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Feb 6, 2013 11:08 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Judge Tosses Lawsuit Filed By Group Opposed To Creation Of Religious Boundary

Feb 6, 2013 2:09 PM

A federal judge has dismissed one of three lawsuits spawned by the proposed creation of a mostly invisible religious boundary in western Southampton Town, and set a tentative timeline for settling the two remaining court cases.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Leonard D. Wexler dismissed the most recent lawsuit over the proposed boundary that would benefit Orthodox Jews, called an eruv, filed by the Jewish People for the Betterment of Westhampton Beach last July. That lawsuit alleged, among other things, that the eruv’s creation would serve no secular purpose and violate the U.S. Constitution. It was filed against the Village of Westhampton Beach, the East End Eruv Association (EEEA)—the group that is seeking the boundary’s creation—and the Long Island Power Authority and Verizon, the utilities that previously granted the EEEA permission to install markers, called “lechis,” to their poles to delineate the eruv’s boundaries.

The reasons for the dismissal of the most recent lawsuit were not immediately clear.

According to Jonathan Sinnreich, an attorney with the Central Islip law firm Sinnreich Kosakoff and Messina LLP that is representing the Jewish People for the Betterment of Westhampton Beach, his clients intend to appeal the decision, noting that an explanation of why the suit was dismissed was never offered.

Robert Sugarman, an attorney with the Manhattan firm Weil, Gotshal and Manges LLP, who is representing the EEEA, said Wednesday that he does not know why the judge tossed the lawsuit, explaining that a written decision was not provided by the court.

Arnold Sheiffer of Westhampton Beach, the chairman of the Jewish People for the Betterment of Westhampton Beach, could not be reached for comment this week.

The boundary being sought by the EEEA would encompass most of Westhampton Beach Village, and parts of Quogue Village and the hamlet of Westhampton. Last year, the Quogue Village Board unanimously rejected an EEEA application that sought permission to install 48 lechis in the municipality.

Also on Monday, Judge Wexler set a tentative schedule for hearing the other two lawsuits—one initiated by the EEEA and the other by LIPA and Verizon—so that they could be decided by June. The EEEA filed litigation in January 2011 when it sued Southampton Town, as well as the villages of Quogue and Westhampton Beach, alleging that the municipalities have violated the constitutional rights of members of the group by interfering with negotiations with LIPA and Verizon. Less than a week later, the utilities filed their own joint lawsuit, also naming all three municipalities as defendants, arguing that utilities cannot be fined for allowing the EEEA to install lechis on their poles.

According to Mr. Sugarman, the trial pertaining to the LIPA and Verizon lawsuit is scheduled to begin on Monday, April 15.

The proposed boundary has been a point of contention for locals for more than four years, since the Hampton Synagogue filed an application with Westhampton Beach Village that sought a smaller boundary. The synagogue, which is located on Sunset Avenue in Westhampton Beach and is the only house of worship that would benefit from the boundary, later withdrew its application and the EEEA picked up the baton.

Eruv proponents say that the boundary it is needed to allow Orthodox Jews to push and carry objects, like wheelchairs and house keys, to temple on the Sabbath. They have also stated that Jewish law requires that the eruv be approved and recognized by those who control the area in which it would be placed—the main sticking point in this battle.

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