Mosdos Chofetz Chaim, Inc. v. Vill. of Wesley Hills

Decision Date26 September 2011
Docket NumberCase No. 08–CV–156 (KMK).
Citation815 F.Supp.2d 679
PartiesMOSDOS CHOFETZ CHAIM, INC., Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim, Inc., Rabbi James Bernstein, Moshe Ambers, Rabbi Naftoli Sofer, Naftoli Tesher, Beatrice Zaks, and Sima Zaks, Plaintiffs, v. The VILLAGE OF WESLEY HILLS, the Mayor and Board of Trustees of the Village of Wesley Hills, Mayor David Goldsmith, in his individual and official capacity, Robert H. Frankel, in his individual and former official capacity, Edward B. McPherson, in his individual and official capacity, David A. Goldsmith, in his individual and official capacity, Robert I. Rhodes, in his individual and former official capacity, Jay B. Rosenstein, in his individual and former official capacity, the Village of Pomona, The Mayor and Board of Trustees of The Village of Pomona, Former Mayor Herbert I. Marshall (of the Village of Pomona), in his individual and former official capacity, Mayor of Pomona Nicholas L. Sanderson, in his individual and official capacity; the Village of Chestnut Ridge, the Mayor and Board of Trustees of the Village of Chestnut Ridge, Mayor of the Village of Chestnut Ridge Jerome Kobre, in his individual and official capacity, Howard L. Cohen, Trustee, in his individual and official capacity, the Village of Montebello, the Mayor and Board of Trustees of the Village of Montebello, Kathryn Ellsworth a/k/a Kathryn Gorman, former mayor of Montebello, in her individual and former official capacity, Jeffrey Oppenheim, Mayor of Montebello, in his individual and official capacity, and John Doe 1–37, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of New York

OPINION TEXT STARTS HERE

Joseph J. Haspel, Esq., Joseph J. Haspel, PLLC, Goshen, NY, for Plaintiffs.

Gregory R. Saracino, Esq., Milber Makris Plousadis & Seiden, LLP, White Plains, NY, for Defendants Village of Pomona, Mayor and Board of Trustees of the Village of Pomona, Herbert I. Marshall, and Nicholas L. Sanderson.

Michael D. Zarin, Esq., Daniel Richmond, Esq., Zarin & Steinmetz, White Plains, NY, for Remaining Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

KENNETH M. KARAS, District Judge.

Plaintiffs Mosdos Chofetz Chaim, Inc. (Mosdos), Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim, Inc. (YCC), Rabbi James Bernstein (Bernstein), Moshe Ambers (Ambers), Rabbi Naftoli Sofer (Sofer), Naftoli Tesher (Tesher), Beatrice Zaks, and Sima Zaks (collectively, Plaintiffs) bring this action against Defendants the Village of Wesley Hills (Wesley Hills), the Mayor and the Board of Trustees of Wesley Hills, Robert H. Frankel, Edward B. McPherson, David A. Goldsmith, Robert I. Rhodes, Jay B. Rosenstein (together, the Wesley Hills Defendants), the Village of Pomona (Pomona), the Mayor and Board of Trustees of Pomona, Herbert I. Marshall, Nicholas L. Sanderson (together, the Pomona Defendants), the Village of Chestnut Ridge (Chestnut Ridge), the Mayor and Board of Trustees of Chestnut Ridge, Jerome Kobre, Howard L. Cohen (together, the Chestnut Ridge Defendants), the Village of Montebello (Montebello), the Mayor and Board of Trustees of Montebello, Kathryn Ellsworth a/k/a Kathryn Gorman, Jeffrey Oppenheim (together, the Montebello Defendants), and John Does 1–37 (collectively, Defendants). Plaintiffs allege claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1982, 1983, and 1985 for violations of and conspiracy to violate their rights under the Free Exercise, Establishment, and Free Association Clauses of the First and Fourteenth Amendments, and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, as well as claims under the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3604, et seq. (“FHA”), the New York State Constitution, Article I, §§ 3 and 11, and New York Civil Rights Law § 40–c.

On March 31, 2010, the Court granted Defendants' motions to dismiss the initial Complaint, which had been filed on January 8, 2008, without prejudice. See Mosdos Chofetz Chaim, Inc. v. Vill. of Wesley Hills, 701 F.Supp.2d 568 (S.D.N.Y.2010) (“ Mosdos I ).1 On June 3, 2010, Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint. A motion to dismiss has been filed on behalf of the Wesley Hills Defendants, the Chestnut Ridge Defendants, and the Montebello Defendants (the “non-Pomona Defendants). (Dkt. No. 52.) Another motion to dismiss was filed on behalf of the Pomona Defendants. (Dkt. No. 55.) The Court assumes familiarity with Mosdos I and the facts set forth therein, but discusses them to the extent they are relevant to deciding the instant motions. For the reasons stated herein, Defendants' motions to dismiss are granted in part and denied in part.

