded by addressing the order to the parties or prohibiting utilization of the results of a completed state proceeding". Atl. Coast Line, 398 U.S. at 287, 90 S. Ct. 1739; see also Pathways, Inc. v. Dunne, 329 F.3d 108, 113 (2d Cir. 2003) (citing County of Imperial v. Munoz, 449 U.S. 54, 58--59, 101 S. Ct. 289, 66 L. Ed. 2d 258 (1980) for the proposition that federal court may not effectively enjoin state proceeding by framing injunction as restraint on parties)); Studebaker Corp. v. Gittlin, 360 F.2d 692, 696 (2d Cir. 1966) (holding that the statutory bar set by the Anti-Injunction Act cannot be avoiding "by directing the injunction solely to a party as distinguished from the state court").

Thus, unless the Plaintiffs' federal disability claims fit within one of three exceptions, the Anti-Injunction Act precludes this Court from enjoining a state court eviction proceeding. Allen v. N.Y. City Hous. Auth., No. 10-CV-168, 2010 WL 1644956, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. April 20, 2010) ("Courts in this Circuit have repeatedly held that the Anti-Injunction Act bars a federal court from enjoining state-court eviction proceedings.") (collecting cases); cf. Watkins v. Ceasar, 88 F. App'x 458, 459 (2d Cir. 2004) (affirming denial of motion for preliminary injunction to stay a state court eviction proceeding on the grounds that the federal district court was barred by the Anti-Injunction Act).

Here, the parties primarily dispute whether the second exception applies, namely, whether enjoining the eviction proceeding is "necessary in aid of [the federal court's] jurisdiction." 28 U.S.C. § 2283. A federal court properly acts "in aid of its jurisdiction" where enjoining state proceedings is "necessary to prevent a state court from so interfering with a federal court's consideration or disposition of a case as to seriously impair the federal court's flexibility and authority to decide that case." Atl. Coast Line, 398 U.S. at 295, 90 S. Ct. 1739; see also Bess v. Spitzer, 459 F. Supp. 2d 191, 202 (E.D.N.Y. 2007) (Spatt, J.).

Courts have held that this second exception is applicable when a plaintiff cannot present his or her federal claims in the state court eviction proceeding. For example, in McNeill v. New York City Housing Authority, 719 F. Supp. 233, 256 (S.D.N.Y. 1989) the plaintiffs alleged that the New York City Housing Authority's ("NYCHA") procedures for terminating their Section 8 benefits violated their constitutional right to due process and their rights under the United States Housing Act and federal HUD regulations. Although the plaintiffs received their Section 8 benefits from the NYCHA, their leases were with private landlords. As a result, when the NYCHA terminated their Section 8 benefits and they were no longer able to pay their rent, the private landlords commenced eviction proceedings against the plaintiffs. The court held that the "in aid of jurisdiction" to the Anti-Injunction Act applied, reasoning that:

Unless eviction proceedings are stayed long enough to adjudicate plaintiffs' alleged right to retroactive reinstatement in the Section 8 program, plaintiffs will be evicted before this case can be decided. In this event, the Court will be unable to accord meaningful relief to the parties. Reinstatement in Section 8 without an apartment would be tantamount to no relief at all. Similarly, a change in NYCHA's Section 8 termination policies and practices would mean little to plaintiffs who have already lost their apartments. Preliminary injunctive relief thus is essential to aid this Court's ability to decide the claims and accord the appropriate relief.

Id. at 256. Central to the court's rationale was that the NYCHA was not, and could not become, a party to the state court eviction proceedings, which were between the private landlords and the plaintiffs. Thus, if the eviction proceedings were not enjoined, the court would be "unable to accord meaningful relief to the parties". Id.; see also Lattimore v. Northwest Co-op. Homes Ass'n, No. 90-CV-49, 1990 WL 10521534, at *4 (D.D.C. March 26, 1990) (holding that the court was not barred from enjoining the eviction proceeding based on the second exception to the Anti-Injunction Act because the plaintiff could "not raise her claims as a defense in the eviction proceeding"); cf. Caulder v. Durham Hous. Auth., 433 F.2d 998, 1002 (4th Cir. 1970) (affirming the district court's injunction of a state court eviction proceeding where the "plaintiff's right, if any, to litigate the issues in a state court appears more theoretical than real" and "therefore, that the factual basis on which to invoke the prohibition of § 2283 is lacking and the case is one in which the state proceedings may be enjoined 'in aid of * * * (the district courts) jurisdiction'").

