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Cowell v. Palmer Township

ELR Citation: 32 ELR 20029
Nos. No. 00-1075, 263 F.3d 286/(3d Cir., 08/27/2001)

The court affirms a district court decision that municipal liens placed on individuals' property did not constitute a taking or violate the individuals' due process rights. In 1992, and again in 1993, a town imposed municipal liens on the property for municipal improvement. In 1999, the individuals brought suit against the town but the court dismissed the case.

The court first holds that the district court was correct in concluding that the individuals' takings claim was not ripe because the individuals had not yet availed themselves of the state procedures for seeking just compensation. The individuals argued that they were not required to file an inverse condemnation petition because the town did not have legal authority to impose the liens. However, the individuals' ability to file an inverse condemnation petition in state court in order to obtain just compensation is not related to the town's right to impose the liens. The individuals also argued that they exhausted state remedies by raising the merits of the two liens in bankruptcy court, but adjudication in federal bankruptcy court is not an appropriate alternative to the state inverse condemnation procedures. The court also holds that even if the individuals' takings claim was ripe, the town's actions do not amount to a taking because a municipal lien does not deprive the landowner of all economically viable use of the property. The court next holds that the district court was correct in holding that the individuals' due process claims are barred by the statute of limitations. The individuals argued that the continuing violation doctrine applies to the case. Yet, the mere existence of the liens does not amount to a continuing violation, and the individuals knew about the wrongfulness of the liens when they were imposed and could have brought a claim at that time.

The full text of this decision is available from ELR (13 pp., ELR Order No. L-391).

Counsel for Appellants
Maurice R. Mitts
Frey, Petrakis, Deeb & Blum
1601 Market St., Philadelphia PA 19103
(215) 563-0500

Counsel for Appellees
Maureen P. Fitzgerald
McKissock & Hoffman
1700 Market St., Philadelphia PA 19103
(215) 246-2100