Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Zoning, Planning & Land Use
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In this case, the plaintiff, Chicago Joe's Tea Room LLC, had plans to open an adult entertainment business in a suburb of Chicago. However, the Village of Broadview denied the plaintiff's application for a special-use permit, which led to the plaintiff claiming that their constitutional rights were violated. The plaintiff sought millions of dollars in lost profits for the business that never opened. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois excluded most of the plaintiff's evidence and theories for lost-profit damages due to substantive and procedural issues. The court then awarded the plaintiff just $15,111 in damages. The plaintiff appealed, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the decision of the lower court, finding no abuses of discretion. The appellate court stated that the plaintiff's calculations of lost profits were beyond the scope of the plaintiff's personal knowledge of a similar business and required expert-like analysis and adjustments. The court also ruled that the plaintiff failed to disclose necessary damages evidence in a timely manner, a violation of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The plaintiff was also denied the opportunity to amend their complaint to challenge a state statute, as the request was made a decade after the issue became relevant. The court found that granting the amendment would have caused undue delay and prejudice to the Village. View "Chicago Joe's Tea Room, LLC v. Village of Broadview" on Justia Law

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In October 2018, Warren G. Treme, a member of AJSJS Development, LLC, leased minerals on a tract of land in St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana, from Dr. Christy Montegut and his siblings. AJSJS intended to join a joint venture formed in 2010 between Treme, AIMS Group, Inc., and Fred Kinsley. The joint venture aimed to extract and process clay material from the tract for a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project. However, to conduct mining and excavation activities, the plaintiffs needed to change the zoning classification of the tract. Despite multiple applications for rezoning, the Parish Council denied the applications after hearing complaints from affected residents. The plaintiffs then sued the Parish and the Council, alleging that the denial of the rezoning application constituted a regulatory taking without compensation in violation of the United States and Louisiana Constitutions. The plaintiffs also alleged violations of procedural and substantive due process and equal protection rights under the Fourteenth Amendment.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held that the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring a takings claim because their mineral lease was not yet in effect, meaning they had no vested property interest in the tract. The court interpreted the lease to have a suspensive condition that required the plaintiffs to obtain governmental approvals for the lease to become effective. As the plaintiffs had not obtained these approvals, the lease had not yet come into effect. Consequently, the court affirmed the district court’s decision but modified the judgment to be a dismissal without prejudice. View "Treme v. St. John the Baptist" on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York's dismissal of a lawsuit brought by BMG Monroe I, LLC. BMG, a developer, had sued the Village of Monroe, New York, alleging that the Village's denial of its applications for building permits on five lots violated the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Protection Clause due to a discriminatory animus towards the Hasidic Jewish community. The Village denied the applications due to non-compliance with the architectural criteria established in the Smith Farm Project's approval conditions. The Court of Appeals agreed with the district court that the claims were unripe because BMG had not exhausted its administrative remedies. In order to satisfy the finality requirement under ripeness doctrine, BMG needed to appeal the adverse planning-board decision to a zoning board of appeals and submit at least one meaningful application for a variance. BMG could not claim that further actions were futile based on the Village's indication that it would likely not be receptive to a variance request that had yet to be made. View "BMG Monroe I, LLC v. Village of Monroe" on Justia Law

