Karla Chaffee

Karla Chaffee

Karla L. Chaffee is a member of Robinson+Cole’s Real Estate + Development Group and is based in the Boston office, focusing on a variety of land use and environmental matters. Karla’s interest in RLUIPA began in law school when she co-authored, “Six Fact Patterns of Substantial Burden in RLUIPA: Lessons for Potential Litigants,” (with Dwight Merriam) published in Albany Government Law Review (Spring 2009). Karla has continued to write and speak on RLUIPA and has represented clients in several federal proceedings, including RLUIPA, First Amendment, and Equal Protection claims. In addition to her RLUIPA practice, Karla has litigated complex environmental matters, defending claims under Massachusetts Chapter 21E. Karla’s transactional experience includes pre-acquisition and pre-financing due diligence, environmental risk assessment and risk mitigation. She also represents clients seeking local zoning approvals and counsels them on the impact of proposed or recently enacted land use legislation, as well as on land use trends across the country.

Karla is also a proud member of Robinson+Cole’s Pro Bono Committee and is dedicated to maintaining pro bono work as part of her practice. Her pro bono clients include individuals and families seeking asylum in the United States. She has also represented nonprofit organizations in obtaining tax-exempt status and has served as legal counsel in a zoning appeal for a nonprofit association created to support and protect a national park.

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Hand of Hope RLUIPA Claims Survive Summary Judgment

Hand of Hope Pregnancy Resource Center (“Hand of Hope”) is a non-profit  in Raleigh, North Carolina with the mission to “affirm the value of life from conception by compassionately sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ[.]”  It offers clients prayer, Bible study, and spiritual counseling, as well as free reproductive healthcare information, physician-quality pregnancy testing, limited … Continue Reading

Pave it! RFRA Unlikely to Protect Sacred Burial Ground

A Federal Magistrate Judge for the United States District Court of Oregon recently issued findings and recommendations in Chief Wilder Slockish, et al. v. U.S. Federal Highway Administration, et al., concluding that federal highway construction work did not impose a substantial burden on plaintiffs’ religious exercise. Plaintiffs, including members of the Confederated Tribes of the … Continue Reading

Registration Open: 32d Annual Land Use Institute

Registration is now open here for the 32d Annual Land Use Institute to be held April 19-20, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan.  This is the program, previously produced by ALI-ABA for many years, which is now produced by the American Bar Association’s Section of State and Local Government Law.  The web site includes the faculty list and … Continue Reading

Third Time’s Not the Charm for Trump’s Travel Ban

The Fourth Circuit ruled earlier this month that the Trump Administration’s third attempt at an immigration and travel ban, imposed on eight predominately Muslim countries, was likely to violate the Establishment Clause. On September 24, 2017, President Trump issued Proclamation No. 9645, Enhancing Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry Into the United States … 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

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

Yonkers Wins Below: Appeal Pending

The Islamic Community Center for Mid Westchester (“ICCMW”) has appealed the decision of the Southern District of New York that held ICCMW’s claims were not yet ripe for review and ICCMW did not have the right to supplement its complaint to add an additional cause of action. ICCMW’s pre-argument statement to the Second Circuit, including … Continue Reading

New Substantial Burden Framework in the Sixth Circuit; Court Upholds RLUIPA Verdict in Favor of Michigan Township

In an important decision for municipalities across the Country, the Sixth Circuit upheld a district court decision that found Genoa Charter Township (Township) did not violate federal law in denying a church’s application for a special use permit to operate a religious school. The take away from the case? Asking students to drive an extra … Continue Reading

RLUIPA Round Up

The recent confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch has brought renewed attention to the often blurry line between the courts, government and individual religious liberty. Gorsuch wrote a concurring opinion in the 10th Circuit’s Hobby Lobby decision, which established that a closely held corporation may refuse to provide health insurance coverage that offers certain … Continue Reading

Signs 4 JC Shown the Light by NH District Court

Thou shall have the right to an electronic sign?  Apparently not.  Just over a year ago, Hillside Baptist Church and Signs for Jesus (together, Plaintiffs or Church) filed a complaint in the District Court for New Hampshire, seeking a declaration that the Town of Pembroke’s (the Town) sign ordinance is unconstitutional both facially and as … Continue Reading

Bare Amish Horses? It Depends.

