Case Results for Constitutional Law & Civil Rights

2012 WL 3289922 (6th Cir 2012 unpublished). RSJA’s experience in civil rights cases and in the federal courts protected Gladwin County in a complex case involving a man with dual American and Jordanian citizenship. Sheriff’s deputies arrested the plaintiff after he threatened his daughter in a long-simmering family dispute. With multip le sources reporting the plaintiff’s anger and threats, detectives arrested him. After a mistrial, the prosecutors dropped the charges and the plaintiff filed a section 1983 civil rights lawsuit against the officers and county prosecutors. The federal trial court summarily dismissed plaintiff’s federal civil rights claims, finding that the police officer and prosecutor defendants were entitled to immunity because plaintiff’s constitutional rights were not violated. The Sixth Circuit Court affirmed the trial court’s decision, holding that ample probable cause existed to investigate and prosecute Plaintiff for the crime of extortion, despite the mistrial in the state criminal case.
647 F3d 606 (6th Cir 2011). When Northridge Church wanted to relocate its expanding membership in a rural part of the Charter Township of Plymouth, it entered into a 1995 consent agreement with the township to limit its seating, services,  parking, traffic patterns and outdoor activities to address negative impacts on the surrounding residents. By 2008, weekly attendance had grown from 1,100 to 14,000. The church wanted to void the consent agreement, using multiple arguments including the assertion that the agreement violated the Religious Land Use and Institutional Persons Act (RLUIPA) (which was not established until 2000). RSJA successfully defended the township through the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld the consent judgment.
475 Mich 30 (2006). When does the clock start ticking on an employee’s claim of discrimination? In this case, a female employee resigned then sued the city for age and gender discrimination which she said occurred over a period of time by a supervisor who left employment of the city two months before she did. There is a three-year statute of limitations on civil rights claims. While the trial court and court of appeals found in favor of the plaintiff, the supreme court held that the time for claiming the alleged discrimination began when it occurred, not when the employee resigned The Supreme Court specifically overruled its prior decision in Jacobson v. Parda Fed Credit Union, 457 Mich 318 (1998). 
United States District Court, Western District, Southern Division Case No. 1:14-cv-1285. When the city of Grand Rapids terminated the city clerk she sued, alleging race and gender discrimination. Because she was an appointee the plaintiff was not entitled to Title VII protection, as RSJA successfully asserted in its motion to dismiss noting, among other things, that the newly appointed replacement clerk was also African American and female.
863 F Supp 504 (1993). The city denied an application for a special use permit for a group for up to 12 individuals. The applicant built its case on constitutional issues as well as specific claims under the Federal Fair Housing Amendments Act. The court granted dismissal in favor of the city.
2010 WL 866133 (Mich App 2010 unpublished). The plaintiff wanted to convert an existing donut and coffee shop into a gas station and convenience store. The property had a triangular shape and was bordered by roads on each side. The township denied the request, which the plaintiff alleged was a taking and a violation of due process. The lower court summarily dismissed the claims which was later upheld by the court of appeals.
881 F3d 432 (6th Cir 2018). A religious radio station with a contract to rent antennas on a city-owned communications tower wanted to add antennas and increase its broadcast power. The FCC had approved the increase in broadcast power and the broadcaster asserted that that federal decision meant the city had to approve its request. The trial court dismissed all of plaintiff’s claims, finding that the city’s denial was a proper assertion of its property rights as the tower owner and not a violation of the plaintiff’s constitutional rights. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s dismissal.
717 Fed. Appx. 555 (6th Cir 2017): Sheriff’s deputies used a confidential informant to conduct drug buys and identify the participants, one of whom was bound over for trial at a preliminary exam. The charges were subsequently dismissed based on contradictory testimony from another participant and the fact that the plaintiff passed a polygraph test. He then sued Huron County and several deputies, claiming that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated in the drug buys. The trial court granted summary judgement to dismiss the case against the county and deputies, because the bind-over conclusively established that there was probable cause to arrest plaintiff on the charges. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s dismissal of all claims against Defendants.
965 F2d 584 (6th Cir 1992). The plaintiff challenged a rezoning decision on constitutional grounds. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the grant of a motion to dismiss in favor of the city.
