U.S. Court of Appeals Allows Temple To Go Forward With Its Claims of Religious Discrimination Against the City of Sunny Isles

By Sharon Elster

The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit published its opinion vacating and remanding the decision of United States District Court dismissing Temple B’Nai Zion’s claims of religious discrimination against the City of Sunny Isles Beach.  For those readers who are not well versed on the issue, we encourage you to read the very well-written and highly informative opinion by clicking here: SIB.and.Temple.Eleventh_Circuit_Opinion

Basically, the Temple’s lawsuit was filed in response to the City’s decision to designate the Temple’s property as a historic landmark over its objections, which prevented the Temple from going forward with its big remodeling plans.  The City claimed that the Temple’s
property was a historic landmark because, a few years before, it had hosted a gathering of roughly 200 Holocaust survivors.  This was the first historic designation in the City’s history, and occurred against the backdrop of longstanding deep animosity between  Mayor Norman Edelcup and the Temple.  As reported in our September 2, 2012 article,  and as shown in the opinion itself, Commissioner Bud Scholl was the only dissenting vote on this issue due to his concerns that the arguments in favor of the designation were too flimsy to outweigh property right concerns.

The District Court (lower court) dismissed the Temple’s lawsuit in 2012 on ripeness grounds — a concept that is very well explained in the decision provided in this article.  The District Court found that the Temple’s claims would ripen only when it submitted formal expansion plans to the City.  The Court of Appeals (the higher court) rejected the lower court’s findings and held that the Temple’s claims were ripe for review immediately upon the historic landmark designation. Therefore, the case will go back to the lower court and proceed to trial.

If you would like to read the Miami Herald article on this issue, click here:  http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/08/30/3596556/appeals-court-gives-synagogue.html

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