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Greenleaf Limited Partnership v. Illinois Housing Development Authority

February 23, 2009

GREENLEAF LIMITED PARTNERSHIP AND SANDBURG VILLAGE APARTMENTS, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ILLINOIS HOUSING DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY, DEFENDANT AND THIRD-PARTY PLAINTIFF,
v.
SHAUN DONOVAN*FN1 , SECRETARY, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Virginia M. Kendall

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Third-Party Defendant, Shaun Donovan, Secretary, United States Department of Housing and Urban Development ("Secretary" or "HUD") moves this Court pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b) to dismiss Defendant/Third-Party Plaintiff, Illinois Housing Development Authority's ("IHDA") third-party Complaints for lack of jurisdiction and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Specifically, the Secretary asserts that IHDA has failed to identify a valid waiver of sovereign immunity that applies to its claims against the Secretary and as such its claims are not properly before this Court. The Secretary asserts that IHDA's third-party claims fall within the Tucker Act's waiver of sovereign immunity and therefore exclusive jurisdiction rests in the Court of Federal Claims. For the reasons stated, the Secretary's Motion to Dismiss is Granted.

STATEMENT OF FACTS/PROCEDURAL HISTORY*fn2

Pursuant to Section 8 of the United States Housing Act of 1937, as amended, the United States, acting through the Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD"), subsidizes the rents of low-income tenants of privately-owned dwellings. 42 U.S.C. § 1437f; Greenleaf Am. Third-Party Compl. ¶ 7; Sandburg Am. Third-Party Compl. ¶ 7. The rent subsidy is provided in one of two ways: either HUD enters into a Housing Assistance Payments contract ("HAP contract") with a private landlord; or HUD enters into an Annual Contributions Contract ("ACC") with a public housing agency ("PHA") and the PHA enters into a HAP contract with the landlord. Greenleaf Am. Third-Party Compl. ¶¶ 9-10; Sandburg Am. Third-Party Compl. ¶¶ 9-10. In either case, the HAP contract specifies a monthly contract rent for particular housing units. Greenleaf Am. Third-Party Compl. ¶ 8; Sandburg Am. Third-Party Compl. ¶ 8. The tenant pays the landlord a portion of the contract rent based on the tenant's income, and either HUD or the PHA pays the landlord the difference between the tenant's payment and the contract rent. Greenleaf Am. Third-Party Compl. ¶ 8, 10; Sandburg Am. Third-Party Compl. ¶ 8, 10. The PHA is obliged to administer the HAP contract in accordance with HUD's requirements and directives and HUD is obliged to fund all housing assistance payments that are owed to the HAP contract. Greenleaf Am. Third-Party Compl. ¶ 12; Sandburg Am. Third-Party Compl. ¶ 12.

According to IHDA, HUD entered into ACCs with IHDA and IHDA entered into HAP contracts with Plaintiffs. Greenleaf Am. Third-Party Compl. ¶ 13; Sandburg Am. Third-Party Compl. ¶ 13. These HAP contracts were entered into in 1980 and 1979 and the terms of these contracts, with automatic renewals, continue through 2020 and 2021 respectively. Greenleaf Am. Third-Party Compl. ¶ 13; Sandburg Am. Third-Party Compl. ¶ 13. The HAP contracts provided for annual increases of the contract rents under specified conditions. Greenleaf Am. Third-Party Compl. ¶ 16; Sandburg Am. Third-Party Compl. ¶ 16.

In 1994, Congress amended Section 8 by placing certain restrictions on annual increases in contract rents. See 42 U.S.C. § 1437f(c)(2)(A) (1994). Greenleaf Am. Third-Party Compl. ¶ 17; Sandburg Am. Third-Party Compl. ¶ 17. HUD issued a notice, Notice H 95-12, implementing Congress's amendments. Greenleaf Am. Third-Party Compl. ¶ 18; Sandburg Am. Third-Party Compl. ¶ 18. According to IHDA, Notice H 95-12 also imposed additional requirements beyond those contained in the existing HAP contracts or in the 1994 amendments. Id. According to IHDA, it has administered the HAP contracts with Plaintiffs in accordance with Congress's amendments and Notice H 95-12.Greenleaf Am. Third-Party Compl. ¶ 18; Sandburg Am. Third-Party Compl. ¶ 18.

