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ROBISON v. CANTERBURY VILLAGE

January 13, 1987

EDWARD M. ROBISON; EDWARD McCAUL, JR.,; LEE VAN SYCKLE; ROSEMARY HETRICK; BANNISTER ALLEN, III; DENNIS J. SPRINGER, II; EDWIN WATT; and KAREN SPEAKMAN, Plaintiffs,
v.
CANTERBURY VILLAGE, INC., a Pennsylvania corporation; and THOMAS J. REILLY, individually and as President of Canterbury Village, Inc., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: WEBER

 This is an action alleging numerous violations of various constitutional rights seeking declaratory, legal and equitable relief on behalf of former council members and renters against the sole developer/owner and major stockholder of the property which comprises the borough where plaintiffs reside(d). Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss, along with supporting affidavit and brief. Plaintiffs have responded in opposition with affidavits and brief. Discovery has been stayed pending our decision on this motion, and on plaintiffs' motion to dismiss the counterclaim brought by defendants in this action which is also ripe for our consideration. Since evidentiary materials have been submitted, the motions to dismiss will be treated as motions for summary judgment under F.R.Civ.P. 56. See F.R.Civ.P. 12(b).

 Facts

 Canterbury Village, a defendant in this action, is a corporation which was the sole land developer and principal owner of a residential project named Seven Fields, consisting of over 500 acres, and located in Cranberry Township, Butler County, Pennsylvania. Defendant, Thomas Reilly, is the president and major shareholder of Canterbury Village. Seven Fields was approved for incorporation as a borough in October, 1983, and an election of borough officials was held in November of 1983. Plaintiffs in this action were living in the Borough of Seven Fields at the time as tenants, and were elected to serve as council members. Canterbury Village, Inc. continued as landlord of the rental units located in Seven Fields Borough after its incorporation as a borough. Almost all of the residents of the borough are tenants of Canterbury Village, Inc. The corporation provides municipal services to the borough, including the borough's road system, water and sewer systems, as well as police and fire protection.

 Allegations

 Plaintiffs allege that the corporation has attempted to control elected borough officials by using its powers under the landlord tenant act to threaten eviction and/or to refuse to renew the lease of any elected official who acted in defiance of Canterbury Village, Inc./Reilly's wishes or policy. The difficulties apparently began when borough officials deviated from the corporation's wishes by adopting a tax structure and budget which differed markedly from that proposed by the corporation and Reilly. Thereafter defendants allegedly instituted a series of intimidating and retaliatory measures against council to coerce or influence them in the exercise of their official duties. Defendants' acts allegedly caused a chilling effect on plaintiffs' exercise of their constitutional or civil rights. As a result of defendants' acts, council members resigned en masse in May, 1984.

 Plaintiffs have sued under the following legal theories:

 
1. violation of First Amendment right of free speech;
 
2. violation of Ninth Amendment right to serve as public officials and right to have votes count;
 
3. violation of Fourteenth Amendment -- interference with privileges of citizens;
 
4. eviction or threatened eviction of council members violated equal protection;
 
5. eviction or threatened eviction violated due process;
 
6. interference with right to vote (§ 1971(b) and § ...

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