Evan Seeman

Evan Seeman

Evan J. Seeman is a lawyer in Robinson+Cole’s Hartford office and focuses his practice on land use, real estate, environmental, and regulatory matters, representing local governments, developers and advocacy groups. He has spoken and written about RLUIPA, and was a lead author of an amicus curiae brief at the petition stage before the United States Supreme Court in a RLUIPA case entitled City of San Leandro v. International Church of the Foursquare Gospel.

Evan serves as the Secretary/Treasurer of the APA’s Planning & Law Division. He also serves as the Chair of the Planning & Zoning Section of the Connecticut Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Section, and is the former Co-Chair of its Municipal Law Section. He has been named to the Connecticut Super Lawyers® list as a Rising Star in the area of Land Use Law for 2013 and 2014. He received his B.A. in political science and Russian studies (with honors) from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, where he was selected as the President’s Fellow in the Department of Modern Languages and Literature. Evan received his Juris Doctor at the University of Connecticut School of Law, where he served on the Connecticut Law Review. While in law school, he interned with the Connecticut Office of the Attorney General in the environmental department, and served as a judicial intern for the judges of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Court. Following law school, Evan clerked for the Honorable F. Herbert Gruendel of the Connecticut Appellate Court.

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Second Circuit: Islamic Group’s RLUIPA Claims Not Ripe Under Williamson County

The Second Circuit recently issued a Summary Order in Islamic Community Center for Mid Westchester v. City of Yonkers Landmark Preservation Board (2d Cir. 2018) detailing what zoning relief a plaintiff must seek at the local level before filing suit.  The case involved the Islamic Community Center of Mid Westchester’s (ICCMW) claims that it had … Continue Reading

Floating Home Owner Scores Second Supreme Court Victory Against Riviera Beach, FL

Today the Supreme Court issued an important decision in Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach, Florida, 585 U.S. ___ (2018).  The case does not involve land use or even free exercise of religion.  But it is still noteworthy because it deals with local government decision-making and citizens’ free speech rights under the First Amendment.  Most … Continue Reading

DOJ Rolls Out “Place to Worship” RLUIPA Initiative; Sues New Jersey Borough

Earlier this week, the Department of Justice announced its “Place to Worship Initiative” to help protect houses of worship and religious institutions against discrimination in the local land use process.  Attorney General Jefferson Sessions announced the new initiative and stated that President Trump “is an unwavering defender of the right of free exercise [of religion], … Continue Reading

Church Sues Virginia County Over Religious Discrimination Claims

Last month, a church known as Love of Life Fellowship, Inc. (the “Church”) sued the County of Chesterfield, Virginia, alleging religious discrimination resulting from its desired acquisition and use of 38 acres at 500 Baptist Drive in Chester, Virginia (the “Property”).  The Church has used the Property for two years for religious worship and other … Continue Reading

SCOTUS Rules Baker Who Refused Wedding Cake To Same-Sex Couple Suffered Religious Discrimination

The Supreme Court issued its anticipated decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.  The case concerns a Colorado baker’s refusal to sell a wedding cake to a same-sex couple because the baker’s religious beliefs are that “God’s intention for marriage from the beginning of history is that and should be the union … Continue Reading

Yee Haw! Cowboy Church’s Religious Rodeo Clears Some Hurdles

Texas’ appellate court recently issued a decision involving the interplay between religious freedom and governmental police power, a “cowboy church,” and NIMBYism (Not-In-My-Back-Yard).  True to its name, Denton County Cowboy Church (the “Church”) began hosting weekly rodeo events in 2009 at its outdoor arena.  The arena is on the Cowboy Church’s 7-acre tract of land … Continue Reading

Eleventh Circuit Affirms Dismissal of City’s Approval of Chabad Religious Center as Moot

The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit recently affirmed the lower court’s decision dismissing an Establishment Clause challenge over the approval of a religious center.  The lawsuit was brought by two residents who live near a mixed-use, two-story religious center proposed by Chabad of East Boca, Inc. (“Chabad”).  In 2007, Chabad sought … Continue Reading

Federal Court Rejects Church’s Religious Land Use Claims Based on Government’s Legitimate Zoning Concerns

A federal court in Nevada has ruled that the denial of a church’s special use permit application to develop property with a house of worship did not violate RLUIPA’s substantial burden provision, the Equal Protection Clause, the Due Process Clause, or state law.  Significantly, this case demonstrates the bedrock principle that land use agencies may … Continue Reading

