United States District Court, District of Columbia
COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court is Defendants Tyrone Garrett and the
District of Columbia Housing Authority's Motion to
Dismiss, ECF No. 26. Defendants have moved to dismiss various
claims in the Amended Complaint, ECF No. 24, under Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) for lack of
subject-matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim.
In particular, Defendants contend that Ms. Chavis's
claims seeking injunctive and declaratory relief are moot in
light of Defendants' post-filing actions. Moreover,
Defendants argue that Ms. Chavis has failed to state a claim
for a Fifth Amendment due process violation. Ms. Chavis
opposes Defendants' Motion, except, in part, to the
extent that Defendants seek to dismiss Ms. Chavis's
claims against Defendant Tyrone Garrett.
consideration of the briefing,  the relevant legal authorities,
and the record as a whole, the Court GRANTS
Defendants' Motion. Insofar as Ms. Chavis's claims
seek injunctive or declaratory relief, they are
DISMISSED due to their mootness. Because Ms.
Chavis has failed to state a due process claim, that claim is
DISMISSED. Lastly, as Ms. Chavis concedes
that the suit against Mr. Garrett should be dismissed without
prejudice, that suit is DISMISSED WITHOUT
Chavis married Roger Avent on February 15, 2000 and they have
three children together. Am. Compl. ¶ 23. On or about
December 1, 2017, Ms. Chavis and Mr. Avent received an
enhanced voucher under the Housing and Urban-Rural Recovery
Act of 1983 (“HVCP”). Id. ¶ 24. Mr.
Avent listed himself as the “head of household”
on the voucher without Ms. Chavis's knowledge.
Id. ¶ 25. While they lived together, Mr.
Avent's income accounted for one-third of the household
income and Ms. Chavis's accounted for the remaining
two-thirds. Id. ¶ 26.
September 2, 2018, Ms. Avent verbally threatened Ms.
Chavis's life in the presence of their children.
Id. ¶ 27. Ms. Chavis subsequently contacted the
police, filed a police report, and obtained a Civil
Protection Order against Mr. Avent. Id. Mr. Avent
vacated the household while Ms. Chavis and her children
remained tenants. Id. ¶ 28. In the wake of this
event, Ms. Chavis became concerned that she might lose her
housing voucher, and become unable to pay her rent, because
Mr. Avent was listed as the head of household. Id.
primer on the relevant federal and D.C. laws provides context
for Ms. Chavis's concerns and actions. Under the federal
Violence Against Women Act (“VAWA”), 34 U.S.C.
§ 12291 et seq., tenants that otherwise qualify
for assistance under HVCP may not be denied that assistance
on the basis that they are or have been victims of domestic
violence, id. § 12491(b)(1). The implementing
regulations specify that if an assisted family breaks up due
to “an occurrence of domestic violence, ” the
local housing authority “must ensure that the victim
retains assistance.” 24 C.F.R. § 982.315(a)(2).
The D.C. Housing Authority Administrative Plan further
guarantees that when families break up due to occurrences of
domestic violence, the “victim of the violence or
offense shall continue to receive assistance.” 14
D.C.M.R. § 5317.6(b)(1); see Id. § 5317.6.
Administrative Plan also provides specific procedures for
when it receives documentation that the head of household
committed domestic violence against another member of the
household. If the Housing Authority “receives
conflicting certification documents of domestic
violence” from members of the household alleging that
one or more other members was the perpetrator, the Housing
Authority undertakes a certain process to determine who will
retain assistance. See Id. § 5317.6(c)(1)-(4).
Before it can make any determination, the Housing Authority
must notify both individuals that only one part of the family
will retain assistance, of the process by which the Housing
Authority will make its decision, and of what information the
involved persons can provide. Id. 5317.6(c)(1)-(2).
Once it has made its determination, the Housing Authority
must notify both individuals in writing of its decision as
well as the basis for its decision. Id. §
5317.6(c)(3). The adult family member who will not receive
assistance can challenge the decision in an informal hearing.
Id. § 5317.6(c)(4).
D.C. Municipal Regulations independently provide that when
the Housing Authority takes adverse action against
individuals, including decisions terminating assistance under
HVCP, the individuals adversely affected are entitled to
notice and can challenge the adverse action in an informal
hearing. Id. § 8902.1. On November 29, 2018,
the Housing Authority issued new regulations that govern the
family break-up process in the context of domestic violence
and clarifying the process for removing the head of
household. Am. Compl. ¶ 34.
October 10, 2018, Ms. Chavis, through counsel, contacted the
Housing Authority to initiate the family break-up process.
Id. ¶ 30. On October 26, 2018, she and her
counsel met with three Housing Authority officials.
Id. ¶ 31. They provided the officials with the
copy of the Civil Protection Order and a letter that Ms.
Chavis had obtained from D.C. Survivors and Advocates for
Empowerment attesting that she was a victim of domestic
violence and that she had sought relevant services.
Id. The Housing Authority said it would be in touch,
but it did not contact Ms. Chavis or her counsel for the next
month. Id. ¶ 32.