By contrast, courts have found that where a plaintiff "could fully preserve in state court" as a defense the claims asserted in federal court, the second exception to the Anti-Injunction Act is not applicable because the "pendency of the state court proceedings would not meaningfully threaten th[e] Court's jurisdiction". Sierra v. City of New York, 528 F. Supp. 2d 465, 468 (S.D.N.Y. 2008); Bosch v. Lamattina, No. 08-CV-238, 2008 WL 4820247, at *7 (E.D.N.Y. Nov. 4, 2008) (holding that the Anti-Injunction Act barred the court from enjoining eviction proceedings in the Suffolk County District Court, Fifth District because the court had jurisdiction to hear the plaintiff's claims under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act); Armstrong v. Real Estate Intern., Ltd., No. 05-CV-5383, 2006 WL 354983, at *4 (E.D.N.Y. Feb. 14, 2006) (holding that the Anti-Injunction Act barred the court from enjoining eviction proceedings because "claims for rescission under TILA can be brought in state court, including as a defense to an eviction claim in Housing Court"); cf. Atl. Coast Line, 398 U.S. at 295, 90 S. Ct. at 1747 ("the state and federal courts had concurrent jurisdiction in this [labor dispute] and neither court was free to prevent either party from simultaneously pursuing claims in both courts").

Thus, if the Plaintiffs cannot assert their federal disability claims in the pending summary holdover proceeding, the Court would not be precluded by the Anti-Injunction Act from granting the requested injunctive relief.

In addition to the Anti-Injunction Act, the "Younger abstention doctrine creates a separate and independent barrier to federal court injunctions of pending state court proceedings." Erwin Chemerinsky, Federal Jurisdiction § 11.2.1 (4th ed. 2003). "The Younger abstention rule refers to the principle of federalism that 'a federal court may not enjoin a pending state criminal proceeding in the absence of special circumstances suggesting bad faith, harassment or irreparable injury that is both serious and immediate.'" Pathways, Inc. v. Dunne, 329 F.3d 108, 113--14 (2d Cir. 2003) (quoting Kirschner v. Klemons, 225 F.3d 227, 233 (2d Cir. 2000)).

The principles enunciated in Younger have been expanded to civil proceedings. See Huffman v. Pursue, Ltd., 420 U.S. 592, 594, 95 S. Ct. 1200, 43 L. Ed. 2d 482 (1975). Notably, in the "interests of comity and federalism," the Younger abstention doctrine requires federal courts to abstain from jurisdiction "whenever federal claims have been or could be presented in ongoing state judicial proceedings that concern important state interests." Hawaii Hous. Auth. v. Midkiff, 467 U.S. 229, 237--38, 104 S. Ct. 2321, 81 L. Ed. 2d 186 (1984) (emphasis added). Thus, as with the second exception to the Anti-Injunction Act, Younger abstention "does not apply when a plaintiff's federal claims cannot be presented in pending state proceedings." Tellock v. Davis, No. 02-CV-4311, 2002 WL 31433589, at *4 (E.D.N.Y. Oct. 31, 2002) (citing Kirschner, 225 F.3d at 233); see also McNeill, 719 F. Supp. at 256 (holding that, because the "pending eviction proceedings do not give plaintiffs an adequate forum to challenge termination of their Section 8 assistance . . . under the exceptions to the doctrine of Younger abstention and the Anti-Injunction Act, the Court may stay housing court proceedings until the validity of the termination of plaintiffs' assistance can be decided.").

