Congregation Mischknois Lavier Yakov v. Board of Trustees for the Village of Airmont, N.Y.
05/19/2014: "After Airmont loses RLUIPA battle, controversial proposal resurfaces"
Lawsuits over the property filed by the congregation and then the U.S. Attorney's Office, under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act and the Fair Housing Act, cost the village more than $450,000 in legal fees. The village also paid a $10,000 civil penalty under a 2011 consent decree. Following the RLUIPA battle, the village increased its legal expense allocation in the 2006 budget by about 17 percent to $224,550 from $191,725 in 2005. The increase was partly responsible for a 5.48 percent tax hike in 2006.
A. Matsuda, "After Airmont loses RLUIPA battle, controversial proposal resurfaces," The Journal News (May 19, 2014).
11/26/2008: Federal Court of Appeals upholds right of congregation to build a religious school under settlement reached with the Village of Airmont, New York
The defendants assert that inasmuch as the settlement and order were contrary to state law, they were void and should be vacated because they violated the defendants' due process rights. They contend that the settlement violates state law because it allows the plaintiffs to build a residential school that is not permitted under the Village of Airmont's zoning code. . . . None of these cases, nor any other of which we are aware, stands for the proposition that a court-ordered settlement agreement that is contrary to zoning or similar laws violates a party's due-process rights and is therefore subject to attack under Rule 60(b)(4) as void.
Renowned civil rights attorney John G. Stepanovich argued the case for the Congregation Mischknois Lavier, with assistance from S&G. The opinion can be found here. In the related case brought by the United States Department of Justice against the Village, the District Court rejected the Village’s motion to dismiss the United States’ complaint, decision here. See also the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division’s “Religious Freedom in Focus,” Vol. 36 (Nov. 2008).
03/29/2007: Federal court upholds settlement in Airmont, N.Y. case
On March 29, 2007, Judge Stephen C. Robinson rejected the Village of Airmont's attempt to back out of its obligations entered into under a 2005 settlement with Congregation Mischknois Lavier Yakov, allowing it to build a religious school. The Congregation was assisted by both Storzer & Greene, P.L.L.C. and by the United States Department of Justice, which filed its own action against Airmont for violating RLUIPA. The court held:
That the Airmont Defendants now dislike the consequences of something they previously agreed to is not a ground upon which this Court can or would vacate a judgment.
S&G congratulates John G. Stepanovich of Lentz, Stepanovich & Bergethon, P.L.C., lead counsel for the Congregation. Read the court's decision here