United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Leonard N. Anderson, Plaintiff,
Ed Smith, in his individual capacity and his official capacity for his conduct under color of law, in the course and scope of his employment, as a City of St. Paul, Department of Safety Inspections Employee, and City of St. Paul, a political subdivision of the state of Minnesota, Defendants.
J. Nickitas, Peter J. Nickitas Law Office, Minneapolis, MN,
for plaintiff Leonard N. Anderson.
D. Hafner and Judith A. Hanson, Saint Paul City
Attorney's Office, Saint Paul, MN, for defendants Ed
Smith and City of Saint Paul.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. TOSTRUD UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.
Leonard N. Anderson is a St. Paul resident whose home and
yard (the “Property”), due to concerns about
their condition, have been the subject of many enforcement
activities by the defendant City of St. Paul. Though not
directly relevant to this case, Anderson alleges, and public
records confirm, that his relationship with the City has been
quarrelsome for quite some time. See First Am.
Compl. (“Am. Compl.”) ¶¶ 17, 28-29 [ECF
No. 27]; see also Anderson v. City of St. Paul, No.
15-cv-1636 (PJS/HB), 2016 WL 614384, at *1 (D. Minn. Feb. 16,
2016) [hereinafter “Anderson I”]
(summarizing Anderson's relationship with the City). In
this case, Anderson alleges that a subset of enforcement
actions undertaken by the City and co-defendant Ed Smith, a
City employee in the Department of Safety and Inspections,
violated several of Anderson's federal constitutional
rights and certain state statutory and common-law rights.
Defendants seek dismissal of Anderson's claims under
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (“Rules”)
12(b)(6) and 12(c). Anderson's federal constitutional
claims will be dismissed because they are not plausibly
pleaded. Anderson's state-law claims will be dismissed
because those claims lack an independent basis for federal
jurisdiction, and the better choice is not to exercise
supplemental jurisdiction over those claims given dismissal
of the federal claims at this early stage of the proceedings.
September 29, 2014, the City inspected Anderson's
property, and on the same day, it issued a correction notice
informing Anderson that the inspection had revealed
thirty-three alleged “deficiencies” that
“violat[e] . . . the Saint Paul Legislative
Code.” Am. Compl., Ex. A (footnote omitted); see
also Id. ¶ 30. The deficiencies identified in that
correction notice included items such as replacing or
repairing roofing in specific areas, repairing or
weather-sealing siding and other areas of the exterior,
submitting a design for re-grading in one area to address a
drainage issue, and making various other repairs to, or
replacements of, parts of the building, among other items.
Id., Ex. A at 2. The notice further informed
Anderson that he must “correct[ ]” each alleged
deficiency before the City's re-inspection, which would
occur on or after November 18, 2014, or else face potential
criminal charges, a civil lawsuit, or abatement or assessment
by the City. Id., Ex. A at 1.
appealed the September 29, 2014 correction notice,
and-according to Anderson-he and the City resolved the issues
raised in the notice by “stay[ing] and suspend[ing] . .
. on one condition, and no other-that Mr. Anderson list his
[Property] for sale.” Id. ¶ 31;
see Aff. of Megan D. Hafner (“Hafner
Aff.”), Ex. 1 [ECF No. 38]. Anderson further alleges
that Defendants “did not impose, either in written or
oral communication, a condition that if he failed to sell
[the Property], that [Defendants] would revive their
correction proceedings against him.” Am. Compl. ¶
34. In fact, the City resolution describing the terms under
which the City agreed to address Anderson's appeal was
approved by the Saint Paul City Council and signed by the
mayor on November 5, 2014, and provides in part as follows:
the Legislative Hearing Officer recommends that the City
Council grant [an extension of approximately one year] until
November 1, 2015 for compliance with the correction order
dated September 29, 2014, if the following conditions are
1) the property must be listed for sale by November 17, 2014;
2) there shall be quarterly reports to the Legislative
Hearing Officer detailing the progress in the sale, including
a list of showings and offers; and
3) all repairs undertaken shall be made under permit; Now,
Therefore, Be It RESOLVED, that the Saint Paul City Council
hereby accepts and adopts the Legislative Hearing
Officer's recommendation in this matter.
