Supreme Court Litigant Who Vanished Returns

Bobby Chen was apparently in California
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 4, 2015 4:29 PM CST
Supreme Court Litigant Who Vanished Returns
In this Dec. 29, 2014 photo, vacant land sits where a row house that belonged to homeowner Bobby Chen once stood in Baltimore.   (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

It's aptly called an "unprecedented mystery" by the Wall Street Journal. A New York man who claims Baltimore illegally razed a home he owned there managed to get his case—which actually centers around a filing deadline, not the demolition itself—all the way to the Supreme Court. That's no small feat considering the court hears roughly 75 cases a year, and Bobby Chen filed his case without an attorney; Above the Law put his chances of getting a slot on the docket at 0.1%. But after the justices accepted his case in November, Chen was nowhere to be found; attempts by lawyers and reporters to track him down proved fruitless. Now he's back, and he wants his case, which was dismissed in January after the court didn't hear from him, well, heard.

Chen now has a lawyer representing him (former US solicitor general Paul Clement, a Supreme Court veteran), and a document filed yesterday outlines the "unfortunate series of circumstances" that occurred. It reads in part that after checking his case's status in late October 2014, "petitioner left his New York home for a business trip to California. Although petitioner had planned to be in California only for a short time, he suffered from a slip-and-fall injury that postponed his return to New York until late January." He hadn't arranged to have his mail forwarded, and he wasn't aware he could check his case status online. He returned to New York on Jan. 22, and was "surprised and dismayed" to learn his case had been accepted but dropped 13 days prior. Clement tells the Journal that the justices rarely grant rehearing petitions but does frame the particulars of this case as extraordinary. The AP reports the justices will consider Chen's request in a private Feb. 20 meeting. (More US Supreme Court stories.)

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