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Scott E. Mollen Scott E. Mollen

Civil Rights—Religious Jews Claimed Village’s Public Officials Violated Their Rights Under Federal and State Constitutions, Fair Housing Act and New York Civil Rights Law §40-c by Discriminating Against Them Due to Their Religion—They Were Allegedly Victimized by Intentional Discrimination Against Orthodox Jewish Residents—Although the Court Dismissed Free Exercise Claims Under the Federal and State Constitutions and the §40-c Claim, the Court Held That State and Federal Equal Protection Claims and FHA Claims May Proceed—Alleged Use of “Pork Rinds” on a Public Counter To Discourage Access to Municipal Services

Several Orthodox Jewish individuals commenced an action against a village and certain village officials (defendants), claiming the defendants violated the plaintiffs’ rights under the U.S. Constitution, the Fair Housing Act (FHA), the New York State Constitution and New York Civil Rights Law §40-c, by “discriminating against plaintiffs on account of their religious affiliation.” They claimed that the defendants had used village codes (codes) to “target Orthodox Jewish residents of the Village.” The plaintiff sought damages and injunctive relief. The defendants moved to dismiss the amended complaint pursuant to FRCP 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). The court granted the motion in part and denied the motion in part.

The plaintiffs alleged how various codes were seemingly applied in a discriminatory manner and how certain defendants had used language that evinced hostile religious bias towards Orthodox Jews. One official allegedly stated that it would be “just like them to ‘build an illegal basement apartment.’” The plaintiffs cited examples of the village “stonewalling” routine land use applications and alleged that during such time period, “non-Jewish residents were allowed to renovate their homes without the same onerous Code requirements, and such residents did not receive stop work orders.”

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