Posted by: Patricia Salkin | August 12, 2015

Fed. Dist. Court in MS Finds City was not Estopped From Issuing a Stop-Work Order After Erroneously Granting a Building Permit to a Pawn Shop

Premier Pawn leased property in Jackson, Mississippi for use as a pawn shop. The property was located in an area controlled by Ordinance 1104, the “High Street Overlay District,” which expressly prohibited the operation of pawn shops. However, a desk clerk in the zoning office mistakenly approved Premier Pawn’s building permit allowing necessary renovations to the existing building. Approximately two months later, and after Premier Pawn incurred expenses, the City discovered the error and issued a stop-work order. Premier Pawn contended that it detrimentally relied on the City’s “actions, inactions, misrepresentations and negligence”, and that the City’s alleged conduct violated Premier Pawn’s state and federal constitutional rights to “free speech, due process of law and equal protection under the law. Premier Pawn sought a temporary restraining order, a preliminary injunction, a permanent injunction, and alternatively, monetary damages.

Plaintiff’s equal protection claim failed due to the lack of a similarly situated comparator. Premier Pawn identified one potential candidate, “Boots and More,” a business Premier Pawn described as a “clothing store.” However, Boots and Moore sold apparel, while Premier Pawn intended to sell guns and other merchandise. Therefore, the court found In light of the legitimate goals of the High Street Overlay District, a rational basis existed for treating the two businesses differently. As to Plaintiff’s other claims, the court noted that “ordinarily the unauthorized acts of one of its officials does not estop a municipality from acting in its governmental capacity.” Absent relevant legal authority or record evidence suggesting that the unidentified desk clerk was authorized to grant an exemption to the express terms of the Overlay District ordinance, the court found that the City was entitled to summary judgment.

Premier Pawn, Inc. v City of Jackson, 2015 WL 4478557 (SS MS 7/22/2015)

The opinion can be accessed at: http://law.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/mississippi/mssdce/3:2014cv00518/86470/17/


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