United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
DARNELL JONES, II, J.
Gerald Bush brings the above-captioned action pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983 for the alleged illegal taking of his
purported residence located at 5108 Chester Avenue,
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (the “Property”). More
specifically, Plaintiff has set forth federal claims under
the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment, 5 U.S.C. §
552 of the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”),
26 U.S.C. § 6323 of the Internal Revenue Code (the
“Tax Code”), 28 U.S.C. § 2409 of the Quiet
Title Act, and 28 U.S.C. § 2412. Plaintiff has also
raised claims under Pennsylvania state law for fraud, breach
of contract, violation of Rule 3113 of the Pennsylvania Rules
of Civil Procedure, and violation of 42 Pa.C.S. §
5527.3, seeking compensation for lost property, reimbursement
for work completed by him on the Property, and deprivation of
his civil rights (ECF No. 2, p.8).
before the Court is Plaintiff's Emergency Petition for a
Preliminary Injunction (the “Emergency Petition”)
(ECF Nos. 17, 20, 21), Defendants Philadelphia Redevelopment
Authority, Christi M. Jackson, and Robert Labrum's
(collectively, the “Defendants”) Opposition
thereto (ECF No. 27), Defendants' Motion to Dismiss
pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure (the “Motion to Dismiss”) (ECF
No. 26), and Plaintiff's Opposition thereto (ECF No. 29).
For the reasons set forth below, the Court shall deny the
Emergency Petition and grant the Motion to Dismiss for lack
of subject matter jurisdiction. The Court declines to
exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's
state-law claims and this case shall be dismissed with
FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Complaint is a compilation of documents including: (1)
filings in various actions initiated in the Philadelphia
Court of Common Pleas, (2) excerpts from statutes, (3) a form
letter including an account statement from Philadelphia Gas
Works for the Property from January 1, 2002 through October
11, 2018,  (4) a form letter from PECO Customer
Service confirming the establishment of an account by
Plaintiff on April 1, 2001, (5) valuations of the Property
from 2013 until 2019 from an online website, (6)
correspondence directed to Plaintiff's attention
demanding that he vacate the Property, (7) correspondence
regarding Plaintiff's attempt to seek what he would deem
an appropriate resolution of the alleged illegal taking of
the Property, and (8) correspondence pertaining to
Plaintiff's Right-to-Know request for documents under
Pennsylvania's Right-to-Know-Law, 65 P.S. §§
67.101, et seq. (See ECF Nos. 1, 3, 4, 9).
Given Plaintiff's pro se status, the Court has
done its best to distill what could reasonably be construed
as factual allegations from these documents and construed
them in Plaintiff's favor.
given Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject
Matter Jurisdiction, or Alternatively, for Failure to State a
Claim (“Motion to Dismiss”) the Court will also
set forth the facts as presented by Defendant because it is
Plaintiff's burden to establish jurisdiction.
Plaintiff's Factual Allegations
allegedly obtained possession of the Property pursuant to an
agreement between he and the City of Philadelphia under an
abandonment/abatement program. (ECF No. 4, p.
Plaintiff claims he spent $66, 000 to purchase the Property.
(Id.). Plaintiff also claims there is an email
confirming his purchase or the City of Philadelphia's
“promise of ownership, ” and he alleges that he:
had an agreement with the City of Philadelphia
abandonment/abatement program and was assured ownership
through this agreement[.] . . . The extent and nature of the
agreement is in the form of an e-mail dated June 1, 2018 to
Gregory Heller of the PRA. The contract is in electronic form
due to the file room not being able to locate the contract
that was made in 2002 or 2003. . . .
(ECF No. 4, pp. 8-9; see also ECF No. 3, p.
Plaintiff has identified the relevant email as being from
Paulette Adams, Director of Community Development in the
Office of Councilwoman Jannie L. Blackwell, to Greggory
Heller, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Redevelopment
Authority, written on June 1, 2018 with a subject line of
“5108 Chester Avenue, ” wherein Ms. Adams
I need to resolve the situation with this property. Mr.
Gerald Bush has been in this property for 14 years. Sandy
Hayes, my predecessor, worked with Mr. Bush through the
abandonment/abatement program. He was assured ownership
through this arrangement.”
No. 4, p. 4). Later that day, Mr. Heller responded:
“Let me look into this and get back to you early next
asserts that in addition to the emails between Ms. Adams and
Mr. Heller (the “Adams/Heller Email”), additional
evidence of his ownership of the Property includes the fact
that he has maintained, improved, repaired, and renovated the
Property for the past seventeen (see ECF No. 4, p.
9) or eighteen years and has paid other expenses on the
Property. (ECF No. 4, p. 18; see also ECF No. 9, p.
3). However, Plaintiff also alleges that he took these
actions pursuant to a contract entered into by him in 2003
with Sandy Hayes, Councilwoman Blackwell, and Ms. Adams,
wherein he agreed to make all necessary repairs on the
Property. (ECF No. 3, p. 3; see also ECF
No. 9, p. 3). After completing work under this alleged
agreement for fourteen years, Plaintiff claims he
unsuccessfully sought reimbursement for his efforts, but it
is not clear from whom. (See ECF No. 9, p. 3).
