A San Joaquin County judge has ruled to leave the Lodi Muslim Mosque in the hands of its current leaders, ending a months-long lawsuit between two groups vying for control of the city's only mosque.
Meanwhile, a separate lawsuit filed by the mosque against Farooqia Islamic Center for the return of nearly $200,000 will move forward after a judge Monday rejected a request for dismissal from the defendants.
Judge Elizabeth Humphreys informed attorneys last week that she would not issue a restraining order that would bar Mosque President Mohammad Shoaib from presiding and would install former members to the board.
Instead, both parties will wait until mosque members choose a new board in a popular election sometime in early December.
"There's going to be an election anyway," said Joe Rishwain, a Stockton attorney representing Shoaib, whose term expires Nov. 30.
Shoaib could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Plaintiff and former mosque board member Nasim Khan said Tuesday he was disappointed to learn that Humphreys had cited the upcoming election in her ruling against a restraining order. An injunction in favor of the plantiffs would have restrained Shoaib and his supporters from alleged threats of intimidation against the former board members.
"Probably the judge took the easy way out and said, 'You're going to have an election,'" Khan said.
The lawsuit alleged Shoaib had offered a letter of resignation to the board in February 2004, and prevented the board from accepting it until October of that year. The suit further claimed that Shoaib wrongfully tried to remove four board members from their elected positions. A favorable ruling from Humphreys would have reinstated Nasim Khan to the board.
Instead, Humphreys said the plaintiffs failed to prove Shoaib and his followers had done any irreparable injury to the former board members or the mosque itself.
Brian Chavez-Ochoa, a Valley Springs attorney representing the plaintiffs, said in an interview Tuesday that his clients would comply with Humphreys' decision, but disagreed with the threat posed by the defendants.
He added that he felt the ruling overlooked the basis of the complaint, which was the injustice of people being denied access to a public place of worship.
"I think she kind of missed the point," Chavez-Ochoa said. "It's the injury of the inability to worship that transcends her decision."
Taj Khan declined to comment at length about the decision, but said Tuesday he would not likely attend the mosque election or run for a spot on the board.
"This issue has gone too far," he said. "Let them go do whatever they want."
Nasim Khan said he personally felt the only way to end the feuding of the two factions would be for both parties to step down from the board and let a neutral party assume leadership of the mosque.
Despite Humphreys' ruling, another lawsuit filed by Shoaib and his supporters against board members of Farooqia Islamic Center will continue. Plans for the community center included a worship hall and K-4 school for 50 students.
The suit, filed in May, claimed that Farooqia members allegedly used mosque money and individual donations toward the Farooqia project.
On Monday, Judge Carter P. Holly denied a request for dismissal made by the defendants. Rishwain, who represents the plaintiffs, said his clients would soon begin preparing for trial in the matter.
Contact reporter Sara Cardine at email@example.com.
This story was updated at 3:30 p.m. Nov. 2, 2005, to delete incorrect references to Taj Khan's involvement with the board and the lawsuit.