Posted by: Patricia Salkin | January 3, 2015

Fed. Dist. Court in PA Abstains from Exercising Jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s Claim for Injunctive Relief Pending State Action

Plaintiff, an attorney, represented several clients in lawsuits against the City and McIntyre and code enforcement actions brought by the City. In 2005, the City filed a complaint alleging various ordinance violations against Plaintiff, following a fire that destroyed approximately 10 percent of his building. The City’s Zoning Hearing Board conducted a hearing on the matter and apparently declared the building to be structurally sound. However, in May 2012, Plaintiff alleged he received a “First Notice for Demolition” from McIntyre. The notice, dated May 5, indicated that an exterior inspection of the building revealed “serious structural deterioration, which has become a hazard to the neighboring properties and citizen’s. Plaintiff commenced this action—before the final vote to demolish the building was taken—by filing a seven-count Complaint alleging various violations of federal and state law, and filing a motion for a preliminary injunction.

Because the Plaintiff was seeking to enjoin the underlying condemnation/demolition proceedings, the Court first needed to consider whether it should abstain from exercising jurisdiction over this action, or portions of this action, under the abstention doctrine. Under this doctrine there are three requirements that must be satisfied before a federal court may abstain from hearing a case over which it has jurisdiction: (1) there must be pending or ongoing state proceedings which are judicial in nature; (2) the state proceedings must implicate important state interests; and (3) the state proceedings must afford an adequate opportunity to raise any constitutional issues. Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971). Since Plaintiff’s appeal is still being heard in the Pennsylvania courts, it is “pending” for the purposes of Younger, and the first requirement was established. Next, because granting the requested injunctive relief would effectively nullify the state condemnation/demolition proceedings, the court found that this involved a clear and important state interest. Finally, the third prong was satisfied because these issues were being heard in state court.

Accordingly, the court abstained from exercising jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s claim for injunctive relief, and stayed the proceedings pending the outcome of the state courts.

Kurowskie v City of Washington, 2014 WL 7213193 (WD PA 12/17/2014)

The opinion can be accessed at:–14-cv-01495/KUROWSKI_v._CITY_OF_WASHINGTON_et_al/12/

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