On September 9, 2010, Plaintiff Forras, a former firefighter, brought a class action lawsuit for damages, in the amount of $350,000,000.00, allegedly sustained by him and others as a result of the proposed development of a mosque and Islamic community center near Ground Zero. The complaint named the developers of a mosque and Islamic cultural center as defendants. ALBPC took on the case pro bono, that is, as a public service without charge. Pete Reid was assigned to the case.
Plaintiff alleged that the planned community center was a public nuisance, and that its very existence constituted an intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress. ALBPC vigorously defended the rights of the Defendants by immediately filing a motion to dismiss drafted by Pete Reid. The motion papers included, among others, defenses based on the fundamental rights guaranteed to all Americans by the United States Constitution including that, under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, people are entitled to the free exercise of their religion.
ALBPC argued that intrinsic in that right, is the right to construct a house of worship and that the clients’ decision to build an Islamic Community Center in Lower Manhattan was consistent with the free exercise of their religion, and thus protected by the First Amendment. Pete Reid also argued that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction and that Plaintiff had failed to properly set forth any claims.
Justice Lucy Billings of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, New York County, in her decision on November 14, 2012, agreed with virtually every argument put forth by Defendants in their motion and dismissed the case in its entirety. The court held that even under the very forgiving standard by which a motion to dismiss must be decided, the Plaintiff failed to show “any nuisance, extreme or outrageous conduct as required for infliction of emotional distress, or assaultive conduct that would emanate from a religious institution.”
Judge Billings held that the complaint failed to plead any cognizable causes of action against Defendants. The case was dismissed clearing the way for the project to be developed.
Copy of the decision here.
Pete Reid, Adam Leitman Bailey, Dov Treiman, Colin Kaufman, and Courtney Lerias represented ALBPC in the case and on the motion.