Jeff Catalano recently won a Massachusetts Appeals Court argument (held on Zoom) in which he represented a pro bono client who had her Section 8 housing benefits unfairly terminated by the Boston Housing Authority because her 18-year-old son was convicted of participating in a murder off premises.
The Appellant, who has multiple disabilities, had nothing to do with the crime and had no lease violations the entire time she was a Section 8 recipient. Jeff argued that the Appellant’s due process rights were violated when the BHA hearing officer failed to exercise her discretion to consider a lesser sanction than termination of the Appellant’s housing benefits, which rendered her homeless.
First, Jeff argued that the hearing officer, in contradiction to the BHA’s own Administrative Plan and federal regulations, failed to recognize that she had the authority to consider removing the Appellant’s son from the voucher as a lesser sanction than termination after hearing that her son had been incarcerated and no longer resided on the premises.
Second, the hearing officer did not seek additional evidence about the nature and scope of the Appellant’s disabilities, her various ongoing medical care and treatment, and how termination may negatively impact her health and her life, all of which are important considerations.
On July 27, 2020, the Appeals Court ordered that the case beremanded to the Housing Court for entry of a judgment remanding the matter to the BHA hearing officer with instructions to conduct a de novo informal hearing consistent with due process. The hearing officer is ordered to consider the lesser sanction of removal of the son as a tenant and to make findings as to why that sanction is, or is not, appropriate under the circumstances.
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