1025 Connecticut Ave. NW
Suite 1000
Washington, DC 20036
202.857.9766

Storzer & Associates has a principled commitment to defending the right to practice one's faith without undue governmental interference. These matters of concern include:

  • Zoning, land use, historic preservation and eminent domain issues affecting places of worship, schools and other religious facilities
  • Tax exemption
  • Non-profit incorporation
  • Bylaws and governance disputes
  • Employment Issues
  • General non-profit corporate matters

 

We often work in conjunction with a religious organization's local or general counsel. For information on select matters handled by the firm, see the "Cases" page. More information about our firm can be found in the "Firm Profile" section of this website.

"They are the best at what they do, which is win religious land-use cases." Journal News

News

Congregation Rabbinical College of Tartikov v. Village of Pomona, N.Y.
01/05/2018: Commentary on Congregation Rabbinical College of Tartikov federal trial decision

I recently came across a federal District Court decision which gives an excellent primer on the analytical framework for a facial attack on a set of local land use regulations under RLUIPA, as well as the U.S. Constitution. Facial attacks on land use regulations are among the most difficult to prove, . . . .

This case is an excellent example of . . . how to try a RLUIPA case, . . . .

Commentary, "Tartikov v. Pomona and RLUIPA," Lexology Newsfeed (Jan. 5. 2018)   read more »

2017
01/01/2018: 2017 Highlights

Storzer & Associates continued to defend the religious freedom of churches, synagogues, mosques, temples and other religious institutions in 2017, with several significant court decisions and settlements.  Protecting these rights under the Constitution, RLUIPA and the Fair Housing Act remained a priority for the firm.  Some notable events of the past year include:

Congregation Rabbinical College of Tartikov successful at trial, winning RLUIPA, Fair Housing Act and constitutional claims against Village of Pomona, N.Y.: S. Lieberman, "Judge says Pomona zoning is discriminatory for dorm school," LoHud.com (Dec. 7, 2017); The decision is available here: Congregation Rabbinical College of Tartikov v. Village of Pomona, Civ. No. 07-6304 (Dec. 7, 2017); "Rabbinical College Wins Challenge To Zoning and Environmental Laws," Religion Clause (Dec. 8, 2017)

Hunt Valley Baptist Church receives favorable decision in suit against Baltimore County: "Church Can Move Ahead With RLUIPA Challenges To Zoning Refusal," Catholic News Live (Oct. 19, 2017); Hunt Valley Baptist Church v. Baltimore County, Civ. No. 17-804 (Oct. 17, 2017)

Governing Body Commission of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness successful in action to retain control over New York temple.  S&A client GBC granted possession of temple and assets in case raising multiple constitutional issues: Kelley v. Garuda (Nassau Cy. Sup.Ct. Oct. 2, 2017); "New York State Court Renders Historic Decision in favor of Hare Krishna Movement," ISKCON News (Oct. 8, 2017)

Bensalem Masjid settles lawsuits brought by S&A and United States Department of Justice against Bensalem Township, Pa.: M. Fair, "Pa. Town, DOJ Ink Settlement In Mosque Discrimination Row," Law360 (Sept. 5, 2017); United States Department of Justice, "United States Resolves Suit Against Pennsylvania Township Over Denial of Approval for Mosque," Religious Freedom in Focus Vol. 71 (September 2017); Department of Justice Press Release (Sept. 5, 2017); J. Ax, "Pennsylvania town settles lawsuit brought by U.S. over mosque rejection," WTVB (Sept. 5, 2017)

Federal court rules in favor of Congregation Kollel in its suit against Howell Township, N.J., permits most claims to go forward: Opinion, Congregation Kollel, Inc. v. Township of Howell, N.J. (D.N.J. Feb. 16, 2017); K. Kachmar, "Orthodox bias suit against Howell can move ahead," USA Today (Feb. 24, 2017)

N.J. Township permits S&A clients to build eruv: M. Davis, "Jackson eruv can be built, Orthodox Jews still hope for school," APP.com (Dec. 12, 2017)

Hunt Valley Presbyterian Church challenges conditions placed on approval: B. Zumer, "Fourth congregation sues Baltimore County over land use rules," Fox45 News

United States Department of Justice and N.J. Attorney General's office investigate Township after it adopts laws targeting S&A clients: A. Bogues, "Jackson: Justice Department, NJ probe anti-Semitic discrimination claims," APP.com (Dec. 14, 2017)

Workshop: S&A attorneys provide guidance on religious land use rights: Agudath Israel, "Agudah Workshop Provides Guidance on Land Use and Zoning Laws as New Jewish Communities Evolve," (Oct. 24, 2017)

S&A clients amend lawsuit against Jackson Township, N.J. to include challenge to eruv ban: J. Peacock, "Groups’ Amended Jackson Lawsuit Now Includes Eruvin," Jersey Shore Online (Nov. 2, 2017)

