Legal battle with Trinity is continuing

The three-year legal battle continues between the Village of Hinsdale and the U.S. Department of Justice and Trinity Sober Living over the right to convert a single-family residence into a living unit for those recovering from substance use disorder.

A mediation session between the parties is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 5, village manager Kathleen Gargano reported.

Reached for comment this week, Trinity founder and executive director Michael Owens said he’s willing to go to trial if necessary.

“Absolutely we’re prepared,” he remarked of a trial.

The plaintiffs will have to prepare, however, without documents it sought after U.S. District Court federal magistrate Aug. 30 denied a motion by Trinity to compel the village to produce communications between Village President Tom Cauley and village attorney Lance Malina.

In his ruling, Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Cole of the Northern District of Illinois said the federal government was overreaching.

“At this point it is delving into information on the peripheries and is leaving proportionality in the rearview window,” Cole wrote. “The time has come, after giving the government the benefit of the doubt more than once, over the defendant’s objections, to say ‘enough is enough.’ ”

Cole also chastised the government for dragging its feet in its pursuit of documents.

“The government has repeatedly failed to meet deadlines that essentially have been, in whole or in part, of its own choosing,” he wrote. “Its past assurances in requests for more time that no further deadlines would be affected have proven to be completely unreliable.

“As the record in this case shows, I have been patient with the government to a fault, but that part of this case is over,” Cole continued, referring to the federal government’s excuses as “nonsense.”

The case dates back more than three years, when Trinity purchased the home at 111 N. Grant St. for use as a sober house for up to 10 residents. The village said the use violated its restriction against more than three unrelated people living in a home. The village filed a complaint in DuPage County Circuit Court in August 2019 to enforce the rule, while Trinity filed a federal lawsuit against Hinsdale in November 2019 for discrimination. The DOJ joined Trinity’s suit a year later, alleging the village violated the Fair Housing Act.

The house was sold two years ago by Trinity, which subsequently opened a sober home in Bensenville. But the legal battle has wore on.

“It’s still important for Hinsdale to recognize — and all suburbs — that people that are recovering from addiction are recognized by the (federal) government as people with a disability,” Owens told The Hinsdalean following the sale.

The Hinsdalean reported July 21 that legal proceedings in the case had cost the village more than $1.5 million in legal fees to its law firm, Winston & Strawn. The village has paid the firm at least $200,000 in the months since, village reports show, although it’s not clear how much is related to Trinity.

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean