The Borough of Litchfield would be on the hook for some big money if a federal judge’s ruling related to the Chabad Lubavitch of Litchfield County legal saga is allowed to stand.
Judge Janet C. Hall of U.S. District Court of Connecticut last week ordered the borough to pay $717,405 in legal fees and costs wrung up by lawyers for Chabad during its long fight with the borough’s Historic District Commission over Chabad’s plan to expand a West Street Victorian into a synagogue.
Chabad was seeking $1.6 million from the borough. The request for fees and costs came last November after Hall ruled that Chabad could build a smaller synagogue than the one the borough’s Historic District Commission rejected in 2007.
Chabad appealed the denial in 2009 and fees and costs accumulated over eight years.
The borough plans to appeal Hall’s decision in the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City, according to borough attorney James Stedronsky of Litchfield.
Hall’s order awards $612,124 to attorneys representing Chabad and $105,281 in costs associated with their services. The money would be divided by the law firm of Halloran and Sage of Hartford, the law firm of Dalton and Tomich of Detroit, Mich., and the American Liberties Institute.
Coming up with $717,405 would be nearly impossible for the borough, which encompasses the center of town and is funded by the residents living there. It’s not clear of the borough would ask the town to help it offset the cost should the appeal be denied.
A revised and much-smaller Chabad synagogue plan was approved by the HDC in May. Had Chabad proposed a similar plan in 2007 after its original plan was denied, the HDC would have approved it, according to Stedronsky and commission members, and the long and costly legal fight would have been avoided.