Articles Posted in U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals

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In 2007 Hamilton Township imposed impact fees of about $2,100 per lot on developers of residential property. Salt Run, a residential developer, sought to avoid the fees by annexation to the Village of Maineville. Unable to stop the annexation in court, Hamilton Township imposed a lien on the property. Salt Run ultimately defaulted on its loan as a result of funding an escrow so that it could sell the property, despite the lien. Salt Run sued the Township, alleging a takings claim. While the case was pending, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that Hamilton Township had no authority to impose the fee. The district court granted judgment in favor of Salt Run on some claims but denied its claim that the lien amounted to an unconstitutional taking. Salt Run appealed that ruling and sought attorney’s fees. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, finding that Salt Run was not a prevailing party and characterizing the suit as, at most, asserting an improper “collection mechanism.” View "Vill. of Maineville, OH v. Hamilton Twp. Bd. of Trs." on Justia Law

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Connor Group owns and manages about 15,000 rental units throughout the U.S., including about 1,900 in the Dayton area. Its rental agent posted an ad on Craigslist: 599/1br – Great Bachelor Pad! (Centerville) … Our one bedroom apartments are a great bachelor pad for any single man looking to hook up. This apartment includes a large bedroom, walk in closet, patio, gourmet kitchen, washer dryer hook up and so much more.... A fair-housing organization sued, charging violation of the Fair Housing Act’s section 3604(c) and Ohio’s Revised Code section 4112.02(H)(7), claiming that the bachelor pad ad was facially discriminatory to families and women. The court provided a jury instruction that “The question is not whether the particular advertisement discourages some potential renters from applying … but whether such discouragement is the product of any discriminatory statement or indication in the advertisement. If an ordinary reader who is a member of a protected class would be discouraged from answering the advertisement because of some discriminatory statement or indication contained therein, then the fair housing laws have been violated.” The trial court ruled in favor of the landlord. The Sixth Circuit reversed and remanded for a new trial based on the erroneous instruction. View "Miami Valley Fair Hous. Ctr., Inc. v. Connor Grp." on Justia Law

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The Tennessee Adult-Oriented Establishment Registration Act of 1998 is a county-option state law to address deleterious secondary effects associated with adult-oriented businesses, including crime, spread of venereal disease, and decreased property values. Adult-oriented establishments that are subject to the Act, and their employees, must obtain licenses. The Act prohibits nudity, certain sexual activities, touching of certain anatomical areas, all physical contact during performances, sale or consumption of alcohol on the premises; it requires that all performances occur on a stage at least 18 inches above floor level with all performers at least six feet away from customers and other performers. Shelby County adopted the Act in 2007. Owners of adult establishments challenged the ordinance. Following denial of a preliminary injunction, the district court granted summary judgment upholding the law, except with respect to a claim of facial invalidity attacking the reasonableness of coverage of establishments featuring “briefly attired” dancers. The court then rejected that challenge. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting First Amendment challenges. View "Entm't Prods., Inc. v. Shelby Cnty." on Justia Law

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The Nimers own land, zoned for residential use, where they operate a business that produces meat snacks. They began constructing buildings to expand the business to include butchering. They did not get zoning certificates. A state court enjoined the Nimers from putting the buildings to any use other than keeping and feeding animals, without the necessary zoning certificates. Several days after appealing the state court decision, the Nimers sued Litchfield Township in federal court under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The district court decided to abstain and dismissed without prejudice. The Sixth Circuit remanded with instructions to stay the case. While Younger abstention applies to section 1983 damages claims, a district court lacks the power to decide whether to dismiss such a damages claim. Where plaintiffs seek only legal relief (in the form of damages), relief that does not involve the district court’s equitable or discretionary powers, then the district court may not exercise its discretion to decide whether to dismiss the case; instead, the district court must stay the damages claim pending the outcome of the state court proceedings. View "Nimer v. Litchfield Twp. Bd. of Trs" on Justia Law

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In 2008 the Michigan Supreme Court held that the Detroit International Bridge Company was immune from the City of Detroit’s zoning ordinances because it was a federal instrumentality for the limited purpose of facilitating commerce over the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Detroit to Ontario, Canada. The federal government was not a party to the suit. Commodities Export, which owned property near the Bridge, later filed suit against Detroit and the United States, claiming that the Bridge Company had unilaterally condemned roads around its property, cutting off the land and causing a regulatory taking. It claimed that Detroit was liable for failing to enforce its own ordinances and demanded that the United States take a position on the Bridge Company’s federal-instrumentality status and control the Company’s actions. The United States cross-claimed against Bridge Company, alleging that it had misappropriated the title of “federal instrumentality.” The district court granted summary judgment for the United States and dismissed the action. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, stating that federal courts have jurisdiction over the government’s cross-claim and owe no deference to the Michigan Supreme Court’s interpretation of federal common law. Bridge Company is not a federal instrumentality. View "Commodities Exp. Co. v. Detroit Int'l Bridge Co." on Justia Law

