With drug dealers “increasingly imposing a reign of terror on public and other federally assisted low-income housing tenants,” Congress passed the Anti--Drug Abuse Act of 1988.§5122,102 Stat.4301,42 U.S.C.§11901(3) (1994 ed.).The Act,as later amended,provides that each “public housing agency shall utilize leases which ...provide that any criminal activity that threatens the health, safety,or right to peaceful enjoyment of the premises by other tenants or any drug-related criminal activity on or off such premises,engaged in by a public housing tenant, any member of the tenant ’s household,or any guest or other person under the tenant’s control,shall be cause for termination of tenancy.”42 U.S.C.§1437d(l )(6)(1994ed.,Supp.V).Nina Totenberg (perhaps my favorite NPR personality other than Sylvia Poggioli - she gives thorough and mostly balanced accounts of most cases before the Supreme Court which is the most underreported of the branches of the Federal government IMO) presented this preview and this report of the arguments of the case, which were presented on February 19, 2002.
The Court of Appeals overturned this law saying that it was unfair to evict the tenants if the signer(s) of the lease are not the ones who were found using drugs, even though they signed a lease knowing that this would be the consequence.
The amazing thing (beyond the unanimous decision) is the quick opinion issuance by the Supreme Court. They decided today on behalf of the government:
We hold that “Congress has directly spoken to the precise question at issue.” Chevron U.S.A.Inc.v.Natural Resources Defense Council,Inc.,467 U.S.,at 842.Section 1437d(l )(6) requires lease terms that give local publicI'm somewhat torn, however. I feel the Supreme Court made the right decision, yet I feel bad that within a family the many are hurt by the actions of few/one.
housing authorities the discretion to terminate the lease of a tenant when a member of the household or a guest engages in drug-related activity,regardless of whether the tenant knew,or should have known,of the drug-related activity.
Accordingly,the judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed,and the cases are remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
[ed note added 3/27/02: Here's Nina Totenberg's report on the Supreme Court decision so you don't have to read the whole thing for yourself.]