Two Amish men have sued Auburn, Kentucky (population approx. 1,300) in a Kentucky state court over an ordinance requiring that horses wear equine diapers.  The ordinance, passed in 2014, is intended to keep town streets clear of horse manure, and is the result of neighbor complaints.  The ordinance requires “[a] properly fitted collection device shall … Continue Reading

Settlement Reached Allowing Construction of Muslim Cemetery in Dudley, MA

Guest Post by Derek Valentine Following some last minute hand-wringing, nearly a year of hearings and deliberations by the Zoning Board of Appeals (“ZBA”) and accusations of religious bias, the Town of Dudley agreed to a deal that would allow a proposed Muslim cemetery to be constructed on six acres of former farmland in a … Continue Reading

DOJ’s RLUIPA Claims Survive Motion to Dismiss

A federal court in Pennsylvania has denied Bensalem Township’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the United States Department of Justice challenging the Township’s denial of a use variance for a mosque.  The lawsuit alleges violations of the Religious Land Use & Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and is in addition to a separate lawsuit … Continue Reading

Third Circuit Upholds District Court Decision in Pennsylvania Baptist Church Sign Case

Last week, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals entered an order upholding the district court’s decision in the case of Tearpock-Martini v. Shickshinny Borough, which we reported on last summer.  The case involved an Establishment Clause challenge by a citizen to a Pennsylvania borough’s decision to install a sign in the right-of-way stating “Bible Baptist Church Welcomes … Continue Reading

Missouri Church Wins Digital Sign Appeal

The Missouri Court of Appeals has ruled that the Kansas City, Missouri, Board of Adjustment abused its discretion in failing to grant a variance to Antioch Community Church (Church) to install digital components into its monument sign.  The Church argued that absent the variance it had practical difficulty in communicating its message.  In the alternative, … Continue Reading

DOJ Claims that County’s Denial of a Sewer Permit Violates RLUIPA

Guest Post by Derek Valentine Earlier this month, the U.S. Justice Department (“DOJ”) filed suit in District Court for the Western District of Virginia against the Culpeper County Virginia Board of Supervisors alleging it acted in a discriminatory manor by denying a permanent pump and haul septic system permit for a proposed mosque. The Islamic … Continue Reading

Port Jervis, NY Sued by DOJ; Settles Two Days Later

The City of Port Jervis, New York has agreed to settle a federal lawsuit filed by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) alleging that the City’s revision to its zoning code violated the Religious Land Use & Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA).  In August 2015, Goodwill Evangelical Presbyterian Church (Church) finalized a contract to purchase … Continue Reading

Rocky Mountain Sign Law Blog: Installation of Ten Commandments On City Hall Lawn is Government Speech, Violates First Amendment

Guest Post by Brian Connolly, Otten Johnson, PC Earlier this month, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Bloomfield, New Mexico’s installation of a Ten Commandments monument on the lawn in front of city hall violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. In 2007, upon request of one of its members, the Bloomfield … Continue Reading

Facial RLUIPA Claims Against Mobile, AL Dismissed

Guest Post by Tavo T. True-Alcala Earlier this year, the Thai Meditation Association of Alabama and several individual plaintiffs (“the Center”) filed suit against the City of Mobile, Alabama (“the City”), alleging that the denial of its application to operate a meditation center in a residential area was a violation of its rights under RLUIPA on three … Continue Reading

$1.7 Million Settlement with DOJ and CAIR-MI

In 2011, Pittsfield Charter Township denied, allegedly without deliberation, Michigan Islamic Academy’s (“MIA”) application to rezone a 26 acre parcel (the “Property”) to allow the development of  a pre-K through grade 12 school.  MIA then sued the Township, alleging that the denial substantially burdened its religious exercise.  At the time, MIA operated a school in … Continue Reading

Landmarking designation is alleged to violate RLUIPA

Guest Post by Tavo T. True-Alcala A brewing dispute in Yonkers, NY has led the Islamic Community Center for Mid Westchester (ICCMW) to allege that Yonkers violated ICCMW’s rights under RLUIPA, and the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution.  The controversy began in the summer of 2015 when ICCMW submitted an application to undertake … Continue Reading
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