I. Background
A. The Parties

Plaintiffs are religious corporations and individuals affiliated with the Chofetz Chaim sect of the Orthodox Jewish community, all of whom allege an interest in the operation of Kiryas Radin, “a religious educational institution and center for religious activity and prayer,” at a location in the Town of Ramapo (“Ramapo”) known as the Nike Site. Defendants are four Villages (the “Villages” or “Village Defendants) located within Ramapo, as well as current and former officials of each of those Villages (the “Individual Defendants). Plaintiffs have filed this action to challenge alleged discriminatory conduct by Defendants, which Plaintiffs argue violates their civil rights.

B. Mosdos I

As previously noted, on March 31, 2010, the Court granted Defendants' motions to dismiss, without prejudice. In its Opinion, the Court addressed a number of issues that are relevant to the pending motions.

1. Standing

The Court previously determined that Plaintiffs Mosdos and YCC had adequately pled injury-in-fact because they alleged that they suffered injury from being unable to operate Kiryas Radin, despite spending money and making efforts to complete construction on the Nike Site, and have also expended resources to litigate the state court Chestnut Ridge Action.2 See Mosdos I, 701 F.Supp.2d at 582. Plaintiffs Bernstein and Ambers also alleged an injury-in-fact because they plan to study and live at Kiryas Radin but are barred from doing so by Defendants' actions, and the Court found “there is a substantial probability that Bernstein and Ambers will be able to live and study at Kiryas Radin if they get the relief they seek.” Id.

The Court concluded that Plaintiffs sufficiently alleged the causation and redressability elements of standing with respect to the pursuit of the Chestnut Ridge Action by the Village Defendants. Plaintiffs expended resources litigating the Chestnut Ridge Action, and the filing of that action (and the resulting TRO issued by the state court) prevented Plaintiffs from operating Kiryas Radin on the Nike Site. See id. at 584–85. However, Plaintiffs did not allege an adequate link between the Village Defendants' allegedly discriminatory zoning laws and Plaintiffs' claimed injuries. See id. at 585. The Nike Site is not in any of the Villages, and Plaintiffs did not allege that they either had a property interest within any of the Villages, had tried to build or live in the Villages, had been denied a variance of permit from any of the Villages, or planned to take action within the Villages that would subject them to the zoning laws in the near future. The laws also did not delay operation of Kiryas Radin, because the Nike Site is not subject to the zoning laws. Accordingly, despite Plaintiffs' allegations that the zoning laws discriminate against the Hasidic community in general, they did not allege that they personally were injured by the laws. See id. at 585–86.

2. Compulsory Counterclaims

In Mosdos I, the Court also concluded that Plaintiffs Mosdos and YCC are barred from pursuing their claims against the Village Defendants because, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 13, those claims should have been filed as compulsory counterclaims in the Chestnut Ridge Action. See id. at 588. Plaintiffs Mosdos and YCC are named as defendants in the Chestnut Ridge Action and the counterclaims that Mosdos and YCC alleged in that action share the same factual background as the instant action. See id. at 589. The Court explained that Plaintiffs' allegation in the Complaint that the Chestnut Ridge Action was a pretext for illegal actions by the Village Defendants is logically intertwined with the validity of the Village Defendants' legal claims, which will be determined in the Chestnut Ridge Action. See id. at 590. Thus, Mosdos and YCC were required to raise their claims against the Village Defendants as compulsory counterclaims in the Chestnut Ridge Action, and those claims were dismissed. See id. Likewise, because the claims against the Individual Defendants sued in their official capacity are duplicative of the claims against the Village Defendants, the claims of Mosdos and YCC against the Individual Defendants in their official capacities also are barred as unpled compulsory counterclaims. See id. at 591. However, the Individual Defendants in their individual capacities are not opposing parties under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 13(a) and, therefore, Mosdos and YCC are not barred from bringing their claims against the Individual Defendants in that capacity. See id. at 591–93. In addition, the Individual Plaintiffs, who were not parties to the Chestnut Ridge Action, are not barred by Rule 13 from bringing their claims against the Village Defendants or against the Individual Defendants, in either their official or individual capacities. See id. at 592 n. 15.

3. First Amendment Right to Petition and the Noerr–Pennington Doctrine

In addition, the Court examined whether Defendants' pursuit of the Chestnut Ridge Action was activity protected by the First Amendment and the NoerrPennington doctrine.3 Although the Second Circuit has yet to address the application of the NoerrPennington analysis to claims alleging civil rights violations, the Court determined that the NoerrPennington framework could be applied in this context. District courts within the Second Circuit have not reached consensus on this issue; however, the majority...

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