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In the case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, One Love Housing, LLC, a company that operates a residential sober living home in Anoka, Minnesota, sued the City of Anoka for refusing to grant a waiver from the city's zoning regulations. The regulations permit only a single family or a group of not more than four unrelated persons to reside together in the area where the sober home is located. One Love wanted to accommodate seven unrelated recovering addicts in the home. One Love and two residents of the home alleged that the city violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act by refusing to grant this waiver.The district court granted One Love summary judgment on its claim that the city failed to reasonably accommodate the sober home's request. The court ordered the city to grant the waiver for One Love to house seven unrelated individuals recovering from substance abuse. The city appealed this decision.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's decision and remanded the case for further proceedings. The appellate court held that the district court erred by considering evidence that was not presented to the city council when it denied One Love's request for a waiver. The appellate court also found that the district court erred in granting summary judgment to One Love because there was a genuine dispute over whether the requested accommodation was reasonable and necessary. The court stated that the financial viability of One Love's sober home is relevant only if One Love can prove that the service it offers provides a therapeutic benefit that is necessary for people recovering from alcohol or drug abuse to successfully live in a residential neighborhood without relapsing. The court concluded that there are genuine issues of disputed fact on these issues. The court also declined to rule on One Love's disparate treatment and disparate impact claims, leaving those for the district court to address on remand. View "One Love Housing, LLC v. City of Anoka, MN" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around two developers, SAS Associates 1, LLC and Military 1121, LLC, who filed a complaint against the City Council of Chesapeake, Virginia, alleging that their equal protection rights were violated when their rezoning applications were denied by the council. The developers owned several parcels of land in Chesapeake and sought to combine them to create a 90-acre development involving housing units, commercial space, and a conservation district. Their plans required rezoning, which was denied by the Council citing community opposition and the ability to develop under existing zoning classifications. The developers filed a complaint alleging that their application was denied even though similar applications from other developers were approved, and the council's reasons for denial were irrational and arbitrary.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld the district court’s decision to dismiss the developers' claim. The Court of Appeals found that the developers failed to demonstrate that they were treated differently from others who were similarly situated and that the unequal treatment was the result of discriminatory animus. Furthermore, the court highlighted that zoning decisions are primarily the responsibility of local governments and that the Developers did not provide any valid comparators to support their claim of discriminatory treatment. The court noted the lack of any evidence to infer discriminatory intent on the part of the City Council members and ruled that the Developers' disagreement with the Council's decision does not render the Council's judgment call pretextual. The court affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing the complaint. View "SAS Associates v. City Council of Chesapeake" on Justia Law

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In the case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, Ateres Bais Yaakov Academy of Rockland (ABY) sued the Town of Clarkstown, George Hoehmann, CUPON Inc., and Citizens United to Protect Our Neighborhoods of Greater Nanuet Inc. ABY, a religious educational institution, planned to purchase property in Clarkstown, New York, to establish an Orthodox Jewish school. It alleged that the Defendants manipulated an ostensibly neutral building permit application and zoning appeals process to block this construction. The district court dismissed the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, concluding that ABY's religious discrimination and civil rights claims were not ripe as it had not received a final decision from the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) and that the lost-contract injury underpinning ABY’s tortious interference claim was not traceable to the Town Defendants.In this appeal, the Second Circuit disagreed with the district court. The Second Circuit found that the ZBA's refusal to adjudicate ABY's appeal of its permit application constituted a final decision for ripeness purposes. The court also determined that ABY had plausibly alleged a causal connection between the Town Defendants’ actions and the injuries resulting from ABY's lost contract with Grace Church. Therefore, the Second Circuit reversed the district court's judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Ateres Bais Yaakov Academy of Rockland v. Town of Clarkstoawn" on Justia Law

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In 1882-1883, the Railway acquired property and constructed the now-abandoned railroad line. In 2008, the Railway filed a notice of exemption from formal abandonment proceedings with the Surface Transportation Board (STB). The Illinois Department of Natural Resources showed interest in railbanking and interim trail use under the 1983 National Trails System Act Amendments, 16 U.S.C. 1247(d). The STB issued a Notice of Interim Trail Use (NITU). The owners of property adjoining the railroad line sued, alleging takings by operation of the Trails Act with respect to 51 parcels; 22 parcels were conveyed by instruments including the words “right of way” (ROW Agreements); three were conveyed by instruments including the words “for railroad purposes” (Purpose Agreements); and three are those for which no instruments were produced.The Claims Court granted the government summary judgment, finding that the Railway held the ROW Agreement and Purpose Agreement parcels in fee simple and that the owners failed to show that they had cognizable property interests in the non-instrument parcels. The Federal Circuit reversed. The court rejected the government’s argument that using the term “right of way” in the ROW Agreements referred to the land conveyed, not a limitation on the interest conveyed. For the Purpose Agreements, the Claims Court mistakenly relied on cases discussing deeds that did not include an expression of purpose in the granting clause. Illinois law indicates that the Railway obtained, at most, an easement over the non-instrument parcels. View "Barlow v. United States" on Justia Law

