Gould v. Council of Bristol Borough, PICS Case No. 14-0206 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 27, 2014) Restrepo, J. (14 pages).

U.S. District Court - Eastern

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Motion Practice • Statute of Limitations • Constitutional Law

Gould v. Council of Bristol Borough, PICS Case No. 14-0206 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 27, 2014) Restrepo, J. (14 pages).

The court granted defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint, which alleged violations of a number of plaintiff's federal constitutional rights.

Plaintiff purchased a dilapidated piece of property in Bristol Borough's town center. It consists of three stone row homes. Prior to plaintiff's purchase of the property, the borough had initiated proceedings to condemn the property as blighted. Plaintiff filed preliminary objections in the eminent domain proceeding and prevailed. He had planned to restore the property as a residential unit, but defendant took the position that the zoning code prohibited purely residential use. Plaintiff devised a plan to develop his property under defendant's amended zoning code, which allowed some mixed use, but defendant ultimately rejected his plan.

Plaintiff filed a complaint on July 8, 2013, for violations of his civil rights, including deprivations of due process, equal protection, taking without just compensation, conspiracy to violate constitutional rights, and conspiracy to obstruct justice. Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1).

The court held the statute of limitations barred plaintiff's claims because the events alleged all occurred more than two years prior to the filing of the complaint. Plaintiff argued there was a continuing violation which extended the statute of limitations. However, the court found that plaintiff did not allege any act by the defendants that occurred within the applicable limitations period. A continuing violation is occasioned by continual unlawful acts, not continual ill effects from an original violation, and the focus is on affirmative acts of the defendant. The court did not find sufficient allegations of any continual violations.

Plaintiff suggested a requirement to exhaust state remedies tolled the statute of limitations. The court held there was no exhaustion requirement for plaintiff's federal claims, and he could have filed in federal court even while his state claims were still pending. The court held the limitations period was not tolled due to exhaustion of remedies requirements.

The court found no allegations to support a violation of substantive due process, which requires egregious official conduct that shocks the conscience. With regard to the equal protection claim, the court found plaintiff did not allege the existence of similarly situated individuals that would support a finding of differential treatment. The claim for violation of the takings clause was not yet ripe, because if a state provides an adequate procedure for seeking just compensation, the property owner may not claim a violation of the takings clause until he has used the state procedure and been denied just compensation. The court found no allegations to support a conspiracy or obstruction of justice.

The court granted plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint consistent with the court's memorandum.