Chabad Of Michigan Wins Appeal

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Chabad of Michigan’s lawsuit against the Sara and Morris Tugman Bais Chabad Torah Center in West Bloomfield is alive and well.

The Michigan Court of Appeals, sitting in Lansing, ruled that Judge Rae Lea Chabot’s dismissal of Oak Park-based Chabad of Michigan’s case in Oakland County Circuit Court was wrong.bais chabad torah center

The appeals court’s decision, rendered May 22, examined Judge Chabot’s dismissal of the case without a trial on the grounds that Chabad of Michigan waited too long to file the suit under the state’s statute of limitations.

The Court of Appeals reversed that decision, holding that the case was not filed late because the deadline was suspended during prior hearings in the rabbinic court or “bet din.”

The Court of Appeals also found that a genuine issue of material fact existed to be determined in the trial court. Chabad of Michigan claims that its hierarchal authority over individual Chabad movement outposts requires the Torah Center to hand over the deed to its synagogue. The Torah Center argues that the late Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson wrote a letter emphasizing the financial independence of individual Chabad congregations.

Prevailing attorney Norman Ankers of Detroit-based Honigman Miller Schwartz & Cohn representing Chabad of Michigan could not be reached for comment in time for this week’s Jewish News press run.

The Torah Center’s attorney Todd Mendel of Barris Sott Denn & Driker of Detroit said that his client has six weeks from the Court of Appeal’s decision to decide whether to seek an appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court. The higher court is free to choose whether or not it will hear any individual case.

If there is no appeal in the state Supreme Court, the case will be sent back to Oakland County Circuit Court for a full hearing on its merits.

Mendel said regardless if the Torah Center appeals to the state Supreme Court or the case returns to the trial court in Pontiac, the “Court of Appeals decision will basically mean that the litigation, filed initially by Chabad [of Michigan], the plaintiff, is going to go on for years — period. In light of the Rebbe’s letter, I ask the question, ‘Why?’”

Further comments by the parties will appear in next week’s Jewish News.  ■

By David Sachs, Senior Copy Editor

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