Friday, July 17, 2015

Minister's Challenge To Applying Building Code To Home Bible Study Group Is Dismissed

In Salman v. Phoenix, City of, (D AZ, July 14, 2015), an Arizona federal district court dismissed a 42 USC Sec. 1983 suit by a minister and his wife seeking to enjoin the city from applying its building code to weekly bible studies held in a 2000 square foot game room built in their backyard. The minister had already been convicted criminally in state court for building code violations. The court dismissed the claim on the basis that a federal habeas corpus action is the only federal court route available to bring a suit that would necessarily challenge the validity of a state criminal conviction. The court said:
A § 1983 plaintiff’s request that a federal court declare unconstitutional the very statute (or its application to the plaintiff) under which he was convicted in state court is no different than a request that a federal court invalidate the conviction itself.
The court also dismissed plaintiffs' RLUIPA and state law claims.