116 F3d 180 (6th Cir 1997). The plaintiff, a waste disposal company, wanted to build a commercial hazardous liquid waste injection well in the city of Romulus. After obtaining various work-related permits for the well, none of which concerned zoning, they began construction. The city then filed suit to stop it because it violated local zoning ordinances. The plaintiffs took action on multiple fronts, contesting the city’s action in Wayne County Circuit Court; seeking, without success, zoning variances; filing claims of constitutional violations in federal court while simultaneously filing a complaint in state circuit court, and appealing the unfavorable lower court decision to the Michigan Court of Appeals. RSJA attorneys with expertise in these multiple disciplines and jurisdictions coordinated to successfully defend the city against all the constitutional claims at both the state and federal level.
105 F Supp 724 (ED Mich 2000). The city took action to keep the plaintiff from demolishing a historical structure. Plaintiff claimed this violated his constitutional rights and “took” his property. The court granted the city’s motion to dismiss.
United States District Court, Western District, Southern Division Case No. 1:14-cv-1285. When the city of Grand Rapids terminated the city clerk she sued, alleging race and gender discrimination. Because she was a political appointee the plaintiff was not entitled to Title VII protection, as RSJA successfully asserted in its motion to dismiss. Plaintiff’s discrimination claims were also dismissed because she was replaced by someone in the same protected classes.
452 Mich 568 (1996). Plaintiff owned vacant property in the city of Novi that was zoned for large-lot, single-family residential use. The planning commission recommended against their request to rezone the property to a mobile home district. The plaintiff did not seek a use variance from the ZBA, but immediately sued the city claiming that the denial was an unconstitutional taking of property. The case was appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court which ruled that plaintiff’s claims were not ripe because plaintiff had not obtained a final decision from the city on the use of the land due to the failure to seek a use variance before filing suit. The case was significant as, for the first time, the Michigan Supreme Court adopted the ripeness doctrine established by the federal courts. RSJA filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of the Michigan Municipal League in this case.
647 F3d 606 (6th Cir 2011). When Northridge Church wanted to relocate its expanding membership in a rural part of the Charter Township of Plymouth, it entered into a 1995 consent agreement with the township to limit its seating, services, parking, traffic patterns and outdoor activities to address negative impacts on the surrounding residents. By 2008, weekly attendance had grown from 1,100 to 14,000. The church wanted to void the consent agreement, using multiple arguments including the assertion that the agreement violated the Religious Land Use and Institutional Persons Act (RLUIPA) (which was not established until 2000). RSJA successfully defended the township through the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld the consent judgment.
219 Mich App 611 (1997). Plaintiff, which had entered a contract to purchase property from MDOT located within the city of Royal Oak, sued the city alleging that it lacked authority to rezone property while MDOT (e.g., State of Michigan) still owned it. In 1991, while still owned by MDOT, the city rezoned the property from industrial to multiple-family residential in accordance with its master plan. In 1993, plaintiff entered into a contract with MDOT for the property with the intention of constructing a mini-warehouse facility, which was not a permissible use under the zoning ordinance. Plaintiff sought rezoning in 1993 and 1994 but was denied each time. A request for a use variance was also denied. Plaintiff thereafter sued the city, alleging that the city lacked jurisdiction to apply its zoning ordinance to state-owned land and its actions constituted an unlawful taking and violation of other constitutional rights. The Michigan Court of Appeals held that because there was no evidence that the legislature intended to preempt MDOT from the application of the zoning ordinance, particularly where MDOT had sold the land to a private party.
858 F3d 996 (6th Cir. 2017), cert. denied, 138 S Ct 1696, 200 L Ed 2d 952, 86 USLW 3553 (2018). RSJA was a successful co-counsel in the first published decision under RLUIPA, setting a precedent for analysis of RLUIPA claims within the Sixth Circuit. A Christian school applied to Genoa Charter Township for a special land use permit to move its K-12 school from another community into an existing church in the township that was adding onto facility. Although the township planning commission recommended approval of the special land use the township board denied the permit. The school sued the township, alleging violation of the First Amendment and RLUIPA. The township obtained summary judgment on all claims and the Sixth Circuit upheld the ruling. The U.S. Supreme Court denied the plaintiff’s petition for writ of certiorari, leaving the circuit court’s decision as a precedent.
