This vacant lot along East State Street in Hermitage is at the center of a federal lawsuit between the city and the son of the former owner.

The city of Hermitage and present and past officials have asked a federal judge to rule on a lawsuit filed over the 2000 demolition of the Stacey house based on the available information, and impose sanctions on Raymond Stacey.

Sereday Excavating, Masury, which was hired by the city to demolish the house, also has asked for summary judgment.

Stacey, taking over as the executor of his mother�s will, has been protesting the city�s demolition of the home of his parents, Andrew and Helen Stacey, 1560 E. State St. The city deemed the house uninhabitable and unsafe in 1997. Helen Stacey lost appeals through Mercer County and state courts.

The case has been in the federal system since 2002, when Mrs. Stacey charged the house was not in imminent danger of collapse, and there were potential buyers interested in making repairs.

Previous federal appellate court decisions have narrowed the focus of the suit to these civil rights claims:

� The defendants seized and destroyed the home without a court order.

� The defendants seized and destroyed family personal property without a hearing or court order.

� The defendants denied the Staceys meaningful access to the courts.

� The city improperly imposed a lien on the property for the costs of the demolition, which has �clouded� the title.

The city defendants argued the city does not need a warrant or other court order to demolish a building that has been declared a nuisance. They also said the Stacey family had ample opportunity to remove items from the house prior to the demolition. Members of the Stacey family removed some items, but Raymond Stacey left behind some personal property including a comic book collection Stacey claimed is worth $187,000.

The city had a moving company remove some items, and those items remain in storage.

Stacey said he was told by then-Police Chief Edward Stanton not to go on the property, and argued it is proper to store personal property in a family home free of charge, instead of paying to store it elsewhere.

On the matter of access to the courts, the city defendants said Stacey needs to show that their conduct was arbitrary or shocked the conscience, and cannot do that when it demolished the home to abate a nuisance.

Stacey said the demolition constituted a destruction of evidence because the house was the subject of �an ongoing judicial proceeding.� The city knew Mrs. Stacey had appealed a Mercer County Common Pleas Court decision, Stacey said.

Concerning the lien, the city said it needs Stacey to pay $13,570 to remove it, which includes Sereday�s demolition cost, $2,950, plus fees for lawyers, the moving company, an appraisal and inspection.

The city defendants, represented by Neva L. Stanger, Pittsburgh, said Stacey has not proved that the amount is �erroneous or fabricated.� The Stacey family was informed that it would be charged with the cost of demolition and �action ... to prepare the property for demolition,� and that no hearing concerning the imposition of the lien is required.

Stacey responded that the city was only allowed to impose the cost of demolition under the building code adopted by the city at the time, and his family was never given an opportunity to contest the lien amount.

In the motion for sanctions � the city is seeking to recoup legal fees and costs � city officials called Stacey�s pursuit of the suit �punitive� and motivated by �pure revenge.� He has sought to prolong an �unsupportable� and �frivolous� suit, city officials said.

Officials also allege Stacey violated court orders and rules, filed frivolous motions, failed to disclose information and sought to delay the case to cause �unnecessary expense.�

Stacey said city officials are guilty of some of what they have accused him of doing, including pursuing a punitive course of strategy, quoting deposition testimony out of context and failing to produce documents that they said existed.

Stacey said he cannot be blamed for a 2�-year delay when his appeal of a lower court decision was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Stacey also accused city officials of filing the motion for sanctions to distract his attorney, Janice Haagensen of Enon Valley, from concentrating on formulating a response to the motions for summary judgment.

Stacey said his �intent and only purpose in federal court is to get justice that is unbiased and impartial,� and to avoid �county court chicanery.�

U.S. District County Judge Terrence F. McVerry, Pittsburgh, will decide the requests.

Recommended for you