Friday, April 02, 2010

Claim By Hasidic Jews That Challenge To Zoning Was Pretext For Discrimination Is Dismissed

Mosdos Chofets Chaim, Inc. v. Village of Wesley Hills, (SD NY, March 31, 2010), is the latest in a series of legal maneuvers involving tension between several New York villages and the Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish families moving in increasing numbers to Ramapo (NY) and areas around it in Rockland County. In prior cases, plaintiffs claimed that discriminatory zoning by villages were an attempt to exclude Orthodox and Hasidic Jews. This suit grows out of an alleged attempt by several nearby villages to block a proposed revision in Ramapo's zoning law that was designed to accommodate the need of the Orthodox and Hasidic community.

In 2004, four villages and two Ramapo residents filed a lawsuit (the Chestnut Ridge action) challenging on environmental grounds Ramapo's zoning changes. In the current lawsuit, Orthodox and Hasidic plaintiffs claim that the filing of the Chestnut Ridge action was in fact an attempt to use intimidation to prevent the spread of the Orthodox and Hasidic communities. The court concluded that the Noerr-Pennington doctrine and the First Amendment right to petition bar plaintiffs from maintaining a civil rights action against defendants when defendants merely petitioned the courts. However the lawsuit was dismissed without prejudice giving plaintiffs an opportunity to refile to seek to defeat defendants' qualified immunity.