The Langer Grogan & Diver law firm has won a significant constitutional challenge, brought on behalf of a class of approximately 40,000 Philadelphia landlords. The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Andrew Maykuth reports on the decision of U.S. District Court Judge J. Curtis Joyner permanently enjoining Philadelphia Gas Works (“PGW”) from filing liens on any landlord-owned residential or commercial property for unpaid gas bills accrued by a tenant, unless and until PGW designs a notification system that passes constitutional muster.
In the court’s 37-page opinion, Judge Joyner, of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, ruled that “[t]he methods and procedures currently being followed by the City of Philadelphia and its gas utility, Philadelphia Gas Works, for placing municipal liens on realty for its customers’ unpaid gas bills constitute a taking of property without due process of law in violation of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution when the real estate being liened belongs to someone or some entity other than the holder of the delinquent gas account.” Judge Joyner further ruled that “[t]he public interest is always served when the dictates of the United States Constitution are followed and constitutional rights are vindicated. The public interest is thus served hereby permanently enjoining the City of Philadelphia from continuing to violate the rights of a large number of its property owners.” Judge Joyner’s accompanying order can be found here.
Judge Joyner’s final order comes nearly a year after he ruled that PGW’s system of placing liens on landlord properties because of unpaid tenant bills violated the landlords’ constitutional right to adequate due process.