United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
STEWART CERCONE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on a Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No.
38) filed by Defendants Borough of Wilkinsburg
(“Wilkinsburg”), Chief of Police Ophelia Coleman
(“Chief Coleman”), former Borough Manager Marla
Marcinko (“Macinko”), former Borough code
enforcement officer Daniel S. Freidson
(“Freidson”), and Borough code enforcement
employee James Frank (“Frank”). In his Amended
Complaint, Plaintiff Michael Johannes
(“Plaintiff”) seeks relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 for alleged violations of his constitutional
rights in conjunction with a dispute over a parcel of real
property located at 807 Walnut Street in Wilkinsburg,
Pennsylvania. (Doc. No. 17 at ¶ 28). This Court has
jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and 42 U.S.C.
April of 2014, Plaintiff and several associates “took
possession of an abandoned structure” located at 807
Walnut Street (“the Property”) with the intent to
ultimately obtain ownership of that property. (Doc. No. 17 at
¶¶ 11-17). Plaintiff found the place to be in a
state of neglect, “stacked to the brim with junk, old
carpets, refuse, etc., ” and with no plumbing,
electric, or heat. (Id. at ¶ 13). From April
2014 until June 2014, Plaintiff and his associates cleaned
and gutted the property and began to repair and install
plumbing and electricity. (Id. at ¶ 15).
times, the title to the Property belonged to the estate of
its last occupant, the late Nancy Schillero. (Id. at
¶ 14.) Plaintiff avers that each of Schillero's
three children “had wholly refused any interest or
dominion over the premises” due to the burdens of
unpaid real estate taxes and an old mortgage. (Id.
at ¶¶ 12-13.) After obtaining possession of the
premises, Plaintiff filed an Action to Quiet Title in the
Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County on April 15, 2014,
seeking to compel the heirs to file an action for ejectment
or be forever barred from the property. (Id. at
13, 2014, eight Wilkinsburg police officers arrived at the
Property and ordered Plaintiff and his associates to leave,
threatening to charge them with criminal trespass.
(Id. at ¶ 9). Plaintiff contends that he
“showed them [he] had gained possession of the property
and was entitled to civil process” but was
16, 2014, Plaintiff alleges that Friedson, acting in his
capacity as a code-enforcement officer, instructed Plaintiff
that Wilkinsburg was going to board up the house and that
Plaintiff should stay away. (Id. at ¶ 22). Code
enforcement employees screwed boards and restraints into the
house so that Plaintiff could not enter it, causing damage to
the Property and restricting Plaintiff's access.
(Id. at ¶ 23). Plaintiff subsequently filed a
“Petition for Temporary Restraining Order and
Preliminary Injunction” on June 17, 2014, claiming that
he had acquired title to the Property and that Wilkinsburg
and its employees were violating his constitutional rights by
preventing him from accessing the home. (Id. at
¶¶ 29-30; Doc. No. 39-2). Plaintiff contends that
Wilkinsburg code enforcement officers then retaliated against
him by posting a “Violation Notice” and a
“No Entry” sign on another piece of property that
he owned. (Id. at ¶ 30).
November 18, 2014, Judge Timothy O'Reilly of the
Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas entered an
interlocutory Order stating that “Plaintiff has gained
possession of the Property at 807 Walnut Street” and
“may remain on the Property in conformity with Borough
Ordinances.” (Id. at ¶ 31; Doc. No. 39-2
at 14). Judge O'Reilly ordered Plaintiff to raise an
estate for Nancy Schillero within 90 days in order to serve
the estate with notification of his Action to Quiet Title and
cautioned that failure to do so would result in
reconsideration of the Order. (Id. at 15).
to the issuance of Judge O'Reilly's Order, and
apparently unbeknownst to Judge O'Reilly, an estate had
already been raised for the last owner of the Property, Nancy
Schillero, in the Orphans' Court Division of the
Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas. (Doc. No.
39-4). Upon learning of Plaintiff's Action to
Quiet Title, the Schillero estate filed a timely
“Petition to Intervene, Reconsider Order of Court and
Eject Trespasser.” (Doc. No. 39-1; Doc. No. 39-2). On
January 15, 2015, Judge O'Reilly ordered that the Action
to Quiet Title (and the Petition to Intervene) be transferred
to the Orphans' Court and merged with the related estate
action for disposition. (Doc. No. 39-1; Doc. No. 39-2; Doc.
March 25, 2015, Judge Kathleen Durkin of the Orphans'
Court issued an Order rejecting Plaintiff's claim to the
Property “as not valid and as a non-priority
claim.” (Doc. No. 39-4 at 60). Judge Durkin ordered
that the Property be sold and the proceeds distributed to the
pertinent taxing authorities, with any remaining tax
obligations discharged. (Id.).
initiated the instant action on February 3, 2016. (Doc. No.
1). Plaintiff filed his Amended Complaint on April 7, 2016.
(Doc. No. 17). Defendants moved to dismiss on May 16, 2016
(Doc. No. 38), and Plaintiff filed responses in opposition on
May 16 and 17, 2016 (Doc. Nos. 40, 43). This matter is ripe
Standard of Review
motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure tests the legal sufficiency of a
complaint. Kost v. Kozakiewicz,1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d
Cir. 1993). A complaint must be dismissed for failure to
state a claim if it does not allege “enough facts to
state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 554, 556
(2007) (rejecting the traditional 12(b)(6) standard set forth
in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957));
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “A claim has facial
plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that