Hafner Aff., Ex. 1.
alleges that he did list the Property for sale at some point
in 2014, but that it did not sell, despite his diligent
efforts. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 32-33. He also alleges that
he “hired a contractor to make repairs to the roof of
his dwelling, conformably to the 33 point discrepancy
notice.” Id. ¶ 35.
10, 2015, Anderson received a “Summary Abatement
Order” (dated July 7) ordering him to “cut and
remove tall grass, weeds and rank plant growth
throughout” the Property. Id. ¶ 62.
Anderson's Property includes wetland areas, with
cattails, tall water plants, and wild water grass, but he
alleges that the abatement order otherwise “has no
basis in the objective reality that natural persons of
ordinary intelligence and command of their respective five
senses perceive.” Id. ¶¶ 64, 66.
According to Anderson, no one has ever complained that his
Property constituted a public or private nuisance, and that
moreover the City has never taken any action to cut or remove
tall grasses, thistles, and weeds growing on other, public
property on the East Side of Saint Paul. Id.
¶¶ 63, 65. Nevertheless, on July 14, 2015, Smith
and numerous Saint Paul police officers arrived at
Anderson's Property to destroy vegetation pursuant to the
Summary Abatement Order. Id. ¶ 69. But a number
of people intervened, and Smith and the officers left the
Property without carrying out any abatement activities.
Id. ¶ 70.
point after the aborted abatement activities, Anderson
learned of the existence of a City-run website that contained
information about certain actions the City has undertaken
with respect to the Property. Id. ¶ 71. Of
primary relevance to this action is a statement on that
website that the Property's “[i]nterior is
unsafe/uninhabitable”-a statement Anderson maintains is
false. Id. ¶¶ 74, 78. The website lists
October 10, 2011 as the date of both the complaint and the
initial inspection, with periodic updates from November 19,
2014 through July 21, 2015 briefly describing subsequent
inspections or “[r]echeck[s].” Id.
¶¶ 74-75. At least one of those inspections was
attributed to Inspector 325, meaning Smith. Id.
¶ 74. Anderson alleges generally that he has
“exercis[ed] reasonable effort to persuade the
Defendants to correct, eliminate, retract, and
mitigate” the allegedly false statements on the
website, but the City has not removed them. Id.
¶ 83. According to Anderson, the website's content
regarding the Property was “a contributing
factor” in preventing Anderson from selling the
Property. Id. ¶ 128.
25, 2018, Smith sent Anderson a second correction notice that
included all the same alleged deficiencies identified in the
September 29, 2014 correction notice, plus a new,
thirty-fourth item alleging that Anderson unlawfully built a
berm on his own property using fifty cubic yards of dirt that
eroded onto the property of his neighbor to the north.
Id., Ex. B; see also Id. ¶¶
37-39. Smith, Anderson claims, issued the notice “as
the direct result of” a complaint received from
Anderson's northerly neighbors. Id. ¶ 50.
Apparently unbeknownst to Smith, Anderson had previously sued
those neighbors over a dispute involving an unlicensed tree
cutter the neighbors had hired whose work had allegedly
damaged trees on Anderson's Property. Id.
not entirely clear from the First Amended Complaint whether
Anderson disputes that any soil from his berm had eroded onto
the neighboring property. See Id. ¶¶ 40-41
(alleging that coniferous trees he planted along the berm
“anchor the berm soil”). But he does explicitly
take issue with the berm-related deficiency in other
respects. He alleges that Smith issued the 2018 correction
notice without knowing the location of the relevant property
line, the volume of the dirt forming the berm, or even
“whether or not dirt actually eroded onto” the
neighboring property. Id. ¶¶ 43-45. He
alleges that Smith failed to undertake “even minimal
investigation” of the Property and did not make
“minimal contact with” Anderson or his counsel,
id. ¶ 51, did not include any legal citation in
the correction notice, id. ¶ 46, and issued the
notice “without any imminent, pressing need” to
do so, id. ¶ 49. Anderson alleges that Smith
“willfully refused to make minimal investigation
because of his pre-existing animus” against Anderson
stemming from an instance in which Anderson sued Smith in
2015. Id. ¶ 54. Anderson further alleges that