When Much Shelist principal Steven P. Blonder heard that residents at Shoreline Towers Condominiums ran into trouble when hanging mezuzahs in their doorways, he wanted to get involved. “What intrigued me, first, in this day and age, was that a condo association would prohibit the hanging of a mezuzah,” he said. “From a common sense perspective, you say, ‘What are they doing?’ And from a legal standpoint, where do people have the right and freedom to practice religion and where does that intersect with the property rights of the association and its members?”
Blonder and fellow Much Shelist principal Anthony C. Valiulis represented residents Debra Gassman and Lynne Bloch, who first filed complaints of religious discrimination with city and state agencies and then worked with The John Marshall Law School Fair Housing Legal Clinic to file a federal lawsuit against their condo association for removing the mezuzahs — small pieces of parchment inscribed with Torah verses and affixed to doorposts as a sign of faith. Blonder and Valiulis prepared the pro bono case for a jury trial, but settled on the courthouse steps in July. Now, the city protects the residential hanging of religious objects.
“Because of this case, the law was changed,” Blonder said. “It is clear now that residents in any condo association are free to hang a mezuzah. From our view, that was always the case, but now it’s the status quo.”
Blonder, chairman of his firm’s pro bono committee, said he recruited his fellow equity partner to help with the multiyear case, because they believed in the cause.
“Opportunities like this don’t come along every day, and when an opportunity presents itself to do pro bono work in an area of interest, people should grab it,” he said. “It’s fulfilling and reminds us that practicing law is a privilege.”
On behalf of Mezuzah Hangers everywhere – Thank You! Kol HaKavod!!