U.S. District Court for Western District of Pennsylvania Strikes Down City Zoning Ordinance Singling Out Methadone Treatment Centers Under Equal Protection Clause of U.S. Constitution
McGuireWoods LLP represented RHJ Medical Center Inc. (RHJ) in obtaining a decision in federal court last Friday, ruling that the City of DuBois, Pa. unlawfully prevented RHJ from opening a much-needed methadone clinic in Clearfield County pursuant to an unconstitutional zoning ordinance. The United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania ordered the city to pay damages and attorneys’ fees to the clinic, ending a six-day bench trial against the city.
After learning that RHJ was attempting to open a methadone treatment center in DuBois, the city enacted an ordinance that specifically restricted where methadone treatment centers and drug treatment clinics, as opposed to all medical facilities, could locate. The city claimed the ordinance was designed to create a medical campus near the local regional hospital and improve traffic flow. RHJ brought suit in May 2009 after the city prevented it from opening a facility at its desired location. RHJ alleged that the city’s enactment of the ordinance was not rationally related to any legitimate interest.
United States District Judge Kim R. Gibson agreed, finding that the city’s purported rationales for the ordinance in no way justified the different zoning treatment afforded to methadone treatment centers and drug treatment clinics.
“We are very pleased with the outcome,” said Matthew Monsour, an associate attorney in McGuireWoods’ Pittsburgh office and pro bono lead counsel for RHJ. “The court’s decision confirms that drug treatment facilities cannot be treated any differently for zoning purposes than other medical facilities and will have a profound impact on the lives of many people who suffer from substance abuse.”