The city’s attempt to spin today’s decision as a win is just that: spin. The city has lost on everything. Mayor Hall cannot point to a single legal argument that the city has won. Only by the city’s backwards logic does an unbroken string of losses amount to a victory. The Homeowners have won again and they will continue to win because they have the law and justice in their side.
The appeals court did not even rule on the city’s appeal, let alone rule in its favor. The court only ruled on the residents’ appeal and it ruled in their favor.
Unfortunately, from time to time, lawsuits get complicated. In this case, the mayor has used the complicated nature of the decision to claim a victory where one is not present.
Here is what happened:
The resident’s lawsuit makes four arguments against the city’s use of its property maintenance code to drive people out of Pleasant Ridge. Two alleged that the city is violating its residents constitutional rights to equal protection. Another argued that the city violated it’s own ordinances. The fourth argues that the city is in violation of a state law call the Unsafe Building Law (UBL), which lays out how cities are supposed to apply their building codes. To win their suit, the residents only needed to win one of the four arguments.
In 2017, a circuit court judge ruled that the city was violating the Constitutional rights of its residents and the protections for them contained within city law—the first three claims. But he also ruled that the UBL did not constrain how city could enforce its own property maintenance code. So, by winning three of the four arguments, the residents of Pleasant Ridge won.
The city of Charlestown appealed the decision regarding the resident’s Constitutional rights and their rights under the ordinance. At the same time, the residents argued that they should also be protected by UBL, which would mean that they would win all four arguments against the city.
Today, the appeals court ruled that the UBL does prohibit Charlestown from using egregious fines that accumulate daily. The resident’s won their fourth argument. Importantly, the court did not grant the city’s appeal, and the remaining three arguments—that the city was violating the residents constitutional rights—still stand.
For technical reasons, the appeals court has now instructed the circuit court to incorporate today’s decision into its previous ruling in favor of the residents. To do that, it needed to lift the original preliminary injunction that was only based on constitutional principles so that the lower court can rewrite it to incorporate this additional win.
The effect of all of this is that the appeals court has handed the residents a 4-0 victory over the city.