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Date: 01-15-2024

Case Style:

Sarah Hohenberg, et aux. v. Shelby County, Tennessee

Case Number: 2:20-cv-02432

Judge: Samuel H. Mays, Jr.

Court: United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee (Shelby County)

Plaintiff's Attorney:

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Defendant's Attorney: Memphis, Tennessee civil rights violation claim defense lawyer.

Description: Memphis, Tennessee real property law lawyer represented the Plaintiffs who sued the Defendant on a civil rights violation theory.

Hohenberg and Hanson owned homes in Memphis, Tennessee. They did not maintain them. Hohenberg failed to make repairs after a tree struck her roof. Hanson let the grass, weeds, and other plants grow wild and allowedtrash, debris, and personal property to pile up in his yard. Neighbors complained. A nearby homeowner, a neighborhood association, and the State of Tennessee sued Hohenberg in the Environmental Court, a local court that hears “cases involving alleged violations of county ordinances, including . . . environmental ordinances.” Shelby Cnty. Ord. Code §10-605. They requesteddamages plus an order compelling her to make repairs. One of Hanson’s neighbors emailed Memphis officials, who charged him with code violations and brought enforcement actions in the Environmental Court. Things did not go smoothly. The Court declared Hohenberg’s home a public nuisance and ordered her to submit a remediation plan. When that didn’t work, it appointed a receiver. When Hohenberg did not pay the receiver’s expenses, the Court ordered her home sold at auction. Hohenberg refused to leave and kept her belongings in the house, prompting the Court to issue a warrant for her arrest. She left for Mississippi and declared bankruptcy.

Abankruptcy trustee auctioned off her house, mooting the enforcement action. Meanwhile, the Court found Hanson guilty of code violations and ordered himto clean up his yard. The violations recurred, and the Court held him in contempt. Hanson went to jail. The City of Memphis bulldozed his house, and the Court dismissed his case as moot as well. Hohenberg and Hanson filed this §1983 action against the Court and the County. They claimed that the Court’s procedures—including its failure to use Tennessee’s Civil and Evidence proceedings, and failure to consider constitutional claims or defenses—kneecapped their appeals and prolonged their cases, violating their rights under the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. The County contributed to the violations when it created, funded, and “fail[ed] to oversee” the Court. The duo sought damages and declaratory relief.

Outcome: The district court dismissed their complaint. It ruled that it lacked jurisdiction over most of their claims because they amounted to improper appeals of state court judgments to a district court under 28 U.S.C. § 1257(a).As for the remaining claims,which concerned lost case files, the court held that they came up short (1) against the Environmental Court because it could not be sued under §1983 in federal court and (2) against the County because the claims failed as a matter of law.

Reversed in part and remanded.

Due to inclement weather and the closure of the federal building on 1/16/2024, the telephonic status conference set for Tuesday, 1/16/2024 at 1:30 PM is hereby CANCELLED. A new date and time will be set by separate notice. (btg) (Entered: 01/15/2024)

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