Fighting "Tooth" and Nail

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Volunteer Prevails in Housing Subsidy Battle

Laurence Tooth, Cozen O'Connor

At 56 years old, Timothy lives with his family in a rent-subsidized home in the middle of a high-crime neighborhood in Chicago. He’s done his best, for the past 15 years, to provide a safe environment for his two daughters and five grandchildren. But four years ago, without warning, the Chicago Police Department knocked at Timothy’s door with a warrant for Timothy’s son, an alleged gang member.

Timothy’s son did not live at the home, but he was visiting the family that morning. After conducting a search of the property, the police found two illegal weapons. The son was immediately arrested for unlawful gun possession, and he eventually pled guilty to the charges. When the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) learned of the son’s arrest and conviction, they terminated Timothy’s housing subsidy, threatening the rest of the family with homelessness. Timothy and his family had no idea that his son was storing weapons in the home.

Timothy filed a complaint for judicial review, and the Court appointed CVLS through the Access to Justice (A2J) Program. CVLS argued that the CHA could not terminate the family from the subsidy program because Timothy’s son was a guest, and CHA’s regulations do not permit terminating a family for a guest’s crimes. The Court agreed with our argument, but upon remand, the hearing officer found that Timothy constructively possessed the guns. Timothy returned for further review, and this time, CVLS placed his case with Laurence Tooth of Cozen O’Connor.

Laurence filed a detailed, well-written brief, arguing that there was no evidence in the record to support a finding of constructive possession. Recognizing the strength of Laurence’s argument, the CHA relented. They agreed to settle and reissue the subsidy. After four years of litigation, it took just one volunteer’s skilled advocacy to save this family’s home.