When the Courts Want to Implement an Illegal Takings Clause on Your Business Parking Lot

The lawsuit alleges that court personnel acted under the color of law to intimidate Mrs. Simonds by using the threat of criminal prosecution.

Business owner sues Pittsburgh police, judge after parking lot dispute

The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution includes a provision known as the Takings Clause, which states that “private property [shall not] be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

JUN 30, 2021 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: JUL 2, 2021

A woman who says she was unlawfully detained after she called Pittsburgh police about a person illegally parked in a Greenfield lot that she owns filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday alleging retaliation and excessive force.

Marsha Simonds, and her husband, Matthew, sued the City of Pittsburgh, as well as the individual officers who responded to the scene on Murray Avenue on Aug. 27, 2019. They included Adam Thimons, Francesco Rosato, Elizabeth Merkel and Donald Pasquerelli.

The lawsuit also names as defendants Magisterial District Judge James J. Hanley Jr. and an employee in his office, Christine Boyer, as well as Allegheny County.

A message sent to Pittsburgh police was not immediately returned. Angharad Stock, chief deputy district court administrator, said she could not comment on pending litigation.

The complaint alleges that Hanley and Boyer used their relationship with the Pittsburgh police to harass and intimidate the Simonds family “in a manner designed to punish them and suppress their Constitutional rights.”

According to Simonds, her family bought the parking lot in the 4700 block of Murray Avenue in 2016. From the beginning, she said, they ran into problems with people from Hanley’s office illegally parking there.

The county rents an office in a building on Murray Avenue for Hanley’s office, and the entrance to it encroaches on Simonds’ lot.

After years of civil court battles over the space, Simonds obtained an order on Aug. 22, 2019, that allowed Hanley’s office to rent two spaces there, but also giving Simonds permission to call police if anyone parked there illegally.

Five days after the order was issued, a city employee parked in a spot not designated for the magistrate. Simonds said she asked him to move, but he refused.

She went into Hanley’s office with a copy of the court order, but said that Boyer immediately waved her off and yelled at her.

Both women called 911.

Simonds complained of the illegally parked car. Boyer said Simonds was yelling at her and wasn’t permitted to be there.

When Pittsburgh officers arrived, they forcefully handcuffed Simonds on the hood of her car, and then put her in a patrol car and held her there for several minutes.

Ultimately, she was released but charged with two counts of disorderly conduct. On June 7, the charges against Simonds were thrown out.

The lawsuit alleges that the defendants acted under the color of law “to intimidate Mrs. Simonds and her family by using the threat of criminal prosecution.” It also accuses Hanley of using his relationship as a magistrate judge to influence the police to arrest Simonds, and said Hanley personally approved the plan to cite Simonds even though he did not witness the incident in the lobby.

The federal suit also accuses Boyer of making false statements in her 911 call — including that Simonds was yelling at her and was still inside the lobby although video surveillance showed she had already left — “in order to cause Simonds to be arrested,” the lawsuit said.

In the lawsuit, Simonds said that Hanley’s family owed her mother $20,000 for a personal business matter, that was only paid after a lawsuit was threatened.

“The events which followed were designed to retaliate against the plaintiffs and their family,” the complaint said.

Other claims in the suit include conspiracy to obstruct justice, assault and battery, negligent infliction of emotional distress and malicious prosecution.

It also alleges a “custom and practice” of police misconduct against the city, accusing officers of “using untruthful information to substantiate or justify illegal police tactics to suppress the rights of Mrs. Simonds.”

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When the Courts Want to Implement an Illegal Takings Clause on Your Business Parking Lot
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