The Government's Request For Injunctive Relief
The Court of Appeals decision authorizes relief to parties who "will be injured by a discriminatory housing practice that is about to occur," citing 42 U.S.C. § 3601(i). Id. at 425. In light of that Court's interpretation of the jury's verdict, as applied in the government's case, the government has understandably focused its request for injunctive relief on the zoning code. However, rather than requesting prohibitory injunctive relief against illegal or unconstitutional applications of the code, the government has sought to redraft the zoning code in an affirmative manner. In its memorandum in support of its request, the government argues that "taken together, these changes will help ensure that the Village will permit the use of residences for regular religious worship and that it will otherwise respect the rights of Orthodox and Hasidic Jews to live and pray in Airmont."
Government's Memorandum at 11.
The Village notes that the zoning changes requested by the government would allow a home synagogue to operate in virtually every house and could completely eviscerate its zoning code. That may well be. The Second Circuit opinion appears incompatible with the decision of the Eleventh Circuit in Grosz v. City of Miami Beach, Florida, 721 F.2d 729, 741 (1983), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 827, 83 L. Ed. 2d 52, 105 S. Ct. 108 (1984), and the decision of the Sixth Circuit in Lakewood, Ohio Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses, Inc. v. City of Lakewood, Ohio, 699 F.2d 303, cert. denied, 464 U.S. 815, 78 L. Ed. 2d 85, 104 S. Ct. 72 (1983). In addition, it would appear to contradict an earlier decision in this District which also concerned Ramapo. Congregation Beth Yitzchok of Rockland, Inc. v. Town of Ramapo, 593 F. Supp. 655 (S.D.N.Y. 1984). However, while we may disagree with the ruling of the Circuit Court, we are compelled to follow its directions.
Since the Village has done nothing except pass a zoning code which has never been enforced or interpreted, and there are no actions to overturn, it would seem that there is no other way of satisfying the remand directions except by revising the existing zoning code.
Consequently, we accept in general the government's approach to amending the zoning code as being the only practical way of complying with the remand order.
We will, therefore, in a separate order and judgment, enjoin the Village and its officers, employees, agents, successors, and assigns from promoting religious discrimination; from denying equal opportunity to religion by use, interpretation, or enforcement of the zoning code in such a manner that it prevents home worship; from discriminating because of religion or interfering with the free exercise of religion in connection with housing; and from taking any action that limits the availability of housing on the basis of religion. Specifically, we will direct a revision of the zoning code so that it will not be construed to prevent home worship, or to prevent persons from walking to and from religious services at such places of worship, or to prevent home worship services on any day in all residential zones. In addition, the phrase "place of worship" will be replaced with "free-standing place of worship" throughout the zoning code and will be redefined so as to allow a portion of the building to be dedicated as living quarters for clergy and their families; and the phrase "neighborhood place of worship" will be added and will refer to larger structures used exclusively for the conducting of organized religious services, which will be permitted in all residential zones. In addition, as requested, we will order that the last two sentences of the definition of "Home Professional Office" be deleted.
The government also requests that the Village be directed to retain applications for residential homes of worship for five years. In light of the changes made in the zoning code, we do not foresee the need for zoning applications. The government also requests that for five years the Village notify the government of any zoning and planning applications which relate to religious worship or changes in the zoning relating to religion. While we deem it highly unlikely, under the circumstances, that the Village would entertain anything relating to religion under the zoning laws, we see no harm in including that in the relief granted.
Private Plaintiffs' Requests
The private plaintiffs' main request for injunctive relief is a major one: they seek the dissolution of the Village. They argue that they have proved that the defendants have engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination and that discriminatory intent was at the root of the incorporation of the Village and consequently, they maintain, they are entitled to this remedy.
There are several fallacies to this argument. In the first place, there has been no finding of religious discrimination with respect to the incorporation of the Village of Airmont. Indeed, the jury found that the majority of voters who supported the incorporation of the Village were not involved in religious discrimination. Moreover, the appellate decision remanding the action focuses upon the change in the zoning code as to which no action has ever been taken. There is nothing in the Court of Appeals' decision even remotely suggesting that the Village must be dissolved. The Second Circuit has held, in Dean v. Coughlin, 804 F.2d 207, 213 (1986), that we should not use a sledgehammer where a more delicate instrument will suffice. We believe that the relief requested by the government and granted by this Court adequately meets the Second Circuit's concerns expressed in their decision.
