Man at Center of Supreme Court Case Has Vanished

Bobby Chen filed handwritten petition without a lawyer
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 10, 2014 8:45 AM CST
Man at Center of Supreme Court Case Has Vanished
This Oct. 7, 2014, file photo shows a police officer dwarfed amid the marble columns of the US Supreme Court in Washington.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

A New York man was "shocked" when he learned that a home in Baltimore he owned had been razed by the city—illegally, he says—and he managed to get his case all the way to the Supreme Court. But as justices prepare to hear it, Bobby Chen is nowhere to be found, the Wall Street Journal reports. He convinced the court to hear his case in a partially handwritten petition, but he didn't offer a phone number; the email address he used has been shut down. It would appear to be the first time something like this has happened, and the Journal did some investigating of its own, to little avail. When reporters went to the New York address where Chen said he lived, a man said he hadn't been around for "half a year"; the owner of that building didn't want to give out information unless she was subpoenaed.

It's unclear what will happen to Chen's case if he doesn't get his brief in by the Dec. 22 due date, the Journal notes. In his petition, he said Baltimore had razed his property to hide damage it suffered after a neighboring house, owned by the city, was taken down. Baltimore argues that Chen knew at the time of purchase that his structurally unsound home could be demolished. The case interested the high court because it deals with questions over the powers of district courts, the Raw Story reports. Chen filed without legal representation, and if he isn't found, some worry that the justices might avoid future cases brought without lawyers. "I would still like to find him," says a lawyer who wants to argue Chen's case. (More Baltimore stories.)

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