November 29, 2018, Ms. Chavis, through counsel, sent a letter
to the Housing Authority to confirm that Ms. Chavis would
continue to receive assistance, but she received no response.
Id. ¶ 33. She sent another letter, through
counsel, on December 13, 2018, requesting that the Housing
Authority comply with the new regulations issued on November
29, 2018. Id. ¶ 35. She requested a response by
December 19, 2018 but received none. Id. Then, on
December 21, 2018, Ms. Chavis, again through counsel, sent a
letter to Watson Fennell, who was the Director of the Office
of Fair Hearings at the Housing Authority, requesting an
informal resolution or hearing regarding the Housing
Authority's failure to act on her request. Id.
December 26, 2018, an official at the Housing Authority
informed Ms. Chavis that she was going to be issued a
temporary voucher because she met “the VAWA
definition.” Id. ¶ 37. The Housing
Authority specified that the voucher could be revoked based
on a future hearing that Mr. Avent had a right to request.
Id. ¶ 38. It also explained that it would not
initiate voucher payments to her landlord due to the
voucher's temporary status. Id. After Ms.
Chavis's counsel communicated further with the Housing
Authority, the Housing Authority also stated that it would
not begin the recertification process to establish Ms. Chavis
as temporary head of household so that Mr. Avent's income
could be excluded for the purposes of calculating the
assistance that Ms. Chavis received. Id. ¶ 39.
Ms. Chavis explains that this put her at risk of eviction due
to nonpayment of rent. Id. ¶¶ 40-43.
on January 9, 2019, Ms. Chavis requested a hearing with the
Housing Authority. Id. ¶ 43. The Housing
Authority's Fair Hearings Administrator issued a letter
denying her request for a hearing. Id. ¶ 44.
The letter included the following:
[Y]our request for an informal hearing . . . [is denied
because] . . . it has been determined according to our
records that your client (Loren Avent) is not the
head-of-household and therefore, not entitled to an
The regulations governing the grievance process specifies
that the head-of-household serves as the basis for income
eligibility and rent determination as well as assumes legal
responsibility for the household. For that reason, your
client does not have standing to initiate the Housing Choice
Voucher Program Informal Hearing Procedures under 14 DCMR
While I am sympathetic to your client's circumstances,
the administrative grievance process does not entitle
individual members of a household composition to request a
hearing except, the head of household. Although an
administrative review cannot be granted through DCHA's
grievance process, this decision does not affect your
client's rights to due process through the judicial
Id. The Housing Authority soon after denied Ms.
Chavis's request that she receive continued assistance
and halted sending any payments to Ms. Chavis's landlord.
Id. ¶ 46. On March 8, 2019, Ms. Chavis's
landlord filed a Verified Complaint for Possession of her
apartment because she had failed to pay the full rent for
January, February, and March 2019. Id. ¶¶
47-48. Ms. Chavis filed the first Complaint in this action on
March 13, 2019, along with a Motion for Preliminary
Injunction. Id. ¶ 50.
the suit was filed, the Housing Authority paid back rent due
to the landlord; the landlord consequently dismissed the
action for possession of the apartment. Id. ¶
51. The Housing Authority also issued a voucher to Ms.
Chavis. Joint Status Report, ECF No. 19, at 2. The parties
continued to dispute the amount that Ms. Chavis would receive
going forward, but ultimately, by April 18, 2019, the parties
agreed that the Housing Authority “had issued Ms.
Chavis a housing voucher in a legally sufficient
amount.” Am. Compl. ¶ 51; see also Joint
Status Report, ECF No. 22. Ms. Chavis withdrew her Motion for
a Preliminary Injunction. Am. Compl. ¶ 51; Joint Status
Report, ECF No. 22.
Chavis filed an Amended Complaint on May 16, 2019.
See ECF No. 24. Her Complaint alleges violation of
the Fifth Amendment's due process clause (Count I),
violation of VAWA (Count II), and violation of Title 14 of
the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations (Count III).
Am. Compl. at 13-18. She requests several types of relief.
First, she requests a permanent injunction requiring the
Housing Authority “to maintain Ms. Chavis's
permanent participation in the HVCP as required by law and to
ensure that the amount of assistance is based on her income
as required by law.” Id. at 18. Second, she
seeks a permanent injunction requiring the Housing Authority
to adopt policies and procedures consistent with the
regulations it issued on November 29, 2018 and its
obligations under VAWA and related regulations. Id.
Third, fourth, and fifth, she requests that the Court issue
declaratory judgments declaring that the Housing
Authority's actions violated the Fifth Amendment's
Due Process clause, VAWA and related implementing
regulations, and Title 14 of the District of Columbia
Municipal Regulations. Id. at 18-19. She also
requests compensatory damages for emotional distress and
nominal damages for the alleged violations. Id. at
move to dismiss portions of Ms. Chavis's Amended
Complaint under both Rule 12(b)(1) for lack of subject-matter
jurisdiction and Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim.
Subject Matter Jurisdiction ...