World Outreach Conference Center, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants,
City of Chicago, Defendant-Appellee.
May 29, 2018
from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 06 C 2891-Joan
Humphrey Lefkow, Judge.
Bauer, Barrett, and St. Eve, Circuit Judges.
the third time World Outreach Conference Center's (World
Outreach) long-running dispute with the City of Chicago has
appeared before us. See World Outreach Conference Ctr. v.
City of Chicago, 591 F.3d 531 (7th Cir. 2009)
("World Outreach I"); World Outreach
Conference Ctr. v. City of Chicago, 787 F.3d 839 (7th
Cir. 2015) ("World Outreach II"). In this
appeal, World Outreach contends that the district court erred
by making a 70% across-the-board reduction to its award of
attorney's fees. We find no reason to disrupt the
district court's determination and affirm.
dispute and its ensuing litigation between World Outreach and
the City of Chicago has a history beginning in 2005. We
assume familiarity with our earlier opinions and abbreviate
2005, World Outreach, a Christian religious organization,
purchased a building in the Roseland neighborhood on
Chicago's south side from the YMCA. The building contains
168 single-room occupancy (SRO) units. The YMCA operated a
community center and the SROs for the previous 80 years with
little interference from the City's zoning authority. The
community center was a "legal nonconforming use,"
meaning that the use of the center had previously conformed
to zoning regulations, and when the zoning regulations
changed to prohibit that use, the YMCA was allowed to
continue using the building as a community center.
See Chicago Zoning Ordinance § 17-15-0301.
legal nonconforming status meant the YMCA, and ultimately
World Outreach, did not need to obtain a Special Use Permit
to operate the center. According to the City's zoning
ordinance, the "[n]onconforming status runs with the
land and is not affected by changes of tenancy, ownership, or
management." Chicago Zoning Ordinance § 17-15-0106.
The YMCA and World Outreach only needed to obtain the
necessary licenses from the City to operate the community
center and the SROs.
World Outreach applied for the necessary community center and
SRO licenses in August 2005, the City informed World Outreach
that it needed a Special Use Permit. The mystery as to why
the City refused to issue the licenses and insist on the
Special Use Permits, despite the legal nonconforming status,
is not relevant and has been discussed in our previous
opinions. See World Outreach I, 591 F.3d at 536;
World Outreach II, 787 F.3d at 841-42. Regardless,
the City's denial of the licenses and insistence on
obtaining a Special Use Permit was unlawful.
the City was preventing World Outreach from operating its
community center and SROs, Hurricane Katrina struck New
Orleans in late August 2005. Thousands of residents from the
Big Easy were evacuated and transplanted to other cities,
including Chicago. Representatives from the Federal Emergency
Management Agency (FEMA) contacted World Outreach's
director, Pastor Pamela Blossom, about entering into a
contract to utilize their SROs. World Outreach claimed that
it had a verbal agreement with FEMA to use the rooms at $750
per room, per month, for one year. However, World Outreach
never received any evacuees.
December 2005, the City pursued its unlawful demands by suing
World Outreach in Illinois state court for operating the
community center without a Special Use Permit. The suit was
frivolous, and the City voluntarily dismissed it in April
2006 after World Outreach presented the City with its
affirmative defenses and counterclaims. Shortly thereafter,
World Outreach turned around and filed a new lawsuit in state
court against the City, which the City removed to federal
court. However, the City continued to deprive World Outreach
of the necessary licenses. Finally, in January 2007, the City
signed off on World Outreach's license applications, and
issued the licenses in August 2007.
Outreach's nine-count lawsuit put forward a variety of
claims, including claims under the Religious Land Use and
Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C.
§ 2000cc. The district court initially dismissed the
complaint for failure to state a claim, but we reversed in
part, sending the RLUIPA claims back, among others. See
World Outreach I, 591 F.3d at 537-38. On remand, the
City and World Outreach each filed motions for summary
judgment; the City on all remaining claims, and World
Outreach only on its RLUIPA claims. The district court
granted summary judgment to World Outreach on part of its
RLUIPA claim relating to defending the frivolous lawsuit, but
found in favor of the City on all the remaining claims. The
court awarded damages to World Outreach for the amount of
fees and expenses incurred in responding to the frivolous
lawsuit, and the parties entered into an agreed final
judgment order in November 2013, awarding $15, 000 to World
City and World Outreach cross-appealed, and we affirmed the
district court's grant of summary judgment to World
Outreach on the RLUIPA claim relating to the frivolous
lawsuit. However, we reversed and remanded again, but only
with respect to World Outreach's RLUIPA claim regarding
the City's unlawful deprivation of the licenses. See
World Outreach II, 787 F.3d at 843-45. We provided the
district court "guidance" on remand, and noted that
the largest element of damages from the deprivation of the
licenses related to the lost opportunity to house Hurricane
Katrina evacuees. Id. at 844 ("$750 times 12
months times 168 rooms is $1, 512, 000"). Importantly,
we stated that the evidence put forth by World Outreach was
"weak," and there was uncertainty as to
"whether World Outreach would have received
any, let alone 168, evacuees, let alone for a full
year." Id. We concluded that "[t]here has
been a ...