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In 2002, EJS wanted to build a charter school at a commercial site in Toledo. The site needed to be re-zoned. After initially supporting rezoning, McCloskey, the region’s city council representative, changed his mind. The city denied re-zoning. EJS claims that McCloskey’s reversal occurred only after EJS refused to acquiesce to McCloskey’s demand that EJS donate $100,000 to a local retirement fund. McCloskey does not deny making the demand. EJS sued the city and McCloskey under 42 U.S.C. 1983, claiming violations of its rights to substantive and procedural due process, to equal protection, and to petition under the First Amendment, and asserting a state-law claim of tortious interference with a business expectancy. The district court granted summary judgment for the defendants. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Approval was a discretionary matter, so that EJS had no property interest. A property owner cannot create an interest in discretionary re-zoning simply by conveying his land to another party contingent upon obtaining re-zoning. Although “a compelling proposition,” the court declined to recognize a liberty interest in corruption-free decision making. The decision not to re-zone passes rational-basis review in light of the clearly expressed desire to maintain the area for future industrial use. View "EJS Properties, LLC v. City of Toledo" on Justia Law

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T-Mobile proposed to build a cellular tower in an area of West Bloomfield Township, Michigan, that had a coverage gap. After deciding that sites in the township zoning ordinance’s cellular tower overlay zones were infeasible, T-Mobile decided that the best option would be to construct a facility at a utility site on property owned by Detroit Edison. The facility contained an existing 50-foot pole, which T-Mobile wanted to replace with a 90-foot pole disguised to look like a pine tree with antennas fashioned as branches. The township denied special approval. The district court entered partial summary judgment in favor of T-Mobile in a suit under the Telecommunications Act, 47 U.S.C. 332. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Five stated reasons for denial of the application were not supported by substantial evidence and the denial had “the effect of prohibiting the provision of personal wireless services” in violation of 47 U.S.C. 332(c)(7)(B)(i)(II). View "T-Mobile Central, LLC v. Twp. of W. Bloomfield" on Justia Law

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Frankenmuth, “Michigan’s Little Bavaria,” is a tourist destination, famous for Bavarian-themed stores, family-style restaurants, and the world’s largest year-round Christmas store. Plaintiffs own a 37-acre tract just outside city limits. A 2003 property-tax appraisal valued the land at $95,000. It has been used as farmland for nearly 100 years. Under a joint agreement with the township, about 15 acres on the western portion of the property was zoned as Commercial Local Planned Unit Development, with the remaining 22 acres designated as Residential Planned Unit Development. In 2005, the plaintiffs agreed to sell 23.55 acres to Wal-Mart for $125,000 per acre. Wal-Mart had 180 days to determine the feasibility of its plan and was permitted to, for any reason, cancel and receive a refund of the $50,000 deposit.” The city first enacted a moratorium and then rezoned a relatively small area, including the property. Wal-Mart cancelled the agreement and a jury awarded plaintiffs $3.6 million for selective zoning. The Sixth Circuit reversed. The district court erred in finding that a reasonable jury could conclude that the city harbored animus against the plaintiffs, as opposed to animus against Wal-Mart and gave inaccurate instructions on damages. View "Loesel v. City of Frankenmuth" on Justia Law

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Wanting to place its advertising benches on private property and in public rights-of-way, the company first sued the city in 1993. The parties settled. The city granted the company 300 permits and amended laws to give the company access to place benches in rights-of-way. In 2006-2007, the city rescinded those amendments and amended other laws and the company again filed suit, alleging violations of the First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection rights and claiming non-conforming use protection. While the case was pending, the city again amended the laws at issue. The district court determined that certain claims were moot, that the company lacked standing to bring its First Amendment claims, that the company was not similarly situated for purposes of its equal-protection claim, and that it would not consider the non-conforming use claim. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Noting that there has been no admission or finding of unconstitutionality, the court agreed the claims were moot. The only claimed injury, the difference between fees paid by bench advertisers and those paid by the other advertising media, did not establish standing. View "Bench Billboard Co. v. City of Cincinnati" on Justia Law

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The owners bought property in 1995 and live there with their daughter. It is under the flight paths of runways of the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. In 2002, the owners filed a class-action mandamus action, seeking to compel the city to initiate appropriation proceedings, claiming that the level and frequency of flights so interfered with their use and enjoyment that the property had been taken for public use without just compensation. The state court dismissed. They tried again in 2008, citing expansion projects. The city removed the case to federal district court, which dismissed with prejudice. The Sixth Circuit reversed and remanded. The district court erred in applying res judicata; the claims based upon the 2004 and 2007 expansions could not have been raised in the 2002 Action and are premised on a new transaction or occurrence distinct from the subject matter of the 2002 Action.