Judge Approves Settlement With Housing Agency

The New York Law Journal

A federal judge has approved a class settlement that permanently enjoins the New York Housing Authority from proceeding with a termination of tenancy or a remaining family member grievance hearing with a mentally incompetent tenant who is not represented by a guardian ad litem.

(See the revised Housing Authority procedures.) The settlement came more than a decade after a class of mentally disabled residents who had been subject to eviction proceedings alleged that the city agency violated their rights under the Due Process Clause, the American with Disabilities Act, §504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Fair Housing Amendments Act. In July, following three years of "complex and vigorously contested" negotiations between the Legal Aid Society, as class counsel, and the housing authority, the parties arrived at a proposed settlement. Given the potential risks of further litigation, Southern District Judge Laura Taylor Swain concluded that the "multifaceted settlement - a permanent injunction setting rights described in broad terms with a 4-year period for Plaintiffs to have input into specific methods of implementation, along with the opportunity to litigate the unresolved disability rights claims in the future - weighs in favor of finding that the settlement is fair." In addition to requiring the authority to pay for the appointment of a guardian ad litem in certain administrative proceedings involving mentally incompetent residents, the settlement obligates the agency to inform the Housing Court when it has information that a tenant might not be mentally competent. Blatch v. Martinez, 97 Civ. 3918, appears on page 33. - Noeleen Walder