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Housing Auth. of County of Franklin v. Moore

MAY 25, 1972.

THE HOUSING AUTHORITY OF THE COUNTY OF FRANKLIN, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

ROBERT E. MOORE, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Franklin County; the Hon. DON FOSTER, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE EBERSPACHER DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

This is an appeal from a judgment entered by the Circuit Court of Franklin County, Illinois, in a forcible entry and detainer suit filed by the Housing Authority of the County of Franklin, an Illinois Municipal Corporation, against Robert E. Moore, the defendant herein. Judgment was entered in favor of the Housing Authority to recover possession of the premises involved. The defendant has appealed from that judgment. The appeal was initially to our Supreme Court, which transferred the cause to this court, on March 15, 1971.

It appears from the evidence that the defendant and his family were tenants, pursuant to a written lease, in a housing unit which is owned by the Housing Authority of the County of Franklin. On April 3, 1969, after a long period of tenant conflict in the housing unit, the Housing Authority informed Mr. Moore that they were terminating his tenancy, and on April 23, 1969, Mr. Moore was served notice that the Housing Authority was terminating the lease on June 1, 1969.

On the second Thursday of May, 1969, Mr. Moore appeared at the monthly meeting of the board of directors of the Housing Authority of the County of Franklin. At that time Mr. Moore presented his position to the Housing Authority's demand for termination of his lease. In order to resolve the controversy, an offer was made to Mr. Moore which would enable him to move his family to a housing unit of the Housing Authority which was at another location, provided Mr. and Mrs. Moore seek counseling with the Franklin-Williamson County Mental Health Clinic to help resolve their family problems. Mr. Moore rejected the Housing Authority's offer, and by his attorney, requested a hearing before the board of directors so that his attorney could present his case. On June 12, 1969, Mr. Moore was served with a Notice of Eviction, stating the violations of the lease agreement upon which the Housing Authority relied for eviction. Mr. Moore was also advised that he would have an opportunity to reply or explain at a hearing to be held on July 10, 1969, before the board of directors of the Housing Authority of the County of Franklin. On July 10, 1969, Mr. Moore and his attorney appeared before the board and presented testimony in opposition to the proposed termination of the lease, and requested that complaining neighbors be called by the Housing Authority to testify against him before the Housing Authority; the request was not honored. At he conclusion of the hearing, the board voted to proceed with legal process to recover possession. On July 14, 1969, the defendant was served with Notice to Quit the leased premises by August 1, 1969.

On September 11, 1969, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Illinois denied Mr. Moore an injunction against the Housing Authority to restrain them from eviction proceedings. The Housing Authority filed the instant suit in the Circuit Court of Franklin County, Illinois, to recover possession, alleging Mr. Moore's default in certain provisions of the lease agreement. Mr. Moore's motion for judgment on the pleadings was denied, and a trial was held in which the administrator and various neighbors testified, and were cross examined by Moore's counsel.

At the conclusion of the trial judgment was entered for the plaintiff, the Housing Authority of the County of Franklin, for the possession of the premises occupied by the defendant and his family.

Four issues have been presented on this appeal: 1) Did the Housing Authority comply with the requirements of due process as provided by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution of Illinois, 1870; 2) Whether the court erred in denying the defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings; 3) Whether the court edded in finding a valid lease agreement in the absence of the defendant's signature thereon; and 4) Did the court err in its rulings as to the admissibility of certain evidence.

The defendant's first argument is that the initial hearing before the Housing Authority failed to comply with the requirements of due process in that he was denied the right to confront and cross-examine adverse witnesses, that the decision at the hearing was not based on evidence adduced at the hearing, that an impartial decision maker was not provided, that the decision maker did not state the reasons of its decision and the evidence relied upon, and that no official record was prepared of that hearing. Accordingly, the initial issue is whether due process requirements must be met at such hearings, or is it sufficient if due process requirements are later fulfilled in the court, in this case in the forcible entry and detainer proceedings?

• 1 The defendant submits that it is not sufficient that due process requirements are later fulfilled in the courts, and that they must be afforded at the initial stage before the Housing Authority. We disagree. In Thorpe v. The Housing Authority of Durham (1969), 393 U.S. 268, the Supreme Court of the United States reviewed an eviction proceeding involving a federally assisted housing project. The facts in that case indicated that the tenant had not been given any reason for her eviction, and in the trial court no reason was given for her eviction. The tenant there appealed from a decision in favor of the Housing Authority recovering possession. The Supreme Court of the United States, in reversing and remanding the case, required the Housing Authority to comply with the requirements of the Department of Housing and Urban Development Circular dated February 7, 1967. The court further observed:

"The Authority may be able to provide petitioner with reasons that justify eviction under the express terms of the lease * * *. And if she challenges the reasons offered, the Authority may well decide to afford her the full hearing she insists is essential. Moreover, even if the Authority does not provide such a hearing, we have no reason to believe that once the petitioner is told the reasons for her eviction she cannot effectively challenge their legal sufficiency in whatever eviction proceedings may be brought in the North Carolina Courts." 393 U.S. 268 at 284.

Our Supreme Court in Chicago Housing Authority v. Stewart, 43 Ill.2d 96, held the ruling in Thorpe to be binding upon federally assisted housing projects.

In the instant case there is no question as to the compliance with the HUD circular. The text of the circular provides as follows:

"SUBJECT: Termination of Tenancy in Low-Rent Projects:

Within the past year increasing dissatisfaction has been expressed with eviction practices in public low-rent housing projects. During that period a number of suits have been filed throughout the United States generally challenging the right of a Local Authority to ...


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