Jewish couple wins $150,000 from Florida town in federal religion and sex discrimination case

Michael and Lori Jacobs, a Jewish couple from Palm Beach County, Florida settled a federal lawsuit against the town of Jupiter Inlet Colony for $150,000 in June. The lawsuit alleged that town officials targeted them and prevented them from building a new home in the community because they were Jewish. The suit also alleged that the town discriminated against Mrs. Jacobs based on her sex in her capacity as the general contractor for the home.

Anti-Semitic remarks and graffiti at heart of case

According to the lawsuit, town officials – including the former mayor, the building commissioner, and a building consultant – selectively enforced certain ordinances and building requirements against the Jacobs, while not enforcing them against non-Jewish residents in the town. The suit also alleged that town officials made anti-Semitic and sexist remarks about the couple in front of police officers from the town. According to an attorney for the plaintiffs, several police officers were prepared to testify at trial about the remarks made by town officials. Finally, the suit alleged, anti-Semitic graffiti was found at the building site of the couple’s home.

In 1995, Robert and Lori Jacobs purchased an oceanfront home in Jupiter Inlet Colony. In 1997, they decided to demolish the home and build a new house on their lot. They consulted with an architect and received approvals from the town’s building officials. In late 1997, the town’s building commissioner was replaced by Blue James Minges. Once Minges took over that position, the Dr. and Mrs. Jacobs began to encounter problems and roadblocks with the construction of their new home.

Several times during the construction of the Jacobs home, Minges threatened to issue and did issue stop work orders and told Lori Jacobs that he had a “problem” with “people like you and your husband.” On one occasion, when Mrs. Jacobs had ordered a special crane to place the roof on the home, Minges issued a stop work order, telling the couple that they had no recourse, because he was going on vacation. The crane ordered by Mrs. Jacobs was only available for a limited time and Minges knew that. The stop work order meant that the couple would have to wait several more months to place the roof on their new home.

The day that Minges issued the stop work order at the site was the same day that anti-Semitic graffiti was discovered painted on the interior walls and floors of the home. Robert Critton, an attorney for the plaintiffs, told the Palm Beach Post that Minges was “the most likely suspect” for the vandalism.

The couple was able to get Jupiter Inlet Colony’s mayor to lift the stop work order so that the roof could be placed on their home and later explained to the town council that Minges’ reasons for issuing the stop work order were false and that their new home complied with regulations. Throughout the construction of the home, the town’s mayor sent police on early morning runs to threaten the couple with jail time for infractions of the towns sea grapes pruning and escaping dust ordinances. According to court documents, those ordinance were never enforced against anyone else in Jupiter Inlet Colony, including town officials who allegedly violated them.

The $150,000 settlement in the case came after the first day of trial in West Palm Beach.

Jacobs v. Jupiter Inlet Colony
Case No. 3:02-cv-80201 (S.D. Fla.)
The Honorable Daniel T. K. Hurley, U.S. District Judge
Robert Critton, attorney for Plaintiffs
Federal complaint filed: March 6, 2002
Settlement: June 11, 2003