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Friday, November 13, 2009

Ind. Decisions - "The Mezuzah case" is decided en banc by 7th Circuit [Updated]

This is not an Indiana case, but the ILB has had several entries about it in the past, including this one from May 13th which included this quote from a May 13th AP story by Mike Robinson, headed "Arguments before full 7th Circuit in mezuzah case may put Judge Wood and Williams in spotlight":

In the case before the court, the Shoreline Towers Condominium Association repeatedly removed a mezuzah from the front door of Chicago condo owner Lynne Bloch. The association said it violated a rule against placing any objects, religious or otherwise, on doors or in common halls.

Bloch, who helped write the rule, sued, saying she was a victim of religious discrimination. U.S. District Judge George W. Lindberg threw out the case and the appeals court affirmed his decision 2-1.

Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook, writing for himself and Senior Judge William Bauer, said the rule was "neutral" and "potentially affects every owner" without regard to religion and thus was not discriminatory.

"It bans photos of family vacations, political placards, for-sale notices and Chicago Bears pennants," he wrote.

[Judge Diane P.] Wood dissented, saying it could been seen as a violation of federal housing law because observant Jews would be unable to live in a condo with no mezuzah.

"Thus in a real sense, Hallway Rule 1 makes condominium units at Shoreline Towers functionally unavailable to observant Jews like the Blochs and, if it could be enforced, the rule would effect their constructive eviction," Wood wrote.

Today the 7th Circuit has issued an en banc decision in Bloch v. Shoreline Towers (ND Ill), written by Judge Tinder - some quotes:
In this case, we consider whether condominium owners can sue their condo association under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 et seq., for alleged religious and racial discrimination that took place after the owners bought their condo unit. We highlight the word “after” because based on a prior opinion from this court, Halprin v. Prairie Single Family Homes of Dearborn Park Ass’n, 388 F.3d 327 (7th Cir. 2004), the district court concluded that condo owners couldn’t rely on the FHA to safeguard their rights from any post-acquisition discrimination. We took this case to the full court to consider this important question. Upon careful review of the FHA and our prior opinion in Halprin, we conclude that in some circumstances homeowners have an FHA cause of action for discrimination that occurred after they moved in. On the facts of this case, we conclude that Lynne, Helen, and Nathan Bloch have offered enough evidence to allow a trier of fact to decide whether they suffered intentional discrimination at the hands of the Shoreline Towers Condo Association and its president Edward Frischholz. We therefore reverse the summary judgment granted against the Blochs.
EASTERBROOK, Chief Judge, and BAUER, POSNER, KANNE, WOOD, EVANS, SYKES, and TINDER, Circuit Judges, participated in the decision. "Circuit Judges Flaum, Rovner, and Williams took no part in the consideration of this case."

[Updated at 2:15 PM] "Court revives Chicago ‘mezuzah’ case: Ruling vindicates Obama favorite Judge Diane Wood" is the heading of this newly posted story by Abdon M. Pallasch of the Chicago Sun-Times. Some quotes:

The ruling vindicates federal appellate Judge Diane Wood, a former colleague of President Obama who has been on his shortlist for the U.S. Supreme Court.

Though criticized by conservatives as “hostile to religious rights,” it was Wood’s impassioned dissent in this case that the appellate court relied on to revive the Bloch family’s claim of religious discrimination.

Two of Wood’s more conservative colleagues on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals — Frank Easterbrook and William Bauer — had earlier voted 2-1, prevailing over Wood on a three-judge panel, to dismiss the claim, arguing, among other reasons, that the federal Fair Housing Act, under which the lawsuit was brought, cannot be used to allege discrimination after a condominium is sold.

Today’s ruling by eight of the court’s judges reversed that finding and said the FHA can apply to alleged discrimination after a sale.

The court did not rule that The Shoreline Towers Condominium Association and its president, Edward Frischholz discriminated against the Bloch family, but the court said the Blochs offered enough evidence that a jury ought to be able to hear the case. * * *

“So the Blochs must proceed on a showing of intentional discrimination,” Tinder wrote. “Although the Blochs’ case is no slam dunk, we think the record contains sufficient evidence, with reasonable inferences drawn in the Blochs’ favor, that there are genuine issues for trial on intentional discrimination.”

Posted by Marcia Oddi on November 13, 2009 10:16 AM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions