Challenge to Jewish Ritual Ends (For Now At Least) with Statutory Whimper

May 12th, 2017

In October, I filed an amicus brief in United Poultry Concerns v.  Chabad of Irvine. In that case, Poultry activists successfully petitioned a district court in California for an ex parte temporary restraining order to enjoin the Jewish ritual of Kapporot. This injunction ran afoul of bedrock Free Exercise jurisprudence. Ultimately, the district court dissolved the injunction moments before Yom Kippur began, at which it was too late to perform the ritual. For more background, see my editorial in the Los Angeles Times.

After nearly eight months of litigation, and an amended complaint, the district court has dismissed the complaint. The court found that there was jurisdiction and the plaintiffs had standing (conclusions that I found unpersuasive), but in the end, ruled that the ritual was not a “commercial fundraiser,” so no remedy was available under the California unfair competition law. The court did not address any of the serious First Amendment issues that were implicated by its initial ex parte temporary restraining order. At least for now, the case ends in a statutory whimper.

Kudos to the attorneys at First Liberty (Hiram Sasser, Jeremy Dys, and Stephanie Phillips), Wilmer Hale (Matthew Martens, Gregory Boden, and Kevin Gallagher), and Michael Jones, for their excellent representation of Chabad of Irvine.