In the spring of 2016, a local attorney reported to ACLU-TN that the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency (MDHA) had recently begun a practice of evicting public housing tenants when someone in the household was arrested for a criminal charge, regardless of whether or not there was a conviction.
ACLU-TN reached out to area legal services organizations to investigate the practice. According to the reports, in many cases, MDHA did not wait to see if a conviction on the charges would be entered before evicting residents, nor did they conduct an independent investigation into the facts or circumstances underlying an arrest. In some cases, whole families were evicted because of the actions of one resident. Juvenile arrests were also used as grounds for evictions.
A public defender referred one such eviction to ACLU-TN and we agreed to represent the MDHA tenant in her eviction proceedings.
The woman had received an eviction notice because police found what they purported to be marijuana seeds on her coffee table under an ashtray during a warrantless consent search. She did not know who had left the seeds there and whether they were, indeed, marijuana seeds. The tenant received a criminal citation for possession of marijuana, which was later dismissed by the court.
Despite the lack of a conviction, MDHA brought eviction proceedings against her.
ACLU-TN pointed out the utter lack of evidence and lack of due process provided to our client before the eviction proceedings were filed. As a result, she was granted an informal grievance hearing, which concluded with a termination of the eviction proceedings.