Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Protected Property Interest for Public Benefits Applicant

Frank Kosir, Jr., Esquire
McKinley vs. Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh, 2012 Pa. Commw. LEXIS 338 (2012)
This matter addressed the issue of whether an applicant for public benefits holds a protected property interest entitling them to judicial review of the denial of such benefits.  In 2011, Reschida McKinley (the “Applicant”) filed an application with the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh (the “Authority”) seeking to participate in the Authority’s low-income public housing (“LIPH”) program.  Pursuant to Authority eligibility policy, any individual that has been convicted of certain enumerated felonies (one of which is involuntary manslaughter) is ineligible to participate in the LIPH program.  As McKinley had been convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 2002, her application was denied.  McKinley filed an appeal to the Authority, which held a grievance hearing and affirmed the denial.  McKinley then filed an appeal in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, which dismissed the appeal, concluding that it lacked jurisdiction to hear the appeal.
On appeal, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court affirmed.  In issuing its ruling, the court noted that, pursuant to Section 752 of the Local Agency Law (2 Pa.C.S. § 752), a person aggrieved by any adjudication of a local agency in which that person has a direct interest shall have the right to appeal the adjudication to the appropriate court.  However, in this instance, the Applicant held no property or personal rights in the public housing for which she had applied.   Therefore, since the Applicant did not have a reasonable expectation to participate in LIPH, she was not an “aggrieved party” for purposes of Section 752 and was not entitled to due process protections inherent in the right to appeal. 

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