Accordingly, central to the Court's analysis under either the Anti-Injunction Act or the Younger abstention doctrine is whether the Plaintiffs can assert their federal disability claims in the pending state court proceeding. The Plaintiffs contend that the Fifth District Court of the State of New York, County of Suffolk, where the eviction proceeding is pending, either cannot or will not entertain federal claims in opposition to an eviction proceeding brought by the IHA. Although the IHA cites Sierra for the proposition that the Plaintiffs can assert their federal disability claims in the summary holdover proceeding, the IHA primarily argues that the Court should deny the Plaintiffs' request for injunctive relief and abstain from this case because the Plaintiffs can assert their claims in an Article 78 proceeding in the New York state courts.

There is little caselaw on the burden a plaintiff must meet to show that they cannot raise their federal claims in the ongoing state proceeding for the purposes of meeting the second exception of the Anti-Injunction Act. In Caulder v. Durham Housing Authority, 433 F.2d 998 (4th Cir. 1970), the Fourth Circuit affirmed the injunction of a state court eviction proceeding where it seemed that "plaintiff's right, if any, to litigate the issues in a state court appear[ed] more theoretical than real". Id. at 1002. Similarly, to establish the inadequacy of state remedies for the purposes of avoiding Younger abstention, the Plaintiffs must "show[ ] that the State's laws, procedures, or practices would prevent [their] effective interposition of [their] federal contentions". Kirschner, 225 F.3d at 235; see also Spargo v. New York State Com'n on Judicial Conduct, 351 F.3d 65, 78 (2d Cir. 2003) (holding that, to avoid Younger abstention, plaintiffs "must demonstrate that state law bars the effective consideration of their [federal] claims").

As set forth below, the Court finds that: (1) the availability of an Article 78 proceeding is not relevant to the Court's Anti-Injunction Act and Younger abstention analysis, and (2) under the current case law in New York, the Plaintiffs ability to litigate their federal disability claims in the state court eviction proceeding is "more theoretical than real", and that they have met their burden of showing that the state court is unlikely to hear their federal disability claims for purposes of Younger abstention.

1. As to the Availability of an Article 78 Proceeding

The Defendants contend that, because the FHA, ADA, and Rehabilitation Act claims can be raised in an Article 78 proceeding, the Anti-Injunction Act precludes the Court from enjoining the summary holdover proceeding. The Plaintiffs do not dispute that they could bring their claims in an Article 78 proceeding. Rather, the Plaintiffs argue that the existence of an Article 78 proceeding is irrelevant because they are not required to assert their federal claims in an Article 78 proceeding. The Court agrees.

