Court names a receiver to handle the 97 Mt. Ida Rd. case; NFL players union rebuffs property owner’s $850m suit

97 Mt. Ida Rd. Reporter file photo

A state Housing Court judge last week appointed a receiver with the power to clean up a house at 97 Mt. Ida Rd. that has only fallen further into disrepair after it was heavily damaged in a 2011 fire. The property owner, James Dickey, of Sudbury, has been fighting in court for years in an effort to stop Boston's Inspectional Services Department (ISD) from forcing him to do anything at the site.

Separately, the National Football League Players Association is using Dickey's long-standing battle with the city over the house as one example of why a federal judge should dismiss the $850 million anti-trust lawsuit he has brought against the union and the NFL because, he alleges, the union barred him from acting as a player agent after he failed to sign up a single player to be represented by him.

In an order issued last week, Housing Court Associate Justice Marylou Muirhead appointed Stuart Schrier, a Dorchester housing attorney, as the receiver for what's left of the Mt. Ida Road property, with the power to order any repairs or actions to end the building's current status as a rat-infested menace to public health.

Schrier's first task, Muirhead directed, is to compile a report "identifying what repairs need to be performed" and the order in which they should be performed. ISD had previously sought court permission to simply tear the building down and attach the costs as a lien on the property.

Muirhead set a June 15 hearing for Schrier to report his findings to her, Dickey, and ISD.

The owner has challenged the ISD at every turn. When a Housing Court judge seemed ready to rule against him, he transferred the case to federal court in Boston, an action that would typically buy him several months time as a US judge considered the case before ruling there were no federal issues involved, so that case belonged in housing court.

The most recent time that Dickey made this move – alleging that ISD and the housing court were conspiring to steal property from black residents of Dorchester, an argument he made even though he is white – a federal judge told him to stop showing "complete disregard of prior court orders" and leave the federal court system out of it.

Dickey promptly appealed to the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston. Last month, that court denied his request to block any action by state housing court, saying that it wasn't sure it had the authority to question the return of the case to state court and that even if it were, Dickey "has not demonstrated that he is likely to succeed on the merits of his claim." But the court allowed him to continue to argue that his case does ultimately belong in federal court.

In the NFL case, Dickey sued the union and the league last year after the union delisted Dickey as a player agent because he had not signed up any players over a three-year period. Dickey sued them for $850 million, alleging he should have at least been given a hearing to explain his extenuating circumstances, which included "the nature of the business" and "family illness beyond the agent's control that delayed the active pursuit of big named clients usually set to make the NFL active rosters" and that the union and the league had conspired to ensure that people like him could not be agents.

In response, the players association says that even if the NFL didn't have exemptions from the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, Dickey has no right to request such huge damages when he never managed to sign up a single player - especially since he signed an agreement that called for arbitration in case of a dispute. Rather than attend an arbitration hearing the union had agreed to, Dickey filed his federal suit.

In its memorandum, the union noted that with his ongoing legal struggles with ISD, and a federal judge's ruling against him, Dickey has a history of "filing frivolous or vexatious suits – resulting in a reprimand by this very Court.”