Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
Hunter and Weis, Circuit Judges, and Scalera, District Judge.
Holding that it lacked federal jurisdiction, the district court dismissed appellants' action. Mattingly v. Elias, 325 F. Supp. 1374 (E.D. Pa. 1971). Appellants claim that various practices of their landlords and the landlords' employees violate 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and that the district court did have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1343(3).*fn1
Appellants' original complaint may be divided into three areas. One, they alleged that appellees Gabriel Elias and the Northchester Corporation employed a deputy constable, appellee Daniel Shea. Under color of his state office, appellee Shea allegedly performed various illegal acts, including forcibly entering homes, removing goods and selling them at private sales, conducting illegal constable sales, and removing electric and water meters. The acts were allegedly conducted in a conspiracy with the other appellees.
Two, they alleged that dwellings provided by their landlords had many serious deficiencies which made them almost uninhabitable. The district court's opinion vividly portrays the poor living conditions. Appellants asked that a warranty of habitability be implied by the district court in the lease agreements between appellants and appellees. They also asked for a declaration that the present lease which they must sign is unconscionable and void.
Three, they alleged that appellees took retaliatory action against appellants who sought legal counsel, who became active in community groups, or who reported violations of health and housing codes to local authorities. Mattingly v. Elias, supra at 1379. They asked for injunctive relief against this practice.
The first series of allegations concerning the actions of the constable were disposed of five months prior to the district court's opinion by a stipulation between the parties approved by the court on November 23, 1970 in the form of an injunction against appellees.*fn2
The district court then held that there was no jurisdiction on which appellants could base their claims for declaration of a warrant of habitability and for declaration of the lease as unconscionable. It dismissed these claims with prejudice.
As to appellants' retaliatory eviction claim, the court held that:
"The present record does not indicate whether the plaintiffs have raised the defense of retaliatory eviction in any state court proceeding. Before this defense is raised and rejected in state court proceedings, it would be inappropriate for this Court to issue an injunction against any threatened retaliatory eviction by the defendant." Mattingly v. Elias, supra at 1384.
It then denied appellants' motion for injunctive relief without prejudice.
Appellants challenge the dismissal of their claims for declaratory relief and the denial of their claim for injunctive relief. Neither side is presently ...