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Litwak v. Tomko

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

September 19, 2017

JOHN R. LITWAK, JR., D/B/A JRL EMERGENCY SERVICES, Plaintiff,
v.
RICHARD E. TOMKO, MAYOR OF THE BOROUGH OF ST. CLAIR et. al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          A. Richard Caputo United States District Judge

         Presently before this Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint for failing to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Alternatively, Defendants' move for a more definite statement claiming that Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint is so vague or ambiguous that they cannot reasonably prepare a response. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss will be denied as moot because this Court will grant Defendants' Motion for a More Definite Statement pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e).

         I. Background

         A. Factual History

         The well-pleaded facts as set forth in Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint (Doc. 18) are as follows:

         Plaintiff John R. Litwak, Jr. is a Pennsylvania resident who operates a towing, storage, and repair station called JRL Emergency Services (“JRL”) in St. Clair, Shenandoah, and Pottsville, Schuykill County, Pennsylvania. The Second Amended Complaint names as Defendants: The Borough of St. Clair (the “Borough”); Richard Tomko, as the Mayor of the Borough of St. Clair during all relevant times; James Larish, Michael Petrozino, Joann Brennan, John Burke, Valeria Davis, and John Houseknecht as members of the Borough Council during all relevant times (Larish as Council President and Petrozino as Council Vice President); and William Dempsey, Frank DeMarco, and Joseph Leskin as Borough Police Officers at all relevant times. Defendants are “all named in both their official and personal capacities.”

         1. Unlawful Seizure of Three Vehicles

         Litwak first claims that the Defendants unlawfully seized his personal property on three separate occasions. First, around February 18, 2016, Litwak's 1999 Volkswagen Jetta was towed from Litwak's private property located in St. Clair by Trial Towing Company, allegedly at the request of the Borough, all three named police officers, and the named council members.[1] The Jetta is titled in the name of Litwak's business, JRL. Second, on a prior unknown date, the St. Clair police-specifically Officers Demarco and Dempsey-seized a 1994 Chevrolet pickup truck titled under one of Litwak's businesses while it was parked on Litwak's private property. Litwak claims this truck is being held at B's Garage in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, with towing and storage bills amounting to roughly $90, 000.00. Third, on another unknown date, the St. Clair police seized another 1994 Chevrolet pickup owned by Litwak while it was parked on property leased by Litwak in Gilberton, Pennsylvania. The current location of this vehicle is unknown. Litwak claims that the Borough presently retains custody of both 1994 Chevrolet pickups and refuses to return either of them. No search warrant or receipt for seized property was issued, and no “legitimate reason” was given for the seizure of any of the three vehicles.

         2. St. Clair Borough Zoning Appeal Dispute

         Litwak owns parcels of land located in the Borough that are zoned in a C-2 General Commercial District under St. Clair Zoning Ordinance 326 (the “Ordinance”). Section 5.202 of the Ordinance entitled “Uses Permitted By Right” states in relevant part:

         Land and buildings in a C-2 District may be used for the following purposes and no others:

1. Retail and wholesale of goods, prepared foods, and services.
19. Motor vehicle service station, subject to:
(a) All automobile parts, dismantled vehicles and similar articles shall be stored ...

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