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Osher v. Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority of City of St. Louis

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

December 29, 2016

JAMES OSHER, Plaintiff,
v.
LAND CLEARANCE FOR REDEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY OF THE CITY OF ST. LOUIS, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          HENRY EDWARD AUTREY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs Motion for Temporary Restraining Order, Preliminary Injunction, and Permanent Injunction, [Doc. No. 3]. Defendants oppose the Motion. The Court conducted a hearing on the Motion on November 18, 2016, at which all parties were represented by counsel. Arguments were heard at the hearing; no evidence was presented. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiffs Motion for Temporary Restraining Order, Preliminary Injunction, and Permanent Injunction is denied and this case is dismissed.

         Introduction

         Plaintiff filed this action against the Land Clearance Redevelopment Authority of the City of St. Louis (“LCRA”) and the National Geospatial- Intelligence Agency (“NGA”) alleging violations of the Uniform Relocation Assistance Act (“URA”) and Fifth Amendment. Plaintiff also filed a Motion for Temporary Restraining Order, Preliminary Injunction, and Permanent Injunction to enjoin Defendants from displacing him and forcing him to vacate his property located in the City of St. Louis.

         Facts and Background

         Plaintiff filed this action on October 28, 2016, alleging violations of the Federal Uniform Relocation Assistance Act (“URA”), 42 U.S.C. § 4601, et seq. In his Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that he owns a property in the City of St. Louis at the comer of Jefferson Avenue and Cass Avenue. He further alleges that he and Defendant Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority of the City of St. Louis (“LCRA”) are parties to a case pending in the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis (the “State Court Case”), in which LCRA acquired his property by eminent, domain.

         Plaintiff alleges that LCRA intended to acquire his property in order to construct a new facility for Defendant National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (“NGA”). Plaintiff further alleges that Defendants have never advised him of his rights under the URA or offered him certain relocation benefits to which he is supposedly entitled under the URA. Plaintiff claims that Defendants failure to do so has “resulted in [his] property being unlawfully seized and [him] being subjected to displacement from his home and business.” Plaintiff filed his Motion on November 1, 2016 seeking to enjoin Defendants from displacing him from his property. The Motion, like his Complaint, was not verified. He did not submit any affidavits in support of his Motion, and did not offer any evidence during the hearing on it. However, the following facts do not appear to be in dispute.

         LCRA filed the State Court Case on December 29, 2015. Plaintiff did not challenge LCRA's right to condemn his property. Pursuant to Missouri law, a Commissioners' Hearing was held to determine the fair market value of Plaintiffs property, which neither Plaintiff nor his attorney attended. The Commissioners later filed an award assessing the fair market value of Plaintiffs property at $810, 000.00. On June 24, 2016, LCRA paid this amount, with interest, into the Court registry, and by doing so took title to the property under Missouri law.

         LCRA wrote to Plaintiff informing him that he had 90 days to vacate the property. Because Plaintiff refused to vacate, LCRA filed a Petition for Writ of Possession in the State Court Case. Plaintiff filed an opposition to that petition, asserting, inter alia, that LCRA had not provided him with federal relocation benefits. A hearing on that petition was held the day before Plaintiff filed this Motion. By the time of the hearing on Plaintiffs Motion in this action, the state court had sustained the Petition for Writ of Possession and ordered Plaintiff to immediately tender possession of the Property to LCRA.

         Discussion

         Section 1983

         Plaintiff brings Counts I and II of his Amended Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. However, by its express terms, § 1983 does not provide a cause of action against the federal government. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (imposes liability on any person who, under color of state law, deprives a person of rights, privileges, or immunities under the Constitution or federal law) (emphasis added); see also District of Columbia v. Carter, 409 U.S. 418, 424-25 (1973); Williams v. Rogers, 449 F.2d 513, 517 (8th Cir. 1971). This is a point that Plaintiff conceded in his Reply brief. Accordingly, Plaintiff's § 1983 claims against NGA fail as a matter of law. See McKenna v. St. Louis Co. Police Dep't, No. 4:09CV1113CDP, 2010 WL 56011, *5 (E.D. Mo. Jan. 4, 2010) (“Section 1983 claims are unavailable against federal defendants because of section 1983's state action requirement.”).

         Abstention

         In Younger v. Harris,401 U.S. 37, 43-44 (1971), the Supreme Court stated that federal courts should refrain from interfering with pending state judicial proceedings absent extraordinary circumstances. See Fuller v. Ulland,76 F.3d 957, 959 (8th Cir. 1996). When determining whether to invoke the Younger abstention doctrine, courts analyze three factors known as the Middlesex factors: 1) whether there is an ongoing state judicial proceeding; 2) whether the state court proceeding implicates important state interests; and 3) whether there is an adequate opportunity in the state court proceeding to raise constitutional challenges. See Middlesex v. Garden State Bar Ass'n,457 ...


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