883 F Supp 172 (ED Mich 1994). The city followed state law in denying a license for a foster care home due to its proximity to an existing home and the court dismissed the plaintiff’s suit. The case continued against the state, and the court eventually invalidated certain state statutes (notice and distancing requirements for placement of foster care homes) as being violations of the Fair Housing Amendments Act.
677 Fed. Appx. 232 (6th Cir. 2017). Anne McClorey McLaughlin defended the Village, its manager and ordinance officer in a federal lawsuit claiming the defendants treated plaintiffs differently than their neighbors in ordinance enforcement because of religious discrimination. The U.S. District Court granted summary judgment to the defendants, and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed.
556 Fed Appx 416 (6th Cir 2014 unpublished). The plaintiff claimed that the city’s blanket ban on billboards violated its First Amendment and other constitutional rights. The city said that the proposed billboard did not meet other reasonable time, place and manner regulations in the city’s sign ordinance. The lower court granted the city’s motion to dismiss for lack of a redressible injury. The dismissal and the city’s ordinance were upheld on appeal.
Case No. 16-00702 (W.D. Mich. Dec. 13, 2016); Case No. 16-2741 (6th Cir. Jan. 5, 2018). The action involved allegations of First Amendment retaliation arising out of an email sent by a former City Attorney from her city email account to a non-city employee. The case revolved around differing interpretations of whether the city attorney’s actions constituted an official act which set policy for the City. Plaintiff said that, because the city attorney had “ultimate authority” in her position to respond to citizen emails, the city was liable. RSJA attorneys filed an early Motion to Dismiss, and the Court found that the City was not liable because the acts of the City Attorney were not within the scope of her authorized duties. The City prevailed and the decision was upheld by the Sixth Circuit.
2011 WL 1982921 (ED Mich 2011). Plaintiff moved a business into a building without obtaining any site plan approval or certificate of occupancy. The township ticketed the plaintiff for failing to do so and for numerous fire code violations. The plaintiff successfully defended against the tickets in the district court with the exception of three charges. Plaintiff turned around and sued the township, alleging numerous constitutional violations as a result of the township’s tickets and its failure to issue building permits and a certificate of occupancy. The federal district court granted the township’s motion for summary judgment.
2012 WL 3289922 (6th Cir 2012 unpublished). RSJA’s experience in civil rights cases and in the federal courts protected Gladwin County in a complex case involving a man with dual American and Jordanian citizenship. Sheriff’s deputies arrested the plaintiff after he threatened his daughter in a long-simmering family dispute. With multiple sources reporting the plaintiff’s anger and threats, detectives arrested him. After a mistrial, the prosecutors dropped the charges and the plaintiff filed a section 1983 civil rights lawsuit against the officers and county prosecutors. The federal trial court summarily dismissed plaintiff’s federal civil rights claims, finding that the police officer and prosecutor defendants were entitled to immunity because plaintiff’s constitutional rights were not violated. The Sixth Circuit Court affirmed the trial court’s decision, holding that ample probable cause existed to investigate and prosecute Plaintiff for the crime of extortion, despite the mistrial in the state criminal case.
922 F2d 328 (6th Cir 1989). An applicant raised federal constitutional issues when denied a lot split. The sixth circuit court of appeals affirmed the grant of a motion to dismiss in favor of the township.
2006 WL 3103012 (Mich App 2006 unpublished), affirmed 480 Mich 1077; 744 NW2d 132 (2008). Residential landowners filed a lawsuit against the Township and the Township’s wetlands review board, saying that the Township’s wetlands ordinance was preempted under the Natural Resources Environmental Protection Act (NREPA). The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed the circuit court’s grant of summary disposition to the Township on all of plaintiffs’ constitutional claims.
221 Mich App 19 (1997). The property owner challenged the denial of its request to rezone property for a mobile home park, raising constitutional claims and charges of exclusionary zoning. The court of appeals affirmed the grant of summary disposition in favor of the city.