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Brown v. Burleigh County Housing Authority

Supreme Court of North Dakota

July 18, 2013

Ounjaniese Brown, Plaintiff and Appellant
v.
Burleigh County Housing Authority, Defendant and Appellee

Appeal from the District Court of Burleigh County, South Central Judicial District, the Honorable Bruce B. Haskell, Judge.

Breezy A. Schmidt (argued) and Richard R. LeMay (appeared), and Bradley D. Peterson (on brief), for plaintiff and appellant.

Deborah J. Carpenter, for defendant and appellee.

OPINION

Kapsner, Justice.

[¶ 1] Ounjaniese Brown appeals from a district court judgment denying her request for review of Burleigh County Housing Authority's ("BCHA") decision to terminate her housing assistance benefits. We conclude the district court lacked jurisdiction over the matter, and we vacate the court's judgment and orders.

I

[¶ 2] Brown was a recipient of benefits under a federal housing assistance program administered in Burleigh County by BCHA. In February 2012, BCHA terminated Brown's housing assistance benefits. On March 9, 2012, Brown filed a notice of appeal and specification of error in the district court, stating she was appealing BCHA's February 2012 decision to terminate her housing assistance under N.D.C.C. § 28-32-42. Brown alleged BCHA's decision violated her constitutional rights, she did not receive a fair hearing, and BCHA failed to consider evidence she presented.

[¶ 3] In March 2012, BCHA filed a motion to dismiss, arguing it is not an agency for purposes of the Administrative Agencies Practices Act ("AAPA"), N.D.C.C. ch. 28-32, and therefore the district court does not have jurisdiction to hear Brown's appeal.

[¶ 4] On March 9, 2012, Brown moved for an order staying BCHA's decision to terminate her housing assistance benefits and for a temporary injunction prohibiting BCHA from discontinuing her housing assistance. On April 12, 2012, the district court granted Brown's request and entered an order staying BCHA's decision to terminate Brown's housing assistance and ordered BCHA was temporarily enjoined from adversely affecting Brown's benefits. On April 30, 2012, Brown moved to enforce the temporary injunction and to require BCHA to remit rental payments to Brown's landlord.

[¶ 5] On April 26, 2012, BCHA filed a supplemental motion requesting dismissal, arguing Brown's appeal from BCHA's decision was untimely. On May 21, 2012, the court denied BCHA's motion to dismiss and granted Brown's motion to enforce the injunction. The court ordered BCHA to immediately give Brown an informal hearing on her eligibility for housing assistance.

[¶ 6] BCHA held an informal hearing and issued a decision. The hearing officer ruled the state courts lack jurisdiction, BCHA is not a state agency and the AAPA does not apply, the district court lacked jurisdiction to grant injunctive relief or review BCHA's decision, Brown did not timely file a request for an informal hearing before her housing assistance was terminated, and BCHA was unable to provide reinstatement of the housing assistance benefits once they were terminated.

[¶ 7] On August 29, 2012, Brown moved for review after remand, requesting the court review BCHA's decision. Brown also moved for contempt and to compel and enforce the court's prior orders. Brown alleged BCHA was in contempt for failing to pay her housing assistance benefits as the court ordered and for failing to give her a meaningful hearing about her eligibility for benefits.

[¶ 8] On November 1, 2012, after a hearing, the court entered an order denying Brown's motion to compel and for contempt and her request for review. The court found that BCHA was not in contempt for failing to pay Brown's housing assistance because her eligibility had ceased prior to the court's order staying BCHA's decision to terminate her benefits and that BCHA scheduled an "administrative" hearing pursuant to court order. A judgment was subsequently entered.

[ΒΆ 9] Brown appealed the district court's decision, arguing the district court has jurisdiction to review BCHA's decision and BCHA's decision is not in accordance with the law and violates her constitutional rights. BCHA moved to dismiss Brown's appeal, arguing the district court ...


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