Rutka v. City of Meriden
Connecticut General Statutes §7-148aa gives the trial court subject matter jurisdiction, the power to act, to determine whether it can treat an anti-blight lien as a property tax lien, and if so, whether the anti-blight lien may be discharged as such. In 2005, the city of Meriden placed an anti-blight lien on John Rutka's property pursuant to a city ordinance and C.G.S. (Rev. to 2005) §7-148aa. After Rutka did not clean his property, the city acted to correct the blight and placed additional liens on the property in 2009, 2010 and 2011, to bring the property in line with the city code and building regulations. Rutka, pro se, filed an application to discharge or reduce the "mechanic's lien[s]." The court rendered judgment for the city on two of the property maintenance liens, for the plaintiff as to the third property maintenance lien and dismissed Rutka's application to discharge the anti-blight lien for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Rutka appealed claiming, inter alia, that the trial court improperly denied his application to discharge the two property maintenance liens and improperly dismissed his application to discharge the anti-blight lien for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Appellate Court affirmed as to the property maintenance liens but, reversed the judgment in part, setting aside the dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The panel upheld the trial court's finding that credible testimony and other evidence established probable cause to place the maintenance liens on the property. The trial court properly concluded that it did not have the statutory authority to discharge the anti-blight lien pursuant to C.G.S. §49-73b. But, the plaintiff's use of the wrong form, an application discharge a mechanic's lien, did not prejudice the defendant or prevent the court's consideration of the plaintiff's claim. If subject matter jurisdiction and a cause of action pursuant to a particular relevant statute exist, the court is not lacking in jurisdiction merely because another irrelevant statute would deprive the plaintiff of a cause of action. Anti-blight liens are governed by C.G.S. §7-148aa. Under C.G.S. §7-148aa, the trial court has the authority to release anti-blight liens in the same manner as property tax liens. Whether a cause of action existed under that provision needed to be determined by the trial court. The matter was remanded.