Posted by: Patricia Salkin | October 10, 2008

Added RLUIPA Counterclaim Not Enough to Support Removal to Federal Court

Professor Howard Friedman of the Religion Clause Blog reports on an interesting case with a long history out of the Town of Ramapo, NY.  


He explains that “a New York federal district court rejected an attempt by defendant alleging RLUIPA and Fair Housing Act counterclaims to remove a case from New York state courts to federal court. The original lawsuit included 14th Amendment and Establishment Clause challenges to a zoning law enacted by the town of Ramapo that would allow high density adult student housing to be built in a residential area by Orthodox Jewish educational institutions. The court held that the attempt by defendant to remove the case to federal court was not timely because in fact the land at issue had been secretly transferred to the defendant seeking removal early in the litigation, and defendant should have become a party at that time. The court went on to hold that even if removal was timely, it should not be permitted because there were no federal claims alleged that justified removal.”  Specifically, in considering whether the counterclaims brought by the organization desiring to create a “religious campus,”  which included alleged violations of the Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment, as well as the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and the Fair Housing Act, the Court noted that the First Amendment and RLUIPA claims failed since neither provides for “equal civil rights” as intended under the Section 28 U.S.C. sec. 1443 (1) dealing with removal.


This case is merely the most recent ruling in what has been a contentious and litigious matter in the Town of Ramapo, dating to 2004 with the adoption of the Adult Student Housing Law (Local Law No. 9-2004) by the Town of Ramapo.  The law permits “married, adult, student, multi-family, nigh density housing in single family residential zones located in the unincorporated portions of Ramapo…”  Following a negative declaration regarding the environmental impacts that could result from this law, a lawsuit was initiated in State court, which was initially removed to federal court and then remanded back to State court. For Professor Friedman’s prior posting on this case, see: 


Village of Chestnut Ridge v. Town of Ramapo,  2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 76881  (SDNY 9/30/2008).


Special thanks to Dwight Merriam, Esq. of Robinson & Cole for bringing this case to my attention.

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