Rabbi Lacks Standing for some RLUIPA Claims, Says Federal Court

A federal court in Maryland has found that a rabbi was without standing to bring claims under RLUIPA’s nondiscrimination and equal terms provisions, since those claims can be brought only by an “assembly” or “institution.”  While the court dismissed these claims, identical claims brought by a Jewish congregation – an assembly or institution under RLUIPA … Continue Reading

Maryland Federal Court – Church’s Alleged Substantial Burden was Self-Imposed

A federal court in Maryland recently rejected a church’s RLUIPA and related constitutional claims, finding that the religious group’s claimed harm was self-created.  The case demonstrates the importance of due diligence efforts in connection with developing property in the context of a religious land use controversy. The religious group, Jesus Christ is the Answer Ministries, … Continue Reading

Cockfighting Not Sincerely Held Religious Belief, Rules Federal Court

In United States of America v. Cruz (F.D.N.Y. 2018), Hector Cruz pled guilty to the charge of knowingly attending a cockfighting event (a fight between two roosters) for sport and entertainment in the Bronx, New York, in violation of 7 U.S.C. § 2156(a)(2)(A) (the “Animal Fighting Venture Prohibition”).  Despite pleading guilty, Cruz raised a bevy … Continue Reading

Mahwah, NJ Agrees to Settle Eruv Dispute

In December, we reported that the Mahwah Township Council (“Council”) voted to withdraw two ordinances at the center of RLUIPA litigation involving the expansion of an eruv proposed by Bergen Rockland Eruv Association (“BREA”).  According to Chabad.org, an eruv (pronounced (ay-roov) is “a technical boundary that allows Jews to carry in public areas on Shabbat.” The … Continue Reading

Allenhurst, NJ Sued Under RLUIPA One Day and Settles the Next

The Borough of Allenhurst, New Jersey has settled a lawsuit against an Orthodox Jewish group just one day after the group filed suit in federal court alleging violations of RLUIPA’s unreasonable limits and exclusions and equal terms provisions.  As part of the swift settlement, the Borough will permit an addition to a residential home to … Continue Reading

City of Bayonne, NJ to Pay $400,000 to Settle Claims Over Mosque Denial

The City of Bayonne, New Jersey has agreed to settle a lawsuit filed this past summer by Bayonne Muslims, asserting that the city discriminated against the Muslim group after denying variances needed to convert an abandoned warehouse to a mosque (read our previous post about the lawsuit here).  As part of the settlement, the city … Continue Reading

CAFO Stinks, but Not a Substantial Burden

Do 1,400 cattle and 17.4 million gallons of cow waste in open-air lagoons, upwind and a half a mile from a religious youth summer camp, impose a substantial burden? As unpleasant as a concentrated animal feed operation (“CAFO”) may be, a neighboring religious organization cannot use RLUIPA as a shield to prevent its operation. We … Continue Reading

County of Ventura, California’s Permitting Scheme Stricken as Prior Restraint on Free Speech

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has ruled that Ventura County, California’s conditional use permit (CUP) scheme for “temporary outdoor” events is an unconstitutional prior restraint on free speech.  Temporary outdoor events are defined in the County’s zoning code to include “[o]utdoor recreational events such as harvest festivals, amusement ride, historic … Continue Reading

Tenth Circuit Throws Out Prisoner’s Claim that He is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ

Today we report on a fascinating decision out of the Tenth Circuit.  It’s not a land use case.  It’s not even an RLUIPA case.  But we thought it appropriate for this time of year.  The plaintiff, a pro se prisoner named Muamar Sayyed, claims to be the “Spirit of God and Son of Man, the … Continue Reading

Upcoming Webinar –Special Topics in Planning and the First Amendment: Signs, Adult Businesses, Religious Uses, and More

The Planning and Law Division of the American Planning Association is pleased to host the upcoming webcast Special Topics in Planning and the First Amendment: Signs, Adult Businesses, Religious Land Uses, and More on December 14 from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. EDT.  Registration for individuals is $20 for PLD members and $45 for nonmembers. … Continue Reading

City’s Refusal to Permit Private Religious School in Business District Does Not Violate RLUIPA

A federal court has issued another decision in the longstanding RLUIPA battle between the City of Upper Arlington, Ohio (“City”) and Tree of Life Christian Schools (“TLC”).  For a second time, a federal court in the Southern District of Ohio has ruled that the City did not violate RLUIPA’s equal terms provision by prohibiting religious … Continue Reading

RLUIPA Suit Against Colonie, NY Dismissed As Unripe

A federal court in New York has dismissed religious discrimination and related claims alleged by an evangelical Christian church (the “Church”) against the Town of Colonie, New York, its agencies and officials (the “Town”), in connection with conditions of approval imposed by the Town on the Church.  The Church sought zoning approval to construct a … Continue Reading
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