Attempt to Land Helicopter Lands Man in Legal Doghouse

A man’s attempts to get permission to land his helicopter on his property instead landed himself in a judge’s doghouse. After landing his helicopter on a helipad in his backyard for three years, the town passed a law prohibiting private aircraft from taking off or landing in the city. Claiming the law unfairly targeted him, he sued, was dismissed, and sued again, resulting in a nice legal zinger from the presiding judge.

Our story goes back to 2002, when businessman John Casciani earned his pilot’s license. He soon acquired a helicopter and built a helipad in his backyard in a subdivision of Webster, a suburb of Rochester, New York (house location). He began flying the chopper regularly and landing in his yard. The flights caused outrage in his neighborhood, and the city received a flood of complaints, primarily noise and safety-related. In 2006, after two public hearings on the matter, town officials passed a law prohibiting the landing of helicopters on Webster property. Two years later, claiming the law unfairly targeted him, he filed his first lawsuit.

Filing in the U.S. District Court in Rochester, Casciani alleged the city violated his First, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights when it banned helicopter landings. He based his First and Fifth Amendment arguments on the fact the city did not allow him to use his property as a heliport, and claimed in his Fourteenth Amendment that the city acted against him because he is Italian (despite the fact his father had been previously appointed to the city’s planning board). The episode caused him “severe mental anguish, humiliation and economic hardship as a consequence … of town supervisor’s actions.”

The original case was dismissed by U.S. District Judge David Larimer, who noted the complaint was rife with hearsay but devoid of factual allegations or substance. Undeterred, Casciani and his attorney filed a second lawsuit, which attracted the Judge’s scorn.

In his decision, written on October 4, 2011, Judge Larimar observed that “While the maxim, ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again’ may be sound advice for everyday living, it is not always a good rule to follow where litigation is concerned.” Annoyed that the new complaint consisted mostly of allegations that were “virtual duplicates of the allegations in Casciani I”, he described the second suit as “so egregious as to be potentially sanctionable.” Still, he held back from pursuing sanctions on Casciani or his attorney, but noted “that further efforts on their part to pursue these patently meritless claims may result in sanctions being imposed on them.”


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  • As an attorney and a member of the AOPA I have to say I am also concerned for the safety and well-being of those in Mr. Casciani’s neighborhood. If they held 2 public meetings about the issue before passing the prohibitive law, I would be interested to know if he plead his case to them before-hand, and why it took 2 years to file suit the first time. The entire situation is fascinating, but I’m not surprised the judge was not amused by it.

  • Websterguy

    This entire issue was ridiculous, follow along if you can:

    – Casciani built the neighborhood, which has an HOA with noise and use rules. Believe me when I say there is no way a private heliport in a back yard is allowed by HOA rules.
    – He wrote those rules. In a humorous note, one of his rules states that you can’t park “motorized vehicles, like minibikes, boats, cars, or RVs” in your yard. Minibikes not allowed, aircraft ok.. Wow. just wow.
    – He sued the almost 65 % italian town government, including his own father, for discrimination against Italians. Twice. The judge still can’t believe it.
    – His “Attorney” is currently sanctioned for other cases in Upstate NY. She does this a lot, apparently.
    – He attended, but didn’t speak at, the town meetings. He had his then-attorney read a statement. Narcissism at its best.
    – He still hovers just off the ground in his residential-neighborhood back yard. Like a three year old. Despite the obvious noise and safety concerns.
    – As a pilot, this is the most dangerous thing I’ve ever seen. By a rookie pilot in a private helicopter.