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Good v. United States Department of Housing and Urban Development

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division

December 12, 2019

TIMOTHY A. GOOD, Plaintiff,



         Mr. Timothy Good, a pro se litigant, challenges the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) implementation of a no-smoking policy in HUD-funded public housing. On July 8, 2019, Mr. Good filed a summary judgment motion. Two days later, he sent a letter to the former presiding judge seeking to suspend HUD's no-smoking policy until its legality could be determined by the courts. On July 12, 2019, HUD filed its own summary judgment motion. The court now denies Mr. Good's motions and grants HUD's cross motion for summary judgment.


         The U.S. Housing Act authorizes HUD to distribute federal financial assistance to public housing agencies (PHAs) to provide public housing for low-income families. 42 U.S.C. § 1437. For PHAs to receive federal financial assistance, they must agree to comply with procedures and requirements as the Secretary of HUD may prescribe. 42 U.S.C. § 1437d(c)(4). In addition, the Act requires PHAs to inspect housing projects to ensure compliance with the housing quality standards determined by HUD. Id. § 1437d(f)(2).

         In 2015, HUD proposed the Smoke Free Rule, which it later promulgated in 2016. See HUD, Institution Smoke-Free Public Housing, Prop. Rule, 80 Fed. Reg. 71762 (Nov. 17, 2015). The rule remains in effect today. It requires that each PHA implement a policy prohibiting lit tobacco products in all living units, indoor common areas, and in PHA administrative office buildings. Id. The smoke-free policy extends 25 feet outside of housing units and administrative office buildings. Id. The purpose of the rule is to “improve indoor air quality in public housing; benefit the health of public housing residents, visitors, and PHA staff; reduce the risk of catastrophic fires; and lower overall maintenance costs.” Id. When promulgated, the rule forced PHAs to update their smoke-free policies and change their tenant leases, including adding lease amendments to the current tenants' leases. 81 Fed. Reg. at 87437 (Dec. 5, 2016); ECF 28 at 7.

         Mr. Good is a smoker who resides in an Elkhart Housing Authority apartment unit, subject to HUD's smoke-free policy. ECF 1 at 2. In Mr. Good's complaint, he alleges several constitutional violations against his First, Fourth, and Tenth Amendment rights. ECF 1 at 2. Additionally, he claims that he was discriminated against as a smoker. Id. His summary judgment motion (ECF 26) purports to assert additional theories of liability under the Fifth and Ninth Amendments, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and Administrative Procedural Act (APA).

         HUD filed its crossmotion for summary judgment arguing that (1) Mr. Good lacks standing to pursue his First and Fourth amendment claims, (2) Mr. Good fails to show a violation of his First and Fourth Amendment rights, (3) Mr. Good cannot show that HUD's rule improperly discriminates against smokers, and (4) HUD's rule does not implicate the 10th Amendment because it is a reasonable exercise of Congress' spending power. ECF 28 at 2.


         Summary judgment is warranted when “the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The non-moving party must present the court with evidence on which a reasonable jury could rely to find in his favor. Goodman v. Nat'l Sec. Agency, Inc., 621 F.3d 651, 654 (7th Cir. 2010). The court must deny a summary judgment motion when there is admissible evidence that creates a genuine issue of material fact-a triable issue. Luster v. Ill. Dept. of Corrs., 652 F.3d 726, 731 (7th Cir. 2011).

         The court “is not to sift through the evidence, pondering the nuances and inconsistencies, and decide whom to believe.” Waldridge v. Am. Heochst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 920 (7th Cir. 1994). Instead, the “court has one task and one task only: to decide, based on the evidence of record, whether there is any material dispute of fact that requires a trial.” Id. The court must construe all facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, view all reasonable inferences in that party's favor, Bellaver v. Quanex Corp., 200 F.3d 485, 491-92 (7th Cir. 2000), and avoid “the temptation to decide which party's version of the facts is more likely true.” Payne v. Pauley, 337 F.3d 767, 770 (7th Cir. 2003).

         The court is not “obliged to research and construct legal arguments for parties, ” Nelson v. Napolitano, 657 F.3d 586, 590 (7th Cir. 2011); however, the court must liberally construe the submissions of pro se plaintiffs, such as those from Mr. Good. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Nochols v. Mich. City Plant Planning Dept., 755 F.3d 594, 600 (7th Cir. 2014).


         A. Standing

         As a threshold matter, the court first must determine whether Mr. Good has standing to bring this action. Bennet v. Spear, 520 U.S. 154, 162 (1997). Generally, to satisfy the standing requirement under Article III of the United States Constitution, a plaintiff must demonstrate that: (1) he or she has suffered an injury in fact; (2) the injury is traceable to alleged actions of the defendant; and (3) the injury will be redressed by a favorable decision. Id.

         Plaintiffs must assert a threatened or actual injury resulting from the alleged unlawful action before a federal court may assume jurisdiction. Linda R.S. v. Richard D., 410 U.S. 614, 617 (1973). An injury must be “concrete, particularized, and actual or imminent.” Monsanto Co. v. Geertson Seed Farms,561 U.S. 139, 149 (2010). Here, Mr. Good is a smoker and tenant in a HUD-funded public housing unit. HUD's smoke-free policy would personally affect Mr. Good and his ability to smoke in his public housing unit. From Mr. Good's perspective, he has already suffered an injury by being prohibited to smoke in his own home. Thus, the court finds that an injury for purposes of standing exists. See also NYC C.L.A.S.H., Inc. v. ...

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