Last updated: January 06. 2014 11:53PM - 1456 Views
JOE HEALEY jhealey@psdispatch.com

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SCRANTON – A lawsuit against the city of Pittston’s rental inspection ordinance has been withdrawn from federal court.

Attorney John F. Bradley of Philadelphia, representing the Northeast Pennsylvania Landlord Tenant Homeowners Association and landlords Robert Bejeski and Helen Brigido, said the case will be refiled in several weeks in the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas.

City Council last year updated an ordinance requiring biennial safety and fire inspections of all rental units and businesses. After the update passed and amid criticism that fines were excessive and time restrictions were too tight, council relaxed the penalties and time restrictions.

But Bradley states the changes didn’t go far enough. The suit hinged on four points: The penalty provision of the rental inspection law is unconstitutional because of its vagueness; it is illegal under the state’s tax enabling act, which requires it to be revenue-neutral; information sought from landlords on forms violates the state’s right to privacy statutes; and the city’s nuisance ordinance of 2008 violates residents’ right to due process of law by allowing the police chief to act as a judge in determining if a property is a nuisance property.

The city officials have said all along Pittston is on solid legal footing.

The case was originally filed in Luzerne County Court, but the city had it moved to U.S. District Court in Scranton because several issues raised by Bradley involved the U.S. Constitution. But the case primarily involves issues under Pennsylvania law, Bradley said.

“(Pittston city) removed the case to federal court because the complaint raised secondary issues concerning the U.S. Constitution,” he said in a prepared statement. “Therefore, (the association) has chosen to withdraw this complaint in order to secure its right to file a new complaint focused exclusively on state issues. We believe the issues in this case can most effectively resolved by the Pennsylvania courts”

Pittston Councilman Michael Lombardo, an attorney, said it is frustrating for the city to have to defend such a lawsuit.

“What’s disappointing me, as a public official and a taxpayer, is we have to spend city resources and tax dollars on this lawsuit, which has absolutely no merit.”

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