Baltimore pastor files suit against Baltimore County after church application denial: A. Knezevich, "Baltimore County faces another lawsuit alleging religious discrimination in zoning case," Baltimore Sun (Oct. 16, 2017)

Politico reports U.S. Justice Department investigating Woodcliff Lake, N.J. over treatment of S&A client Valley Chabad: M. Friedman, "Feds launch religious discrimination probe into town led by Guadagno's running mate," Politico (Sept. 22, 2017)

Agudath Israel of America, represented by S&A, challenges Jackson Township, N.J.'s dormitory and school ordinances: M. Rosman, "Jackson dormitory ban draws lawsuit from advocacy group," (May 30, 2017)

Article discusses four S&A cases in New Jersey: M. Davis, "Shore towns brace for fallout after mosque wins court battle," APP.com (May 31, 2017)

Editorial discusses Valley Chabad litigation: "Freedom to worship in New Jersey," NorthJersey.com (June 1, 2017)

Tartikov's challenge to Pomona, N.Y.'s targeted ordinances heads to trial: R. Brum, "Pomona's fight against religious school goes to trial," LoHud (May 14, 2017)

Russian community synagogue files RLUIPA suit against Baltimore County for denial under "Byzantine" zoning regulations: Release, "ARIEL Russian Community Synagogue Files Federal Lawsuit Against Baltimore County and Board of Appeals," Baltimore Jewish Life (Apr. 14, 2017); A. Knezevich, "Baltimore County faces federal lawsuits alleging religious discrimination in zoning cases," Baltimore Sun (Apr. 12, 2017)

S&A client Hunt Valley Baptist Church files suit against Baltimore County after denial of special exception: B. Zumer, "Hunt Valley Baptist Church sues Baltimore County after expansion denial," Fox45 News (Mar. 24, 2017); A. Burnett, "Religious Litigation Arises in Baltimore County," WJZ (Apr. 13, 2017); D. Weiner, "Church, synagogue suing Baltimore County over religious discrimination," WBAL TV11 (Apr. 14, 2017)

United States Department of Justice investigates denial of land use application for S&A client Coptic Orthodox Church Archdiocese of North America: J. Jongsma, "Cedar Grove, Coptic Church suit heads to mediation; Department of Justice investigates," NorthJersey.com (Feb. 15, 2017)   read more »

Congregation Rabbinical College of Tartikov v. Village of Pomona, N.Y.
12/07/2017: Congregation Rabbinical College of Tartikov successful at trial, winning RLUIPA, Fair Housing Act and constitutional claims against Village of Pomona, N.Y.

Trial Decision: S&A client Congregation Rabbinical College of Tartikov wins challenge to targeted zoning ordinances prohibiting student family housing and otherwise regulating educational uses:

[The court] found the village defense of its laws lacking, and that Tartikov's attorneys showed certain aspects of the zoning were "enacted for an improper, discriminatory purpose" and therefore invalid. "The defendants construct an interesting theory, for that is all that it is," Karas said. "They have no evidence to back it up. In any event, none this theorizing changes in any way the overwhelming evidence of discriminatory animus, or (the) fact this law served no compelling interest."

S. Lieberman, "Judge says Pomona zoning is discriminatory for dorm school," LoHud.com (Dec. 7, 2017)

The court held that the ordinances violate multiple provisions of RLUIPA, the First Amendment's Free Exercise Clause, the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause, the New York Constitution's protections of religious freedom and equal protection, the Fair Housing Act, and freedom of association principles.  S&A joined co-counsel Savad Churgin and John Stepanovich in representing the Rabbinical College.

The decision is available here: Congregation Rabbinical College of Tartikov v. Village of Pomona, Civ. No. 07-6304 (Dec. 7, 2017); "Rabbinical College Wins Challenge To Zoning and Environmental Laws," Religion Clause (Dec. 8, 2017)   read more »

Hunt Valley Baptist Church v. Baltimore County, Md.
10/17/2017: Hunt Valley Baptist Church receives favorable decision in suit against Baltimore County

In Hunt Valley Baptist Church, Inc. v. Baltimore County, Maryland, (D MD, Oct. 17, 2017), a Maryland federal district court held that a Baptist church can proceed with challenges under RLUIPA as well as with Free Exercise and Equal Protection challenges to the county's refusal to grant it a special exception under its zoning laws to allow construction of a place of worship and related facilities.

"Church Can Move Ahead With RLUIPA Challenges To Zoning Refusal," Catholic News Live (Oct. 19, 2017)

The court held that the Church could have a reasonable expectation in obtaining a special exception to build a place of worship:

In my view, the Church has stated a substantial burden claim under 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc(a)(1) because it has plausibly alleged that it had a reasonable expectation that it could build a house of worship on the Property if it satisfied the conditions. Moreover, the Church alleges that it complied with all of the objective standards under BCZR § 502 .1 for the grant of a special exception. And, as demonstrated by the administrative record, the ALJ and one Board member agreed that the Church met all nine requirements, at least as to the portion pertaining to the construction of the structure.

