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Alexander v. Edgewood Management Corporation

United States District Court, District of Columbia

June 25, 2019





         Plaintiff Maurice Alexander, an African American man, alleges that he was wrongfully denied residence in 2014 at three public housing apartment buildings either owned, managed, or operated by the defendants: Edgewood Commons III: The View ("The View"), The Overlook at Oxon Run ("The Overlook"), and Capitol Gateway Senior Apartments ("Capitol Gateway"). Alexander claims that the internal policies justifying his denials gave rise to a disparate impact on the basis of race in violation of Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 ("Fair Housing Act" or "FHA"), 42 U.S.C. § 3601 et seq., and the District of Columbia Human Rights Act ("DCHRA"), D.C. Code § 2-1401 et seq[1]Alexander alleges that his denials caused him to become homeless, experience physical and emotional injuries, and endure separation from his minor son. As such, he seeks monetary damages and injunctive relief.

         Defendants Community Preservation and Development Company ("CPDC") and Edgewood Management Corporation ("Edgewood Management") (collectively "the Edgewood defendants") moved for summary judgment against Alexander's claims. CPDC owns The View and The Overlook ("the Edgewood Properties") and Edgewood Management was the managing agent in 2014.

         Defendants East Capitol Senior Rental LP ("East Capitol") and A&R Management, Inc. ("A&R") (collectively "the Capitol Gateway defendants") also moved for summary judgment against Alexander' East Capitol owns Capitol Gateway's physical assets and A&R was the managing agent until October 2014.

         I. Background

         Alexander applied for public housing in The View, Capitol Gateway, and The Overlook in March, April, and May 2014, respectively, and was denied by each. Am. Compl. ¶ 19, ECF No. 10. The View denied his application because of his criminal history and a fraud alert. Id. ¶ 23. Capitol Gateway denied his application because of his criminal history. Id. ¶ 29. The Overlook denied his application because of his criminal history and an unsatisfactory rent-to-income ratio. Id. ¶ 34.

         Federal law permits public housing owners to reject an applicant who, "during a reasonable time preceding the date when the applicant. . . would otherwise be selected for admission," committed a violent crime, a drug-related crime, or "other criminal activity which would adversely affect the health, safety, or right to peaceful enjoyment of the premises by other residents, the owner, or public housing agency employees." 42 U.S.C. § 13661(c). In 2007, Alexander was convicted of a misdemeanor (attempted threats to do bodily harm) stemming from an encounter with a police officer, and he served a ten-day sentence. Am. Compl. ¶ 8; PL's Opp'n Defs.' Mots. Summ. J. at Ex. 27, ECF No. 86-31. In disputing his denials of residency, Alexander argues that this misdemeanor does not fall into any of the aforementioned crime categories. Am. Compl. ¶40. In support of this claim, Alexander notes that the District of Columbia Housing Authority, which refers possible applicants to public housing providers, "did not reject him based on his misdemeanor conviction or on any other grounds." Id. ¶ 41.

         Alexander's disparate impact claim relies on the statistical conviction rates of African American residents of the D.C. metropolitan area whose income levels fall within the eligibility range for public housing. He cites studies and expert witness reports that demonstrate the disproportionate conviction rates of African Americans in the D.C. metropolitan area. Id. ¶¶ 53-56. See generally Decl. of Christopher Wildeman, ECF No. 86-3; Decl. of Allan Parnell, ECF No. 86-4. And so, Alexander claims that both the Edgewood and Capitol Gateway defendants (collectively "the defendants") have had a disparate impact on African Americans by establishing tenant selection plans ("TSP")[2] that allegedly go beyond the criminal screening process authorized by D.C. and federal law.[3]Am. Compl. ¶ 57.

         In their motion for summary judgment, the Capitol Gateway defendants counter these allegations with statistics and expert witness evidence demonstrating that their applicants and residents between 2012 and 2016 were all African Americans. Capitol Gateway Mot. Summ. J. 12-15, ECF No. 82; see Exs. 6-16, 18-20, ECF Nos. 80-8-80-18, 80-20-80-22. The Capitol Gateway defendants argue that there could not be a disparate impact on African American applicants like Alexander because no statistical disparity existed between the applicants and tenants. Capitol Gateway Mot. Summ. J. 17-18. The Capitol Gateway defendants insist that the relevant population for the disparate-impact analysis must be actual applicants, not potential applicants. Id. at 20-23.

         The Edgewood defendants counter Alexander's allegations in a similar fashion in their own motion for summary judgment. They argue that because "the same percentage of African[]Americans who applied for housing to The Overlook and The View [(98%)] secured housing at these properties," there is no evidence of any disparate impact.[4]Edgewood Mem. Supp. 13, ECF No. 79-2; see Edgewood Statement Material Facts ¶¶ 5, 7, 9, ECF No. 79-1; Exs. C-l, D, E, ECF Nos. 79-8-79-10. Like the Capitol Gateway defendants, the Edgewood defendants argue that this Court should look only to the actual pool of applicants when examining whether their TSPs disparately impacted African Americans. See Edgewood Mem. Supp. 16.

         The Edgewood defendants also claim that both The View and The Overlook rejected Alexander's application because of his 1991 conviction for assault with a deadly weapon. Edgewood Statement Material Facts ¶¶ 53, 56; see Exs. J-3, J-4, J-5, ECF Nos. 79-20-79-22. That conviction was eventually vacated, but the vacation information did not appear on his criminal background check. See Edgewood Mot. Summ. J. at Exs. L-5, J-5, ECF Nos. 79-28, 79-22.

         Alexander seeks, inter alia, a permanent injunction against the defendants and their agents from engaging in allegedly unlawful tenant-selection practices, compensatory damages for emotional distress and other injuries, punitive damages, and attorneys' fees. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 102-107. For the reasons that follow, Alexander fails to establish a prima facie case of disparate impact. Accordingly, this Court will grant the defendants' motions for summary judgment.

         II. Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate when no genuine issues of material fact exist and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The substantive law on which each claim rests determines which facts are "material." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A "genuine dispute" is one whose resolution could establish an element of a claim or defense and, therefore, affect the outcome of the action. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322; Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

         In assessing whether any genuine factual issues exist, a court must "draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party" without "mak[ing] credibility determinations or weigh[ing] the evidence." Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc.,530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000). The nonmoving party must still establish more than "the mere existence of a scintilla of evidence" in support of its position. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252. To prevail on its motion for summary judgment, the moving party must show that the nonmoving party "fail[ed] to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an ...

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