Syvlia's Haven, v. Mass. Development Finance, No. CIV.A. 02-12473-NMG.

Decision Date26 October 2005
Docket NumberNo. CIV.A. 02-12473-NMG.
Citation397 F.Supp.2d 202
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Massachusetts

Kathleen B. Carr, Kathleen M. Conlon, Mary P. Cormier, Steven M. Cowley, Kenneth V. Nourse, Adam P. Samansky, Elizabeth Anderson Spinney, Nicholas J. Rosenberg, Edwards & Angell, LLP, Boston, MA, Patrick F. Linehan, Edward R. McNicholas, Sidley, Austin, Brown, & Wood LLP, Washington, DC, for Sylvia's Haven, Inc., Plaintiff.

Michael G. Paris, Nystrom Beckman & Paris LLP, Boston, Carlotta M. Patten, Metaxas, Norman & Pidgeon, LLP, Beverly, MA, Alan D. Strasser, Kutak Rock

LLP, Washington, DC, for Massachusetts Development Finance Agency, Defendant.


GORTON, District Judge.

In the present dispute, Plaintiff Sylvia's Haven, Inc. ("SHI"), a non-profit homeless service provider, alleges that defendant Massachusetts Development Finance Agency ("MassDevelopment") violated various federal and state laws in its effort to evict SHI from property that was formerly part of Fort Devens. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction which was referred to Magistrate Judge Robert B. Collings for resolution. Magistrate Judge Collings issued a Report and Recommendation ("R & R") in which he recommended that Defendant's Motion be allowed.

Plaintiff objects to the R & R and asks this Court to decline to accept and adopt it and to deny Defendant's Motion to Dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The defendant has filed a memorandum of law in support of the R & R. Having considered the pleadings, pro and con, the Court now resolves the case as follows.

I. Background
A. Facts

The factual background of this case is lengthy and complex. In short summary, this case arises out of efforts by MassDevelopment to evict SHI from property that was formerly part of Fort Devens. SHI was awarded the property and entered into a lease with MassDevelopment, a qualified "local redevelopment authority", under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act ("McKinney-Vento Act") and the Base Closure Community Redevelopment and Homeless Assistance Act of 1994 ("Base Closure Act"). Those are the two federal statutes that ensure that surplus federal property will be provided to homeless service providers for use to meet the needs of the homeless.

After the lease was signed, problems arose between the parties. SHI claims that MassDevelopment has taken a series of actions to deprive SHI of the meaningful use of the awarded property while asserting that SHI owes allegedly unlawful fees for use of the property. According to Plaintiff, these efforts have culminated in MassDevelopment's "illegal attempt" to evict SHI and its resident homeless families from the Fort Devens premises in denial of their federal rights under the Base Closure Act.

B. Procedural History

SHI instituted litigation against MassDevelopment in Massachusetts state court to defend against MassDevelopment's eviction efforts and seeking a declaration that it does not owe MassDevelopment the amount alleged, citing, inter alia, the McKinney-Vento Act education provisions and the 1994 Base Closure Act. MassDevelopment removed the case to this Court in late December, 2002 based on federal question jurisdiction. After MassDevelopment filed its answer and counterclaims, SHI filed a First Amended Verified Complaint asserting both state and federal claims.

The claims were for: 1) declaratory judgment pursuant to M.G.L. c. 213A § 1 et seq. (Count I), 2) violations of the McKinney-Vento Act and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count II), 3) breach of the lease (Count III), 4) breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment (Count IV), 5) breach of the implied warranty of habitability (Count V), 6) constructive eviction (Count VI), 7) preliminary and permanent injunction, based on violations of both the McKinney-Vento Act and the Base Closure Act (Count VII), 8) violation of the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act, M.G.L. c. 12, § 11I et seq. (Count VIII), and 9) a claim of right to title to real property or the use and occupation thereof under M.G.L. c. 184, § 15 (Count IX).

After an unsuccessful attempt at alternative dispute resolution, MassDevelopment filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, followed by a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The latter took precedence and after submission of memoranda in support of and opposition to that motion, a hearing was held on May 2, 2005 before Magistrate Judge Collings. He issued his R & R on September 1, 2005, regarding the motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction in which he recommended that Counts I, II, VII, and IX of the Complaint be dismissed "to the extent they involve claims based on federal law", and that the remainder of the case be remanded to the trial court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b), SHI filed its objections to the R & R. They were submitted in the form of an over-long brief without leave of court but were considered by the Court nevertheless. The Court now makes a de novo determination upon the record, as supplemented by further submissions of counsel, pursuant to the same federal rule. See Phinney v. Wentworth Douglas Hosp., 199 F.3d 1, 5 (1st Cir.1999).