Plaintiff claims that despite his alleged ownership of the
Property, Defendants have attempted to have him vacate the
Property since May 27, 2009, without any legal basis.
(See ECF Nos. 4, pp. 11-16, 23). At some point,
which was not made clear by Plaintiff, he claims that the
City of Philadelphia or Defendant PRA filed a “false
petition in order to take property [sic] from the plaintiff,
” namely, the residence located at 5108 Chester Ave,
Philadelphia, PA. (ECF No. 4, pp. 1-2). Plaintiff also
claims that Defendant PRA also interfered with his agreement
with the City of Philadelphia/City Council - whether for the
sale of the Property or for reimbursement for the work he
performed on the Property is unclear - and that the City of
Philadelphia/City Council breached the agreement by trying to
sell the Property to another individual, as evidenced by a
letter of support from Ms. Blackwell to Mr. Heller regarding
the application of a Ms. Atema Addy to acquire the Property.
(ECF No. 9, p. 6; see also ECF No. 3, p.
According to Plaintiff, these alleged actions constitute
fraud, or at least, a failure to adequately investigate the
ownership of the Property. (ECF No. 4, p. 2).
Defendants' Factual Allegations
PRA claims to have owned the Property since April 14, 2003
when it filed a Declaration of Taking pursuant to former
Pennsylvania Eminent Domain Code, 26 P.S. §§1-101,
et seq., as amended (“Declaration of
Taking”), which was supported by an affidavit by
Herbert E. Wetzel, the Philadelphia Redevelopment
Authority's Executive Director. (ECF No. 26-1, p. 2; ECF
No. 26-2, Ex. A). Defendant PRA's Declaration of Taking
afforded it a fee simple interest in the Property and other
areas identified as blighted and condemned pursuant to
Resolution No. 17, 168, which was passed by Defendant PRA on
April 8, 2003. (ECF No. 26-2, Ex. A, ¶¶ 3, 4, 6;
see also pp. 5-9). Defendant PRA also filed a Notice
of Condemnation in accordance with § 404 of the
Pennsylvania Eminent Domain Code, which was executed by
Nicholas Dema, Jr., Defendant PRA's then Director of
Housing, and Mr. Wetzel.
to the documents supporting the Declaration of Taking, as of
April 14, 2003 Michael James was the owner, condemnee, or
grantor of the Property to Defendant PRA. (ECF No. 26-2, p.
17). Mr. James came into ownership of the Property on October
17, 2001 when the deed for the Property he purchased from
Troy Prater for $40, 000, was recorded by the Commissioner of
Records for the City of Philadelphia. (ECF No. 26-2, Ex. C).
A search of the website for the Recorder of Deeds shows that
Mr. Prater had owned the Property since September 3, 1997 and
Plaintiff was not among one of the owners prior to that
date. (ECF No. 26-1, p. 3; see also
ECF No. 26-2, Ex. D).
to Defendants, despite Defendant PRA being the record fee
holder of the Property since April 14, 2003, Plaintiff,
“[w]ithout the [Defendant PRA's] knowledge,
consent, or permission, . . . trespassed on the Property,
[and] has allegedly been performing repairs on the
Property.” (ECF No. 26-1, p. 3). Defendants also
believe that Plaintiff has been renting the Property for some
unknown amount of time due to contact by one of
Plaintiff's alleged tenants in the Spring of 2018,
stating she'd been locked out of the Property by
Plaintiff and was being denied access to her belongings. (ECF
No. 26-1, p. 3). Since May 27, 2009 Defendant PRA has sent
multiple notices to Plaintiff demanding that he vacate the
Property, but he not only refuses to comply, he
“interferes with the [Defendant PRA's] entry into
the Property.” (ECF No. 26-1, p. 3).
State Court Actions
April 14, 2003, Defendant PRA initiated an eminent domain
action in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, No.
030401046 (the “Eminent Domain Action”), by
filing a Declaration of Taking. (ECF No. 26-2, Ex. A at 2-3).
In support, Defendant PRA: (1) set forth in the Declaration
of Taking the name and address of the condemnor; (2)
identified §§ 9(i) and 12 of the Pennsylvania Urban
Redevelopment Law of May 24, 1945, P.L. 991, as amended and
supplemented, which authorized the condemnation of the
Property (ECF No. 26-2, Ex. A, at 2); (3) filed Resolution
No. 17, 168 (ECF No. 26-2, Ex. A, at 5) authorizing the
Declaration of Taking; (4) explained that the purpose of the
taking was to “acquire and replan the blighted
area” described in the attached Ex. A for commercial,
residential, and related uses (ECF No. 26-2, Ex. A, at 2-3);
(5) filed a Notice of Condemnation and Condemnation Plan
stating where the condemned area was located and could be
inspected (ECF No. 26-2, Ex. A, at 3; Ex. B); (6) described
the nature of the title acquired as “an absolute and
fee simple title, including all easements, rights-of-way, and
the real property interests of whatever nature” (ECF
No. 26-2, Ex. A, at 3); and (7) filed a Bond securing just
compensation for the Property (ECF No. 26-2, Ex. A, at
years later, on October 15, 2018, Plaintiff filed an action
to quiet title in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas
against Defendant PRA due to an alleged fraudulent
conveyance; No. 181001778. (ECF No. 26-2, Exs. G, H). In a
sworn complaint, Plaintiff alleged that he “spent 16
years repairing an abandoned property” located at 5018
Chester Ave., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and that Defendant
PRA “refuse[d] to pay for labor cost for 16
years.” (ECF No. 26-2, Ex. G at 2-3). Plaintiff alleged
that Ms. Adams and Councilwoman Blackwell had proof of his
work that included pictures. (ECF No. 26-2, Ex. G at 3). As
relief, Plaintiff claimed that he “want[ed] title due
to 16 years of labor.” (Id.).
