Thursday, August 11, 2011

KJ leaders mock dissidents' suit 

Just weeks after getting hit with a federal lawsuit alleging widespread discrimination against community dissidents, Kiryas Joel leaders have filed a pile of court papers disputing the claims and scoffing at the drastic remedies the plaintiffs have sought.

The case, filed in June by Goshen civil-rights lawyer Michael Sussman, argues that municipal and religious authority are so entwined in the Satmar Hasidic community that it blurs the constitutional line separating church and state. Dissidents claim to suffer discrimination in secular matters because they oppose the majority group's spiritual leader, Grand Rebbe Aaron Teitelbaum.

As a remedy, the plaintiffs have asked the court to dissolve the 34-year-old village or, short of that, remove its municipal leaders from office.

In a response filed this month, lawyers for the village call the case a "patchwork quilt of allegations" that "consists in large part of issues that already have been litigated and decided, in some cases on multiple occasions."

Brian Sokoloff, a Long Island lawyer representing Mayor Abraham Wieder and the village trustees, labels the demand for new leadership a "scorched earth" approach that would violate the constitutional rights of those officials and flout the will of voters.

"Plaintiffs seek to disqualify them from public office based solely on the membership of those individuals in a religious congregation," Sokoloff wrote.

'Grab bag' evidence, KJ says

Separate responses have been submitted by six lawyers or teams of lawyers in all, each representing different defendants. All are asking U.S. District Court Judge Jed Rakoff to dismiss the case.

The lawsuit, brought by eight individuals, a dissident congregation and an umbrella organization called the Kiryas Joel Alliance, tries to show a pattern of discrimination against dissidents in public life through a series of examples that touch on property-tax exemptions, law enforcement and other areas.

In their replies, the defendants scorn that evidence as "a medley of unrelated incidents," a "grab bag" and a "mishmash."

Kiryas Joel was incorporated in 1977 as a satellite of the Brooklyn-based Satmar community and has a fast-growing population of more than 20,000. Its long-running internal conflicts stem from a split in the Satmar movement over support for rival Grand Rebbes Aaron and Zalman Teitelbaum — brothers with competing leadership claims.


Comments: Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Chaptzem! Blog