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Willow purchased a house that needed repairs. Bids for the work exceeded $100,000. Renovations began in 2017 but soon halted. After several years passed, with the house remaining empty, the Village proposed its demolition as a nuisance. The Village published notice, posted notices on the house, and mailed notice to Willow, which concedes having actual knowledge of the impending demolition. Willow did not respond until the week scheduled for the demolition when its lawyer proposed a meeting. The parcel was sold at auction to satisfy the Village’s lien for demolition expenses.Willow sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, claiming a taking without compensation. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the Village. Demolition of a dilapidated structure that constitutes a public nuisance is not problematic under the Due Process Clause and does not require compensation. The protection that the federal Constitution offers to property owners is notice and an opportunity for a hearing. The Village gave such a notice to Willow, which did not ask for a hearing. Illinois law offers procedures that are constitutionally adequate; someone wanting to stop a demolition need only file suit in state court, which automatically blocks action until the judge decides whether the building meets the statutory criteria for demolition. The district court was not required to decide a state law inverse-condemnation claim. View "Willow Way, LLC v. Village of Lyons, Illinois" on Justia Law

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In 1907, the then-owner executed the “Stimson deed,” transferring to the Railroad “its successors and assigns, the right to cross said right of way at any point or points where such crossing is desired” the land at issue. POTB later took ownership of the railroad. A 2007 storm caused severe damage to the railroad tracks. POTB did not repair the damage, resulting in the disbandment of the Oregon Tillamook Railroad Authority. POTB, with governmental entities, established the Salmonberry Trail Intergovernmental Agency, to construct “a new multi-use trail” that would “connect[] to a wide network of existing recreation[al] trails and parks, educational opportunities, and heritage sites” over portions of the railroad line. In 2016, POTB filed a notice of intent to abandon service of the portions of the railroad line at issue with the Surface Transportation Board, which issued a Notice of Interim Trail Use (NITU) allowing interim trail use and railbanking under the National Trails System Act Amendments, 16 U.S.C. 1247(d).The Claims Court and Federal Circuit rejected Stimson’s claim that the creation of the trail constituted a Fifth Amendment taking. Railbanking and interim trail use are within the scope of the easement. Stimson failed to show abandonment for all purposes and had no compensable property interest in the land to which the deed pertained. View "Stimson Lumber Co. v. United States" on Justia Law

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Fillmore County Park in Genoa Charter Township, Michigan, includes a 15-station “Leopold the Lion Reading Trail” with large signs, telling the story. On a wooded 40-acre property a few miles away, Catholic Healthcare created a prayer trail with 14 “Stations of the Cross.” None of the improvements were visible from outside the property. The Township treated the prayer trail as a church building, for which a “special land use” permit was required. At considerable expense, Catholic Healthcare submitted two unsuccessful applications. The Township demanded the removal of the Stations of the Cross, plus a stone altar and mural.Catholic Healthcare sought a preliminary injunction to restore the Stations of the Cross, altar, and mural. The district court twice denied that request, holding that its free-exercise and statutory claims are unripe. The Sixth Circuit reversed. In land-use cases, claims are ripe when the government has adopted a “definitive position” as to “how the regulations at issue apply to the particular land in question.” Here, the Township has uniformly insisted that Catholic Healthcare obtain a special land-use permit and has twice refused to grant a permit. Those events have “inflicted an actual, concrete injury” because the Township has actually forced them to remove the religious displays. Catholic Healthcare is likely to succeed on the merits of its claim under 42 U.S.C. 2000cc(a)(1), the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. View "Catholic Healthcare International Inc. v. Genoa Charter Township, Michigan" on Justia Law