Posted by: Patricia Salkin | July 28, 2016

MN Supreme Court Holds District Court, Rather than Court of Appeals, Had Subject Matter Jurisdiction Over § 1983 Claims Stemming From Zoning Decision

Mark Zweber, an owner of a large parcel of undeveloped land, brought a section 1983 action against Scott County and Credit River Township, alleging that they had deprived him of his property without just compensation and violated his equal-protection rights. Zweber contacted County officials in April 2003 to develop a plan for the development of the parcel, which proposed to divide the parcel into 39 lots and 1 out lot. The district court concluded that it had subject-matter jurisdiction over Zweber’s action, but the court of appeals reversed. According to the court of appeals, the district court lacked jurisdiction because Zweber’s exclusive remedy was to seek a writ of certiorari from the court of appeals.

The court of appeals concluded that it, not the district court, would have exclusive jurisdiction over both of Zweber’s constitutional claims because the County’s decisions on the plat and re-subdivision applications were quasi-judicial and the constitutional claims are not “separate and distinct” from them. The court noted that the district court could review decisions that are legislative: decisions having broad applicability and affecting the rights of the public generally. Here, Zweber’s takings claim presupposed that the conditions placed on his plat application were valid, but alleged that they “constituted a taking for which he must be compensated.” Thus the takings claim did not require an examination into the validity of the County’s decisions because it actually assumes their validity.

Similarly, Zweber did not seek reversal or modification of the County’s quasi-judicial decisions in his equal protection claim, and Zweber’s constitutional claims could be adjudicated without inquiring into the validity of the County’s decisions. Accordingly, the court reversed the decision of the court of appeals and remanded the case to the district court.

Zweber v Credit River Township, 2016 WL 4051613 (MN 7/27/2016)

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