Monday, February 01, 2016

Suit Over Chabad House In Historic District Survives Almost All Motions To Dismiss

Chabad Lubavitch of Litchfield County, Inc. v. Borough of Litchfield, Connecticut, (D CT, Jan. 27, 2016), a decision on remand from the 2nd Circuit, is the latest installment in the long-running attempt of the Hasidic Jewish organization, Chabad, to expand a building it purchased in Lichtfield, Connecticut's Historic District.  In a 61-page opinion in the suit filed under RLUIPA,  the court first examined whether all parts of the proposed expansion of the building into a Chabad House would be used for religious purposes. It concluded:
Construction of the proposed facilities is in large measure religious exercise and, as to the remaining use / facilities, there exist genuine issues of material fact regarding their status as places of religious exercise.
The court then moved to consider whether the Historic District Commission's denial of a Certificate of Appropriateness placed a substantial burden on Chabad’s religious exercise. It concluded that there are genuine issues of material fact as to whether or not it did, so that defendants' motion for summary judgment on this point was denied. The court also refused to dismiss plaintiffs' discrimination claim under RLUIPA, holding that there is sufficient evidence in the record for the fact finder to conclude that the Commission acted with an intent to discriminate on the basis of religion. The court went on to reject various defenses. Finally the court granted defendants' motion to dismiss the Chabad Rabbi as a plaintiff in the discrimination claim, but not as to the substantial burden claim.