Elliott Greenleaf won dismissal of all claims against the City of Wilkes-Barre, its Mayor and its Assistant Solicitor in a matter pending in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. The plaintiffs alleged violations of Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Act and seizures of real and personal property brought pursuant to the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. Specifically, the plaintiffs claimed that the defendants conspired to remove a property from a tax claim sale in order to sell to a specific third party; the defendants provided knowingly false information to the plaintiffs in response to a right to know request; the defendants seized the plaintiffs’ personal property from the subject real property; and the defendants caused to be erected a fence encroaching on the plaintiffs’ real property. In reversing a Magistrate Judge’s partial rejection of Elliott Greenleaf’s motion to dismiss, the Federal District Judge agreed with Elliott Greenleaf and held that the plaintiffs’ due process claims for alleged violations of Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Act failed because the plaintiffs did not have a property interest in information or records under the Right to Know Act. Additionally, the Court agreed with Elliott Greenleaf that alleged violations of state law cannot provide the basis for due process claims in federal court.
In addition, in dismissing the plaintiffs’ seizure of property claims, the Court affirmed the position of Elliott Greenleaf in that substantive due process claims do not apply to personal property and that the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate a substantive due process claim because their allegations were bare and failed to ‘shock the conscience’.
John G. Dean, Mark W. Bufalino and Matthew J. Carmody of the Firm’s Scranton and Wilkes-Barre offices successfully represented the City of Wilkes-Barre, its Mayor and Assistant Solicitor in this matter.