The relevant focus of the Anti-Injunction Act and the Younger abstention doctrine are the federal court's powers and limitations with respect to "ongoing" state proceedings. Because an Article 78 proceeding "is not an 'appeal' but rather a new proceeding challenging a decision by an administrative body or officer", the Court is not precluded from enjoining the summary holdover proceeding or divested of jurisdiction over the Plaintiffs' federal claims merely because an Article 78 remedy is available. Meachem v. Wing, 77 F. Supp. 2d 431, 442 (S.D.N.Y. 1999) (citing N.Y. C.P.L.R. § 7804 (characterizing Article 78 proceeding as a "special proceeding" and specifying where such a proceeding may be "brought"); N.Y. C.P.L.R. § 7801 (providing that an Article 78 proceeding cannot be used to challenge a determination that "can be adequately reviewed by appeal to a court or to some other body")); cf. Huffman v. Pursue, Ltd., 420 U.S. 592, 608, 95 S. Ct. 1200, 43 L. Ed. 2d 482 (1975) (holding that because the plaintiff had not exhausted his state court appeals, abstention was appropriate because "[v]irtually all of the evils at which Younger is directed would inhere in federal intervention prior to completion of state appellate proceedings.").
Indeed, it is well-settled that a plaintiff is not required to exhaust administrative remedies before commencing an FHA, ADA, or Rehabilitation Act claim in federal court. See Huntington Branch, N.A.A.C.P. v. Town of Huntington, 689 F.2d 391, 394 n.3 (2d Cir. 1982) (holding that a party challenging a municipality's zoning decision under the FHA does not need to exhaust administrative remedies, even where, as here, the "reasonable accommodation" test is invoked); Advocacy and Res. Ctr. v. Town of Chazy, 62 F. Supp. 2d 686, 688 (N.D.N.Y. 1999) (holding that, because the FHA explicitly provides that "an aggrieved party does not need to exhaust parallel administrative remedies provided through [HUD] before commencing a Federal action. . . . . It would seem logical that if an aggrieved party does not need to exhaust HUD remedies before filing a federal action, he or she should not have to exhaust local remedies.") (citing 42 U.S.C. § 3613(B)(2)); Sokoya v. 4343 Clarendon Condo Ass'n, No. 96-CV-5278, 1996 WL 699634, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 27, 1996) ("In addition, a plaintiff need not exhaust available administrative remedies before filing a private action for violation of Section 3604(a).") (citing 42 U.S.C. 3613(a)(2); Gladstone Realtors v. Village of Bellwood, 441 U.S. 91, 103--4, 99 S. Ct. 1601, 60 L. Ed. 2d 66 (1979)); cf. Tsombanidis v. West Haven Fire Dept., 352 F.3d 565, 578--79 (2d Cir. 2003) (noting that, after the plaintiff has provided the governmental entity an "opportunity to accommodate them through the entity's established procedures . . . . It may be that once the governmental entity denies such an accommodation, neither the FHAA nor the ADA require a plaintiff to exhaust the state or local administrative procedures") (emphasis in original); Joseph's House and Shelter, Inc. v. City of Troy Planning Bd., No. 05-CV-513, 2009 WL 2413936, at *1 (N.D.N.Y. March 31, 2009) ("It is well-established that plaintiffs are entitled to bring an FHA and ADA claim based on a discriminatory land use decision, even if a state-court Article 78 proceeding is available." (citing Reg'l Econ. Ctmy. Action Program, Inc. v. City of Middletown, 294 F.3d 35, 45 (2d Cir. 2002)).

Moreover, neither the HUD regulations nor the IHA Grievance Procedures require a tenant to exhaust administrative remedies insofar as they both provide that:

A decision by the hearing officer, hearing panel, or Board of Commissioners in favor of the PHA or which denies the relief requested by the complainant in whole or in part shall not constitute a waiver of, nor affect in any manner whatever, any rights the complainant may have to a trial de novo or judicial review in any judicial proceedings, which may thereafter be brought in the matter.

24 C.F.R. § 966.57(c) (IHA Grievance Procedure VII.E.). Furthermore, the Joint Statement advises public housing tenants that, if they feel that a housing authority has denied them a reasonable accommodation in violation of their rights under the FHA, they can either: (1) file a complaint with HUD or (2) file a complaint in federal court. Joint Statement at 14.

Nevertheless, while the Decision may not "affect in any manner" the Plaintiffs' right to commence this federal action, it does not provide the Court with jurisdiction to review aspects of the Decision that are unrelated to the Plaintiffs' federal claims. For example, the Plaintiffs argue that the Defendants should have exercised their discretion pursuant to 24 C.F.R. § 966.4 to consider mitigating factors and provide a less harsh sanction, and then state, without any supporting caselaw, that "[t]his Court has supplemental jurisdiction to consider the severity of the penalty to be imposed". (Pl.'s Initial Mem. at 5.) Furthermore, in the context of arguing that Levitt was not an impartial decisionmaker, the Plaintiffs dispute his factual findings, credibility determinations, and compliance with IHA grievance procedures. The Court can only consider these challenges to the extent they violated the Plaintiffs' due process rights, and not the propriety of the ultimate decision. As the Second Circuit held in Lopez v. Henry Phipps Plaza South, Inc.,

It is well to repeat at the outset that the Civil Rights Act does not empower a federal judge to interfere with a 'state' landlord's decision not to renew a lease simply because he thinks the decision harsh or unwise; he is authorized to do this only if the tenant has been deprived of due process of law. 498 F.2d 937, 944--45 (2d Cir. 1974); see also Coastal Commc'ns Serv., Inc. v. City of New York, 658 F. Supp. 2d 425, 459 (E.D.N.Y. 2009) ("The overwhelming majority of district courts confronted with the question of whether to ...


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