November 3, 2016
from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia
(LTB-33698-11) (Hon. Erik P. Christian, Trial Judge)
Timothy P. Cole for appellant.
Bernard A. Gray, Sr., for appellee.
Ball Cooper, Julia H. Becker and Jonathan H. Levy, Legal Aid
Society of the District of Columbia, filed a brief as amicus
curiae in support of appellee.
Glickman, Associate Judge, and Washington,  and Nebeker,
Washington, Senior Judge.
the arrest of appellee Charles Anderson
("Anderson") for criminal behavior, Southern Hills
Limited Partnership ("Southern Hills") attempted to
personally serve him on two occasions with a Notice to Quit
summons and a Verified Complaint for Possession of Real
Property at the residence from which Anderson was being
evicted. After Anderson failed to respond to the door on the
second occasion, Southern Hills posted the notice on his
door. Anderson failed to appear for the scheduled hearing and
a default judgment was entered against him. Upon further
review of that decision by an Associate Judge of the Superior
Court, the default judgment was vacated and the case was
dismissed because Southern Hills failed to properly serve
Anderson with the notice of the eviction proceeding. On
appeal, Southern Hills contends the trial court erred in
dismissing its case for ineffective service of process
because it had complied with the statute by attempting
personal service twice at Anderson's residence prior to
posting. For the reasons stated below, we affirm.
Hills owns and operates a federally subsidized multi-family
property located at 4339 4th Street, S.E., Washington, D.C.
20032 ("the Property"). Anderson occupied an
apartment ("the Premises") within the Property
pursuant to a written lease with Southern Hills. On September
17, 2011, Anderson was arrested for a violent assault,
selling drugs, and operating a brothel out of his apartment.
The circumstances surrounding Anderson's arrest violated
the terms of his lease with Southern Hills,  and Anderson was
asked to vacate the premises before November 10, 2011.
However, Anderson testified that when he arrived at the
housing complex in November of 2011, a security
guard stationed at the Property showed him a
notice that forbade him from being on the
Property, effective immediately.
December 6, 2011, Southern Hills filed a complaint for
possession and attempted to personally serve Anderson with a
copy of the complaint at his apartment on December 13, 2011
and December 15, 2011. When Southern Hills was unsuccessful
the second time to personally serve Anderson at his
apartment, Southern Hills immediately posted the summons and
complaint on Anderson's front door and mailed a copy to
him at that same address. No other attempt was made to locate
and serve Anderson with the summons and complaint even though
Southern Hills was aware of Anderson's September 17
arrest on evictable charges and despite the fact that
Southern Hills had issued a barring notice against him on
November 10, 2011.
December 28, 2011, a hearing was held regarding Southern
Hills' lawsuit for possession and, upon Anderson's
failure to appear, a non-redeemable judgment by default was
entered in favor of Southern Hills. On May 4, 2012, Anderson
filed a motion to set aside the default on grounds that the
court lacked jurisdiction due to improper service of process,
and the motion was granted. Southern Hills appealed to this
court, and we remanded for "factual findings and
conclusions of law pertaining to the decision to grant the
motion to set aside the default judgment." The lower
court then submitted an Order on September 21, 2015, vacating
the judgment for possession entered against Anderson.
Southern Hills timely filed this appeal.
the method of service [ ] comports with the applicable rule [
] is a question of law, which we review de
novo." In re N.N.N., 985 A.2d 1113, 1118
(D.C. 2009). See, e.g., Jones v. Hersh, 845
A.2d 541, 544 (D.C. 2004). The appellant bears the burden of
"convincing the appellate court that the trial ...