Posted by: Patricia Salkin | August 8, 2018

Third Circuit Court of Appeals Holds Landowners Failed to Show that Remedial Process Did Not Provide Reasonable Remedies and Claims of Revenge and Spite Failed to Allege Behavior that Shocked the Conscience

This post was authored by Matthew Loeser, Esq.

In 1996, Plaintiffs bought a five-acre industrial property. Plaintiffs’ property manager sent several letters regarding delinquent rent to tenant Glenn Schaum. The eviction proceedings never took place because Schaum voluntarily vacated the property. In 1997, Schaum was elected to the Springfield Township Board of Commissioners. In this case, the industrial landowners brought §1983 action against township, claiming procedural and substantive due process violations arising out of a protracted zoning and land-use dispute that followed between it and the township. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania entered summary judgment for township and township officials, and landowners appealed. On appeal, Plaintiffs argued that there was a genuine issue of material fact regarding their procedural due process claim because the Township’s zoning and land use procedures were “subverted for personal ends and were a sham”.

The court found that Plaintiffs’ due process arguments focused solely on how the Township arrived at the decisions to deny their land use application and fire code appeal. Plaintiffs failed to argue that the remedial process – of which they partly availed themselves – failed to provide reasonable remedies. As this was not alleged, the court held that the District Court did not err in granting summary judgment against their procedural due process claim.

Plaintiffs next contended that a reasonable factfinder could conclude that three of the individual Defendants’ actions “rested on revenge and spite.” Plaintiffs failed to allege, however, that the Township’s behavior shocked the conscience. Upon review of the record, the court found that there was no evidence of conscience-shocking behavior, and therefore no genuine factual dispute on the issue. Consequently, the district court’s finding was affirmed.

Guiliani v Springfield Township, 726 Fed. Appx. 118 (3rd Cir. CA 3/6/2018)

 


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