PRA responded by filing a counterclaim against Plaintiff
seeking an injunction, ejectment order, and monetary damages.
(ECF No. 26-1, p. 4; see also ECF No. 26-2, Ex. H at
64-65). Defendant also filed a Petition for Preliminary
Injunction, but Plaintiff discontinued the action on December
3, 2018 before a hearing on the Preliminary Injunction could
be held. (ECF No. 26-1, pp. 4-5; see also ECF No.
26-2, Ex. H at 65-66).
January 9, 2019, Defendant PRA filed a Petition for
Possession in the Eminent Domain Action. In re:
Redevelopment Authority of City of Philadelphia, No.
030401046, Control No. 10911572 (Phila. Ct. Comm. Pleas,
April Term, 2003). The Honorable Edward C. Wright issued an
Order on March 6, 2019 authorizing Defendant PRA to file a
writ of possession for the Property, directing service of the
writ by the Sheriff of Philadelphia County, and directing
delivery of the Property to Defendant PRA “as soon as
possible after service of the writ of possession.” (ECF
No. 26-2, Ex. A at 69). Two days later Plaintiff filed a
motion for reconsideration of the March 6th Order
that Judge Wright denied after a hearing attended by both
Plaintiff and Defendant PRA. (ECF No. 26-1, p. 5; see
also ECF No. 26-2, Ex. J). On July 3, 2019, Defendant
PRA filed a Praecipe for Writ of Possession of the Property.
In re: Redevelopment Authority of City of
Philadelphia, No. 030401046, Docket Entry dated July 3,
to Defendant PRA filing its Praecipe for Writ of Possession,
Plaintiff filed two actions against Defendant PRA in the
Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. First, on May 20, 2019,
Plaintiff filed a contract enforcement action; No. 190502059
(the “Contract Enforcement Action”). (ECF No.
26-2, Ex. K). In his complaint, Plaintiff alleged that the
Adams/Heller Email constituted an enforceable contract with
the “housing and development” office within the
City Council and that the Declaration of Taking filed by
Defendant PRA, No. 030401046, was invalid because he was not
afforded reasonable notice of a hearing on the matter or an
opportunity to be heard. (ECF No. 26-2, Ex. K at 75-76).
PRA filed preliminary objections to the Complaint (ECF No.
18, p. 171); see also In re: Redevelopment Authority of
City of Philadelphia, No. 190502059, Docket Entry dated
June 10, 2019. In the Preliminary Objections, Defendant PRA
argued that it has owned the Property since filing its
Declaration of Taking on April 14, 2003 and Plaintiff has
been a trespasser since that date. (ECF No. 18, pp. 172-73).
Defendant PRA asserted that it sent notices to the Property
demanding that Plaintiff vacate the premises from May 2009
through November 2018, but Plaintiff refused to comply and
interfered with Defendant PRA's ability to enter the
Property. (ECF No. 18, pp. 173). Finally, Defendant PRA
asserted that it had never entered into an Agreement with
Plaintiff and the only means by which it could enter into any
type of “redevelopment agreement” required
compliance with Pennsylvania's Urban Redevelopment Law,
including, in part, obtaining plan approvals by the Defendant
PRA's Board and the City of Philadelphia. (ECF No. 18,
pp. 175). None of Plaintiff's allegations included
compliance with this law. (Id.). The Honorable
Arnold L. New sustained the Preliminary Objections and
dismissed the Complaint with prejudice. (ECF No. 26-2, Ex.
on the same date, May 20, 2019, Plaintiff also filed an
action to quiet title due to an alleged fraudulent
conveyance; No. 190501957 (the “Quiet Title
Action”). (ECF No. 26-2, Ex. L). His claims were the
exact same as those set forth in the Contract Enforcement
Action. (Compare ECF No. 26-2, K, with ECF
No. 26-2, Ex. L). On June 10, 2019, Defendant PRA filed
Preliminary Objections to this Complaint raising the same
objections set forth in the Contract Enforcement Action.
In re: Redevelopment Authority of City of
Philadelphia, No. 190501957, Docket Entry dated June 10,
2019. By Order dated July 8, 2019, the Honorable Paula
Patrick sustained the ...