Judge rules in favor of Darby Borough, Pa. in case of business owner who alleged discrimination

By Jon Campisi | Sep 23, 2013

A native of Bangladesh who sued the Borough of Darby and various municipal officials over allegations he was denied the requisite permits necessary to rent out units in a warehouse he owns has lost his civil rights case against the Delaware County municipality.

Abdus Shahid alleged in his federal complaint that borough representatives said they would not allow him to do business in the area because he was a foreigner and that municipal officials only wanted African Americans to do business in Darby.

Shahid claimed constituted evidence that the borough had a policy and/or custom of discrimination based on race, color and national origin.

A one-day, non-jury trial was held Sept. 16 at the U.S. District Court in downtown Philadelphia, after which the jurist presiding over the matter ruled in favor of the defendants, the record shows.

In a memorandum opinion filed two days later, U.S. District Judge J. William Ditter, Jr. determined that judgment must go to the defense because of the plaintiff’s credibility, or lack thereof.

“Shahid’s case is entirely dependent on his credibility and I find him not credible,” Ditter wrote. “I make this finding based on my observations of him during trial, the substance of his testimony at trial, and my conclusion that the invoice he produced during discovery in this case and the invoices he produced during discovery in Shahid v. Borough of Eddystone … are fraudulent. Where the testimony of Shahid differs from the testimony of the defendant’s witnesses, I have credited the testimony of the defendant’s witnesses.”

Shahid, a resident of New York, had purchased a non-residential warehouse on the 800 block of Summit Street in Darby Borough in early 2006, the record shows.

The property, which contains 10 separate rental units, is located across from Darby’s municipal offices.

After he bought the property, Shahid has, on various occasions, allowed certain people to conduct business on the premises without a non-residential occupancy certificate, in violation of borough regulations, the record shows.

The borough’s code enforcement officer soon issued Shahid citations for violating local ordinances and a local judge subsequently convicted the plaintiff of the violations.

As time went on, Shahid received numerous additional citations relating to the warehouse for a variety of violations.

The judicial memorandum states that at no time did borough employees, including the code enforcement officer, make any discriminatory comments about Shahid’s race, color or national origin in the course of dealing with the plaintiff.

Ditter wrote that there was never any credible evidence in the case that Shahid or any of his tenants were denied non-residential occupancy certificates because of the plaintiff’s ethnicity.

“The Borough of Darby never subjected Shahid to any type of unlawful discrimination and did not and does not have any policy or custom of unlawful discrimination based on race, color, or national origin,” the judge wrote. “The Borough of Darby did not and does not have any policy or custom of allowing only African-Americans to do business and make a profit in the Borough. Shahid’s allegations of discrimination are not supported by the evidence.”

To prevail on civil rights and constitutional claims, Ditter wrote, a plaintiff must prove by a “preponderance of the evidence” that a municipality itself, through the implementation of a policy or custom, caused the underlying constitutional violation.

In this case, the plaintiff failed to do just that, the judge ruled.

“Shahid has failed to present any credible evidence that he suffered harm as the result of any constitutional violation, thus, there can be no municipal liability,” Ditter wrote in his memorandum.

More News

The Record Network