II. Legal Analysis

Plaintiff's objections to Judge Collings's R & R are based on three arguments: 1) the Report incorrectly concludes that SHI is not permitted to bring its § 1983 claim to enforce rights under the McKinney-Vento Act, 2) the Report incorrectly concludes that SHI cannot bring its § 1983 claim to enforce rights under the Base Closure Act and 3) the Court should permit SHI to amend and replead the Complaint to address the issues raised in the R & R. This Court will address each of these arguments seriatim.

A. SHI's § 1983 Claim to Enforce Rights Under the McKinney-Vento Act

SHI's argument on this issue contains two elements. First, SHI argues the text and structure of the McKinney-Vento Act clearly provide homeless children and youths with a number of educational rights, including the right to "the same free, appropriate public education ... as provided to other children and youths", 42 U.S.C. § 11431(1), to be enjoyed free from any burden imposed by the State. SHI further argues that it has third-party and associational standing to assert this right on behalf of its resident homeless children. Second, SHI argues that the McKinney-Vento Act also grants specific rights to homeless service providers like SHI and that those rights are properly enforceable under § 1983.

1. Enforceable Rights of Homeless Children Under the McKinney-Vento Act

The R & R recites the relevant statutory provisions of the McKinney-Vento Act. On the basis of those provisions, SHI argues that the Act confers a number of educational rights on homeless children but does not indicate a Congressional intent to foreclose a remedy under § 1983. Magistrate Judge Collings did not reject those contentions.

The crucial question left unanswered by Plaintiff's objections to the R & R is one of standing. The R & R concludes that SHI has neither third-party nor associational standing to bring a § 1983 claim under the McKinney-Vento Act on behalf of its resident homeless children, while SHI strenuously objects to that recommendation.

a. Third-Party Standing

To establish third-party standing, SHI needs to show that: 1) it personally has suffered an injury in fact that gives rise to a sufficiently concrete interest in the adjudication of the absent party's right, 2) the litigant has a close relationship to the absent party and 3) some hindrance exists that prevents the absent party from protecting its own interests. Eulitt v. State of Maine, Dep't of Educ. 386 F.3d 344, 351 (1st Cir.2004). The R & R concludes that SHI cannot get past the first prong of the Eulitt test. Specifically, Magistrate Judge Collings found that SHI lacks third-party standing to assert the rights of its resident homeless children and families because there was no allegation or evidence that the homeless children living at Fort Devens are not receiving that to which they are entitled by the education provisions of the McKinney-Vento Act, namely a free public education.

SHI responds to that conclusion with three objections:

1) The Magistrate Judge fails to appreciate the fact that only notice pleading is required of it. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 8.

2) The R & R would impose a requirement for third-party standing that has not been articulated in any Supreme Court or First Circuit decision addressing the issue, namely that non-litigants themselves suffer an injury in fact. According to SHI, the well-established rules of third-party standing require only that the litigant, as the party seeking access to federal court, suffer an injury in fact sufficient to confer Article III standing.

3) Even if third-party standing rules did require non-litigants to suffer an injury in fact, such an injury need not be a complete deprivation of the right being asserted by the litigating party. Instead, injury in fact requires only that the plaintiff have "a direct stake in the outcome — even though small". United States v. Students Challenging Regulatory Agency Procedures, 412 U.S. 669, 689 n. 14, 93 S.Ct. 2405, 37 L.Ed.2d 254 (1973).

SHI's arguments are unpersuasive. The R & R has correctly interpreted the standard for third-party standing. Under the Eulitt test, although the litigant is required to demonstrate an injury in fact sufficient to confer Article III standing, the absent third party must also have suffered some sort of injury to or infringement of his rights. See Playboy Enters. v. Pub. Serv. Comm'n, 906 F.2d 25, 37 (1st Cir.1990). At no time has SHI asserted that the resident homeless children at Fort Devens have suffered any kind of deprivation of their right to a free public education at the hands of...

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