For people who rely on federal Section 8 housing vouchers to pay their rent, there was good news and bad news last week from U.S. District Court Judge Marsha Pechman.
On Sept. 25, the judge ordered the Seattle Housing Authority to refrain from conducting an informal hearing to terminate the Section 8 voucher of Tina Hendrix until her lawsuit is resolved. The lawsuit charges that, in such hearings, SHA’s hearing examiner doesn’t take tenant testimony or evidence into account before simply rubber-stamping SHA’s decision — a move that has led to many unwarranted terminations, according to the Tenants Union and Hendrix, the niece of guitar legend Jimi Hendrix.
In the order stopping the hearing, Pechman agreed with Hendrix and her lawyer, Eric Dunn of the Northwest Justice Project, that there are “serious questions” about the way SHA conducts its informal hearings.
The bad news is that, because Hendrix is only one plaintiff (the Northwest Justice Project is prohibited under its federal funding grant from filing class-action lawsuits), the judge rejected Dunn’s request to stop all SHA termination hearings for the time being. In her order, she also noted that she thinks Hendrix has little chance of ultimately winning the case.
Dunn says although he’s disappointed there was no full moratorium, “We are pleased that Judge Pechman has recognized this case as one concerning issues of ‘broad and overriding public import’ and will be allowing us an opportunity to present our case.”
The housing authority is happy with the order as well. “It’s encouraging that the judge seems to agree we’re in compliance with HUD regulations,” says SHA deputy director Andrew Lofton. “That seems to be a validation by the court.”