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2014 in Review

Here at Dalton & Tomich we are very happy to welcome in 2015. We are very excited for the possibilities ahead of us this year. With the future in mind, this post is a look back at some of the Dalton & Tomich highlights of 2014. Last year was a very good year for our firm. It was our first full year in our Detroit offices at the Chrysler House, and we have loved the experience of being downtown. We were also able to achieve some tremendous results for our clients, which you can read about below.

Last year, we secured several positive results for our client Planet Aid. Planet Aid is a non-profit corporation that collects and sells used textiles. The proceeds from these sales are used to support various charitable causes around the world and here in Michigan. Several Michigan communities have attempted to exclude Planet Aid’s donation bins from their jurisdictions, which would prevent Planet Aid from carrying out its charitable mission in those communities. Relying primarily on the First Amendment, we have had great success in defending Planet Aid’s right to collect charitable donations in these communities. In Ypsilanti Township, our team obtained a preliminary injunction to prevent the Township from removing Planet Aid’s bins. We later negotiated the settlement of the case. In St. John’s, we also obtained a preliminary injunction in favor of Planet Aid. That case remains ongoing, as St. John’s has appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. We have also worked to come to amicable, non-litigation solutions with several other communities. We look forward to continuing our relationship with Planet Aid in 2015 and beyond as they continue in their charitable work.

2014 also saw the completion of our case in Mississippi. Lighthouse Rescue Mission is a non-profit corporation that serves poverty-stricken single mothers who are working their way out of drug and alcohol addiction. The Lighthouse program takes these women off the streets and provides job skills training and transitional housing. However, the City of Hattiesburg improperly denied Lighthouse the permission to use its property for overnight stays for the women. We represented Lighthouse in its federal lawsuit against the City. Using the Fair Housing Act and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), we argued that the City’s interference with Lighthouse’s religious mission was unlawful. Ultimately, the case ended in a settlement that provided Lighthouse both the use of its property for its mission and an award of monetary damages. Thanks to these efforts, Lighthouse is now ministering to those in need in Mississippi.

We were also able to secure a victory last year in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. In that case, the Church of Our Savior sought land in the Jacksonville Beach area to accommodate its growing congregation and perform its religious duties. The Church found an ideal piece of land located near a small, well-to-do neighborhood. For various reasons, most of the residents in the neighborhood opposed the Church’s plan to purchase the property and build a worship facility on the property. The Church made a great effort to compromise, but to no avail. Largely as a result of this political pressure, the City Planning Commission denied two conditional use permit applications from the Church despite a ringing endorsement from the City planning expert. With no other option, the Church retained Dalton & Tomich to file a federal lawsuit against the City. The suit brought by our team was based primarily on RLUIPA. After vigorous litigation by both sides, our team ultimately prevailed at trial. In its opinion, the Court found that the City had violated the Equal Terms provision of RLUIPA. While post-trial activity still continues, the trial verdict was a major victory for the Church, and we are eager for an ultimate resolution to this case.

Finally, 2014 was a good year for our local clients as well. We are pleased to work with the Grosse Pointe Academy beginning in 2014 and continuing into this year. We have also continued tremendous relationships with clients such as Level One Bank and Skidmore Studio. All of our clients are very important to us, and we have enjoyed working with all of them this past year.

As we move ahead into this year, we look forward to continuing existing relationships and cultivating new ones. It is such an exciting time to be in Detroit and the Metro area, and we are always looking for new ways to get involved in the relentless positive momentum. If there is any way in which we can meet your legal needs in this coming year, we would be grateful for the opportunity to meet with you and discuss how we can best meet the needs of you or your organization. If you find yourself downtown, do not hesitate to visit us on the second floor of the Chrysler House. We would be very pleased to meet you.

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