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Abdus Shahid v. Borough of Eddystone

May 21, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Savage, J.


In this pro se civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, plaintiff Abdus Shahid alleges that the Borough of Eddystone ("the Borough") discriminated against him on the basis of his race, national origin and religion. Specifically, he claims that the Borough deliberately prevented him from renting out and living at a property he owns because it did not want a Muslim from Bangladesh owning property in a "white area." Shahid alleges that, as part of the Borough's discriminatory course of conduct, Borough officials fabricated a series of citations for violating municipal ordinances and caused Shahid to be convicted of those violations by lying in court. The Borough moved for summary judgment, arguing that Shahid's entire complaint is barred by the Heck doctrine.*fn1

If successful, Shahid's claim that his convictions were wrongfully obtained would directly undermine the validity of those convictions. That claim is Heck-barred. Although not raised by the Borough, the Rooker-Feldman doctrine also precludes Shahid's challenge to his convictions. However, Shahid's other allegations against the Borough are factually and conceptually distinct from the issues litigated in state court. Because those allegations do not implicate his convictions, they are not barred by Heck or Rooker-Feldman.Thus, we granted the motion in part and denied it in part.*fn2


Shahid, a U.S. citizen, was born in Bangladesh. He is currently a resident of New York. In January 2007, Shahid purchased a residential property in Eddystone, where he says he intended to live once he moved to Eddystone permanently. In the meantime, Shahid has rented the building's first and second floors as separate apartments.

Shahid claims he rented one of the units to Joshua Taylor and his mother, whom Shahid identifies only as a Borough "tax director" or "high-ranking" official. He alleges that Taylor and his mother lived at the property from May 30, 2007 until September 7, 2008, when Shahid threatened to evict them for being four months behind on the rent. He claims that the tax director told him that the Borough would never allow a Muslim from Bangladesh to own or live in the property because it was located in a white area.

Shahid claims that the next day, September 8, 2008, Borough Code Official Dallas Walters came to the property to conduct an inspection. He says that when he informed Walters that he intended to move to the property from New York, Walters responded that the Borough Council was aware that he was Muslim and Bangladeshi; that it was against Borough policy to allow such a person to live or own property in that area; that Walters was authorized to implement the Borough's discriminatory policy; and, that he would call the police if Shahid returned to the building. Shahid alleges that Walters then posted notices reading "Keep Out, Uninhabitable" on the doors, windows, and walls of the property.

Shahid alleges that later, when he was performing maintenance work on the property, Walters appeared and threatened to call the police if he did not leave the premises. Shahid alleges that Walters came to the property several times to discourage prospective tenants from renting from him, telling approximately fourteen or fifteen persons not to rent the units. He also claims that some of those people relayed to him that Walters had told them that the Borough would not allow non-whites to own rental property in that area. He alleges that he was unable to rent the apartments after September 2008 because of the Borough's harassment.

On or around December 23, 2008, Walters gave Shahid a report listing numerous violations of Borough ordinances at the property. Claiming that previous and subsequent inspections revealed no code violations, Shahid alleges that Walters's report was fabricated. Shahid did not receive citations for any of the violations cited in the December 23, 2008 report.

In 2008, 2009 and 2010, Shahid was cited for renting his property without a certificate of occupancy in violation of the Borough Code. He was convicted of those offenses and his convictions were upheld on summary appeal before the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas.

Shahid admits that he has never obtained a certificate of occupancy to rent out the apartments. However, he alleges that, even though he properly applied for a certificate and paid the required fee, the Borough denied his application as part of its scheme to keep non-whites out. Specifically, he claims that Walters fabricated the December 23, 2008 inspection report to create a pretext for denying him a certificate, thereby preventing him from living in or renting out the property.

Shahid was convicted of three other Borough ordinance violations in 2010 and 2011 for failing to remove snow and for maintaining overgrown grass or weeds at the property. He was fined for each conviction, and his convictions were affirmed on appeal.

Standard of Review

Summary judgment is appropriate "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). Judgment will be entered against a party who fails to sufficiently establish any element essential to that party's case and who bears the ultimate burden of proof at trial. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). In examining the motion, we must draw all ...

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