On April 30, 2008, Greenleaf Limited Partnership ("Greenleaf") filed a Complaint against IHDA (08-2480). On June 16, 2008, Sandburg Village Apartments ("Sandburg") also filed a Complaint against IHDA (08-3446). On July 28, 2008, IHDA answered the two complaints and filed third-party complaints against the Secretary. On August 19, 2008, the two cases were consolidated under case number 08-2480. On September, 3, 2008, Greenleaf and Sandburg (collectively, "Plaintiffs") filed a consolidated Amended Complaint against IHDA alleging that IHDA breached the HAP contract by: (1) failing to increase contract rents or by increasing contract rents by less than the amount called for in the HAP contract; (2) reducing the annual adjustment factor by .01 for units occupied by the same family in consecutive years; and (3) requiring the plaintiffs to submit rent comparability studies. Consolidated Am. Compl. ¶¶ 49-64. The Plaintiffs seek compensatory damages, an increase in the current contract rents and costs. Id.

On August 19, 2008, IHDA filed separate Amended Third-Party Complaints against the Secretary seeking relief in the event that IHDA is found liable to the Plaintiffs. Greenleaf Am. Third-Party Compl. ¶ 1; Sandburg Am. Third-Party Compl. ¶ 1. IHDA's Amended Third-Party Complaints each state three claims for relief entitled "Administrative Procedure Act", "Contract/Indemnification," and "Declaratory Judgment." Greenleaf Am. Third-Party Compl. ¶¶ 27-35; Sandburg Am. Third-Party Compl. ¶¶ 27-35. In support of its claims, IHDA alleges that, if IHDA has breached its HAP contracts with Greenleaf and Sandburg, HUD has breached the ACCs with IHDA and must compensate IHDA for past damages and future rent adjustments. See Greenleaf Am. Third-Party Compl. ¶¶ 30, 32-33 & Prayer for Relief; Sandburg Am. Third-Party Compl. ¶¶ 30, 33-33 & Prayer for Relief. IHDA also seeks a declaration of its rights and responsibilities in applying the 1994 amendments and Notice H 95-12 with respect to future adjustments of contract rents, and its right to have such rent adjustments funded by HUD.See Greenleaf Am. Third-Party Compl. ¶ 35 & Prayer for Relief; Sandburg Am. Third-Party Compl. ¶ 35 & Prayer for Relief.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) provides for dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1); United Phosphorus, Ltd. v. Angus Chem. Co., 322 F.3d 942, 946 (7th Cir. 2003). "If subject matter jurisdiction is . . . not evident on the face of the complaint, the motion to dismiss . . . would be analyzed as any other motion to dismiss, by assuming for purposes of the motion that the allegations in the complaint are true. However, as here, if the complaint is formally sufficient but the contention is that there is in fact no subject matter jurisdiction, the movant may use affidavits and other material to support the motion." United Phosphorus, 322 F.3d at 946; Capitol Leasing Co. v. FDIC, 999 F.2d 188, 191 (7th Cir. 1993) citing Grafon Corp. v. Hausermann, 602 F.2d 781, 783 (7th Cir. 1979). The party asserting jurisdiction must establish it by "competent proof." U.S. Phosphorus, 322 F.3d at 946; NFIC, Inc. v. Devcom Mid-America, Inc., 45 F.3d 231, 237 (7th Cir. 1995) citing McNutt v. Gen. Motors Acceptance Corp. of Indiana, 298 U.S. 178, 189 (1936). This means that jurisdiction must be established by a preponderance of the evidence or "proof to a reasonable probability." NFIC, 45 F.3d at 237, citing Gould v. Artisoft, Inc., 1 F.3d 544, 547 (7th Cir. 1993).

When considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), this court will accept as true all facts alleged in the complaint and construe all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. See Murphy v. Walker, 51 F.3d 714, 717 (7th Cir. 1995). To state a claim upon which relief can be granted, a complaint must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). A plaintiff need not allege all facts involved in the claim. See Sanjuan v. Am. Bd. of Psychiatry & Neurology, Inc., 40 F.3d 247, 251 (7th Cir. 1994). However, in order to survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the claim must be supported by facts that, if taken as true, at least plausibly suggest that the plaintiff is entitled to relief. See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974 (2007). Such a set of facts must "raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence" of illegality. Id. at 1965.

DISCUSSION

To sue the United States in federal court, IHDA must identify a statute that confers subject matter jurisdiction on the district court and a federal law that waives the sovereign immunity of the United States to the cause of action. See Clark v. United States, 326 F.3d 911, 912 (7th Cir. 2003).

Absent an applicable waiver, sovereign immunity protects the federal government from any and all suits brought against it, without regard to any perceived unfairness, inefficiency, or inequity. See Dep't ...


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