Wednesday, November 28, 2012

ICFG RLUIPA case settled for $2.3 million

In an interesting case from California, a city which had prevented the location of a church in an industrial zoning district agreed to pay $2.3 million in settlement of the case against it. The city did get significant concessions: the original industrial site cannot be used for religious purposes; the church may continue to search for an eligible site properly zoned, but cannot see the city for any denial outside the appropriate zoning districts. The city released a statement in September 2012 announcing the agreement.

The city, in the press release, maintained that it had a strong position to defend the litigation but given the unpredictability of litigation, and the potential for a large loss, settlement was the most prudent course of action.

Once again, it is extremely interesting to note that this result was obtained by the church under the terms of the federal act; it would certainly seem that a church in Tennessee given similar facts, would have an easier time under the Tennessee Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Tenn. Code Ann. § 4-1-407. Certainly the payment by the city, $2.3 million, is a significant settlement.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals had reversed a dismissal of the case by the trial court. 2011 WL 505028 (2/15/2011). The settlement was agreed to after the appellate court decision.

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