Hunt Valley Baptist Church v. Baltimore County, Civ. No. 17-804 (Oct. 17, 2017)   read more »

Kelley, The International Society for Krishna Consciousness, and the Governing Body Commission v. Garuda
10/08/2017: Governing Body Commission of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness successful in action to retain control over New York temple

S&A client GBC granted possession of temple and assets in case raising multiple constitutional issues:

The longstanding rule enunciated by the United States Supreme Court in 1871 is that civil courts must defer to the determinations of a hierarchical religious institution's highest ecclesiastical body. Watson v. Jones involved a religious property dispute over two rival factions who sought control of a church property in Louisville, Kentucky. 80 U.S. at 681. . . .  Guided by the foregoing principles in the instant dispute, we find that ISKCON is a hierarchical religious organization and shall apply the neutral principles of law doctrine to resolve whether the Plaintiffs are entitled to use, control and possession of the Freeport Temple property.

Accordingly, insofar as the Plaintiffs seek a declaration as to membership within ISKCON or whether the GBC acted appropriately in expelling the Defendants and appointing new trustees, this Court shall defer to the resolutions passed by the GBC in 2005, 2006 and 2008.

Kelley v. Garuda (Nassau Cy. Sup.Ct. Oct. 2, 2017)

New York Supreme Court Justice Randi Sue Marber in her October 2 decision agreed with Hare Krishna Movement leadership and recognized the legal status of this ancient religious tradition and the hierarchical governance structure of International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON).

"New York State Court Renders Historic Decision in favor of Hare Krishna Movement," ISKCON News (Oct. 8, 2017)   read more »

Publications & Events

10/24/2017: Workshop: S&A attorneys provide guidance on religious land use rights

Roman Storzer, Robert Greene and Sieglinde Rath are joined by two prominent New Jersey land use attorneys at workshop presented by Agudath Israel of America:

An informative workshop presented by Agudath Israel of America's New Jersey office addressed what has become a hot button issue throughout the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area: land use and zoning regulations that affect the construction of vital Jewish community institutions.

This was an extremely important opportunity for serious people who want to do the right thing to learn practical pointers on how to start a new community,” noted Rabbi Zwiebel. “People walked away satisfied that they had gained solid guidance and information.” While the land use workshop was the first of its kind for Agudath Israel, Rabbi Zwiebel said that similar events may follow, as part of the Agudah’s continuing commitment to addressing the Jewish community’s needs as they evolve.

Agudath Israel, "Agudah Workshop Provides Guidance on Land Use and Zoning Laws as New Jewish Communities Evolve," (Oct. 24, 2017)   read more »

02/28/2017: Robert Greene's letter to the editor regarding Jackson, N.J.'s dormitory ban law

Jackson should consider itself placed on notice that its heavy-handed attempt to target a particular population could very well be challenged in an appropriate venue. In this day and age of building walls against other people and cultures, fear and panic should not supplant our important constitutional values.

"Proposed dormitory ban may face court test," Asbury Park Press (Feb. 28, 2017)   read more »

02/14/2017: Robin N. Pick joins S&A's legal team

Ms. Pick, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, has worked at some of the largest and most prestigious law firms in the country, representing Fortune 500 companies in large-scale complex litigation.  While working for the federal government, Ms. Pick led efforts to impose enforcement actions on behalf of the United States against healthcare organizations that violated federal regulations.  She has also served as Legal Analyst for a leading civil rights organization, and represented students with disabilities in cases arising under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act.   read more »

12/07/2016: Wall Street Journal reports on S&A Connecticut case

The Wall Street Journal reports on the United States Department of Justice's involvement in two RLUIPA cases, including that of S&A client Al Madany Islamic Center of Norwalk: "In Connecticut, the Al Madany Islamic Center of Norwalk filed a federal discrimination suit in 2012 after its application to build a mosque was rejected by city officials. Federal officials opened an investigation, and the two sides settled in 2014."  K. King, "Federal Government Joins New Jersey Muslims in Fight Over Mosque Approval," The Wall Street Journal (Dec. 7, 2016).   read more »

07/22/2016: S&A invited to White House event "Combating Religious Discrimination Today"

From March to June 2016, the Civil Rights Division, in partnership with U.S. Attorneys and other Federal agencies, hosted five community roundtables across the country that focused on these issues.  Additionally, the Justice Department held two roundtables in Washington, D.C., for representatives of national religious and civil rights organizations to review themes and proposals raised in the roundtables and make further recommendations

At a White House event today, the Justice Department released a report on these roundtables.  In addition to the report, the Justice Department and other federal agencies announced new steps they are taking to combat religious discrimination. 

"Combating Religious Discrimination Today," White House Blog (July 22, 2016)

See the Department of Justice's  "Final Report" on this initiative, which lists this Firm as a "Community Member Participant."

C. Crowe, "Administration announces new plans to fight religious discrimination," Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (Aug. 17, 2016)   read more »