US Supreme Court takes case, but plaintiff missing

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When the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take Bobby Chen's case involving a run-down Baltimore row house razed by the city, it looked past the fact he was too poor to pay the court's filing fee and had no attorney. But now Chen can't be found, something unheard of at the nation's highest court.

The Supreme Court agrees to take less than 1 percent of the roughly 10,000 petitions it receives every year, but it was even rarer for the court to take a case like Chen's. On average, the court takes just 10 petitions a year like his, in which the party making the request is too poor to pay the court's $300 filing fee.

But since the court agreed to take Chen's case in November, he hasn't surfaced. Dec. 22 was Chen's deadline to mail his main legal brief in the case. The court hadn't heard from him as of Tuesday, said Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg.

The court's Clerk's Office, which corresponds with parties who have a case before the court, has tried to reach Chen by letter and email. But it's not clear he got the messages, Arberg said. And he didn't list a phone number when he asked the court to take his case. The Associated Press also tried to reach Chen by email, but the message bounced back as undeliverable. Efforts to find a telephone number were also unsuccessful.

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