CHABAD LUBAVITCH OF LITCHFIELD COUNTY, INC., Plaintiff-Appellee-Cross-Appellant,
LITCHFIELD HISTORIC DISTRICT COMMISSION, BOROUGH OF LITCHFIELD, CONNECTICUT, Defendants-Appellants-Cross-Appellees.
Argued: June 10, 2019
and cross-appeal from an order of the District Court for the
District of Connecticut (Janet C. Hall, District Judge)
awarding attorney's fees to Chabad Lubavitch of
Litchfield County, Inc. against Litchfield Historic District
Commission and Borough of Litchfield, Connecticut in
litigation successfully claiming a violation of the Religious
Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 2000cc et seq. Defendants-Appellants
contend that Plaintiff-Appellee was not a prevailing party.
Plaintiff-Appellee contends fees were improperly disallowed
for time spent during administrative proceedings.
James Stedronsky, Stedronsky & Meter, LLC, Litchfield,
CT, and C. Scott Schwefel, Shipman, Shaiken & Schwefel,
LLC, West Hartford, CT (Mark S. Shipman, Shipman, Shaiken
& Schwefel, LLC, West Hartford, CT, on the brief), for
Defendants- Appellants-Cross-Appellees Borough of Litchfield,
Connecticut and Litchfield Historic District Commission,
P. Dalton, Dalton & Tomich, PLC, Detroit, MI, for
Plaintiff-Appellee-Cross-Appellant Chabad Lubavitch of
Litchfield County, Inc.
Before: NEWMAN, HALL, and CHIN, Circuit Judges.
NEWMAN, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
appeal primarily requires determination of whether a
plaintiff in litigation successfully claiming a violation of
the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, 42
U.S.C. §§ 2000cc et seq.
("RLUIPA") is entitled to attorney's fees
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988(b) as a prevailing party
and, if so, whether such fees may be awarded for time spent
during administrative proceedings that preceded the
challenged action. These issues arise on an appeal by the
Borough of Litchfield, Connecticut, ("Borough") and
the Litchfield Historic District Commission ("HDC")
(collectively, "Defendants"), and a cross-appeal by
Plaintiff Chabad Lubavitch of Litchfield County Inc.
("Chabad") from the May 23, 2018, order of the
District Court for the District of Connecticut (Janet C.
Hall, District Judge) awarding attorney's fees to Chabad.
See Chabad Lubavitch v. Borough of Litchfield, No.
3:09-CV-1419 (JCH), 2018 WL 2332075 (D. Conn. May 23, 2018)
("Fee Opinion"). The District Court ruled
that Chabad was a prevailing party in the underlying
litigation, but denied fees incurred during the
administrative proceedings and reduced the award further by
50 percent to reflect Plaintiff's partial success. The
underlying litigation concerns Chabad's challenge to
Defendants' rulings on its application for a Certificate
of Appropriateness ("COA") to renovate an historic
building that it owns.
conclude that Chabad is entitled to attorney's fees as a
prevailing party, that it may not obtain fees for the
administrative proceedings for failure to identify "the
discrete portion of the work product from the administrative
proceedings" for which fees might have been awarded,
North Carolina Dep't of Transportation v.
Crest Street Community Council, Inc., 479 U.S. 6, 15
(1986), and that the 50 percent reduction was appropriate. We
is a religious corporation that owns a building ("Chabad
House") in the Litchfield Historic District. The Borough
of Litchfield is an independent municipal corporation within
the town of Litchfield, Connecticut. The Borough established
HDC to govern aspects of the construction and modification of
buildings within the Litchfield Historic District.
planned to build an addition to its building to accommodate
its rabbi's family and the needs of the Chabad community.
The proposed expansion required Chabad to apply to HDC for a
certificate of appropriateness ("COA"). HDC held
four meetings in 2007 to consider Chabad's application.
The purpose of one of the meetings was to determine
"whether denial of the Chabad's application would
place a 'substantial burden' on the Chabad's
religious exercise." Chabad Lubavitch of Litchfield
County, Inc. v. Borough of Litchfield, Connecticut, No.
3:09-cv- 1419, 2017 WL 5015624, at *9 (D. Conn. Nov. 2, 2017)
December 2007, HDC denied Chabad's application without
prejudice. HDC stated that it would not approve an addition
as large as that proposed by Chabad, which was
"'over five times as large'" as the
original structure, and "'dominate[d] the original
house in every aspect'" See id. at *11
(quoting HDC decision). However, HDC said that it would
approve "'an addition equal in square footage to the
[original] house.'" Id. at *12 (quoting HDC
decision). HDC therefore invited Chabad to submit a new
proposal. HDC did not consider the religious needs of the
Chabad in its decision, but analyzed Chabad's use of the
proposed interior "'in an attempt to address what
[the] RLUIPA required of [it].'" Id.
(quoting HDC decision).