Officials with the Supreme Court are trying to find a New York man who successfully petitioned to be heard by the high court, only to seemingly disappear, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Bobby Chen, who is representing himself, has until Dec. 22 to respond to the court. He is suing officials in Baltimore for $2.5 million, saying the city wrongfully ordered the demolition of a home he owned there in 2008 to cover up damage a local contractor caused while razing a city-owned property next door. The city argued that Chen bought the property for $900 knowing it was subject to demolition.
“Attempts have been made to contact Mr. Chen by letter and email, but there has been no confirmation that the communications were received,” a court spokesperson told the Journal.
Chen managed to become part of the court’s docket despite not being able to afford the standard $300 filing fee and reportedly handwriting his appeal, referring to himself in the third person and often using incorrect grammar.
“He was surprised, shocked, depressed and sad but could do nothing,” Chen wrote regarding the demolition of his property.
The high court is typically asked to intervene in thousands of criminal and civil cases every year, but only chooses to hear between 75 and 80 petitions, making Chen’s feat all the more rare. If he fails to appear, observers wonder whether the court may accept a similar case in the future.
At least one attorney, Scott Gant, has been searching for him in hopes of convincing him to let him argue his case before the court. However, Gant told the Journal that he has not been able to reach him.
“I would still like to find him,” Gant said. “I figured it’d be a win-win.”
Courthouse News Service reported that the high court granted Chen a writ of certiorari without explanation last Friday. But instead of focusing on the demolition of the property, Chen’s petition stood out among thousands of others because it asked the court to consider whether “a district court has discretion to extend the time for service of process absent a showing of good cause.”
At issue is a November 2013 ruling by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals saying district courts cannot grant plaintiffs like Chen extensions on serving legal papers without the plantiff showing “adequate cause.” The Fourth Circuit’s decision upheld a ruling by a District Court judge, but runs counter to decisions by other circuit courts.
Baltimore Assistant City Solicitor Adam Levine told the Journal that Chen’s apparent disappearance presents “a bit of a curveball,” though he and his team are still preparing their arguments for the court.
The Journal attempted to reach Chen at his last known address in Queens, but was told by a young man who answered the door that Chen moved “half a year ago.” The building’s possible owner, identified as Julia Li, responded to a question about Chen’s current location by saying, “Subpoena me and I provide.”