Another problem with the private plaintiffs' request is that it has no support in either the statute or case law. The private plaintiffs rely on Gomillion v. Lightfoot, 364 U.S. 339, 5 L. Ed. 2d 110, 81 S. Ct. 125 (1960). That case was virtually the converse of the present situation. The state legislature in Alabama had revised the boundaries of the City of Tuskegee so as to eliminate the famous black Tuskegee Institute which included most of the black residents of the City. The Supreme Court reversed this action, finding that it was contrary to the Fifteenth Amendment by depriving blacks of their right to vote on account of their race.
Curiously, the private plaintiffs ask, alternatively, for relief similar to what the Supreme Court condemned in Gomillion. They seek a plan to redistrict the Orthodox "who reside in some localized area of Airmont" back into the Town of Ramapo. We doubt that we could adequately ascertain what the localized area would be. (The six-lane New York Thruway forms a natural boundary between Ramapo and Airmont.) Moreover, the Orthodox population in Airmont has increased since the formation of the Village. That relief also seems both contrary to the directions of the Court of Appeals and of doubtful legality in its own right. The Supreme Court recently ruled that the government may not establish boundaries according to religion. Board of Education of Kiryas Joel Village School District v. Grumet, 129 L. Ed. 2d 546, U.S. , 114 S. Ct. 2481 (1994). As the Second Circuit has held, the purpose of the Fair Housing Act is to promote integration, not to encourage segregation. Otero v. New York City Housing Authority, 484 F.2d 1122 (1973). Finally, the local government law of New York has provisions for alteration of municipality lines, incorporation or unincorporation of local villages. To the extent that a discreet area of Airmont could be described, we know of no inhibition on that area's holding a referendum to remove itself from the Village of Airmont.
The private plaintiffs also request relief similar to that requested by the government. (Indeed they join in all of the government's requests.) The remand instructed this Court that it "should consider . . . whether injunctive relief may also be appropriate." LeBlanc-Steinberg, 67 F.3d at 432. While we question whether the private plaintiffs, whose rights have long been vested, require any injunctive relief at all, that which has been granted in the government's action will more than suffice. We believe that, to the extent that their requests are justified, they have been adequately encompassed by granting the government's requests.
DECLARATORY JUDGMENT AND NOMINAL DAMAGES
While the Village disputes the need for declaratory relief, the Court of Appeals remanded the action for a declaration that the Village violated the Fair Housing Act. Consequently, we have no alternative except to so declare. The action was also remanded for purposes of granting nominal damages to the private plaintiffs. The remand does not indicate in what amount the nominal damages should be, but the traditional amount has been $ 1.00. Consequently, we award each of the private plaintiffs nominal damages in the amount of $ 1.00.
The remand decision in this case did not mention attorneys' fees. The private plaintiffs, however, request the Court to set a schedule for them to make an application for attorneys' fees as the prevailing parties in this action. We question whether the private plaintiffs are truly the prevailing party in the private action. They lost to the five individual defendants who are clearly prevailing parties. Moreover, to the extent that the private plaintiffs are the prevailing party against the Village, they have not prevailed on their major goals of recovering substantial monetary damages and having the Village dissolved. While the Supreme Court and the Second Circuit have been taking dramatically different approaches to the need for attorneys' fees to be proportionate to the success obtained, the Supreme Court has held that a plaintiff who obtains only nominal damages when suing for a much larger sum is usually not entitled to attorneys' fees, even though he technically qualifies as a prevailing party. Farrar v. Hobby, 506 U.S. 103, 121 L. Ed. 2d 494, 113 S. Ct. 566 (1992); but see Cabrera v. Jakabovitz, 24 F.3d 372, 393 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 130 L. Ed. 2d 135, 115 S. Ct. 205 (1994).
There is a practical reason for not awarding the private plaintiffs attorneys' fees here. Two of the prevailing defendants have an application pending for attorneys' fees.
If we direct the Village to pay attorneys' fees of the plaintiffs and the plaintiffs to pay the attorneys' fees of the two individual defendants, what we have will amount to directing the Village to pay the attorneys' fees of the individual defendants.
We do not, however, rule on this matter at this time since no application for attorneys' fees as such has been made, rather a request that we set up a "schedule." The private plaintiffs' counsel are free to make any application which is timely, under the rules and the case law. The issue will be decided at that time.
Dated: April 25, 1996
White Plains, N.Y.
Gerard L. Goettel
ORDER AND JUDGMENT - 91 Civ. 2550 (GLG)
This case having been remanded by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals for the entry of judgment awarding the plaintiffs nominal damages and such injunctive and other relief as may be appropriate against the Village of Airmont, but having affirmed the judgment dismissing the private plaintiffs' claims against the individual defendants, it is ORDERED:
(1) that the Clerk shall enter judgment for each of the plaintiffs in the amount of $ 1.00 against the Village of Airmont; and