Above: Rabbi Barry Freundel
Victims Win Court Battle Against Mikvah Peeping Rabbi
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
They haven’t won the war – yet – but they have won the first major battle in it.
Hundreds of women victimized by Rabbi Barry Freundel convinced a federal judge today to move their class action lawsuits back to DC Superior Court against Freundel’s wishes, Courthouse News reported.
Freundel is serving 6 1/2 years in prison for secretly video-recording 52 naked women as they as each prepared to immerse in the mikvah (ritual bath) he controlled. He was the top rabbi at the Kesher Israel Modern Orthodox synagogue in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, DC for 25 years when he was arrested on October 14, 2014 after a camera hidden in a clock radio in the mikvah shower room was discovered and reported police. Freundel recorded women undressing, using the toilet and showering, and used multiple secret cameras, often at the same time, to capture the women from multiple angles.
Freundel admitted to secretly video-recording these women beginning in 2009. More than 150 victims were identified, but only 52 were still within the District’s short statute of limitations.
Two separate groups of women filed class action lawsuits against Freundel in DC Superior Court. One group involves only women who were video-recorded while the other includes all women who used the mikvah during Freundel’s reign.
The two suits will likely be combined, and Freundel’s attorneys previously successfully petitioned to remove both suits to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act.
The lead plaintiffs in both suits immediately moved to have the cases remanded to DC Superior Court based on the Act's interest of justice exception, Courthouse News reported.
The exemption allows Federal Courts to decline to exercise jurisdiction over disputes that are primarily local if between one-third and two-thirds of the proposed class members are citizens of the state – or, in this case, the District.
"Drawing reasonable inferences from the evidence presented by the parties, the Court finds that the plaintiffs have satisfied the numerical requirements of the interest-of-justice exception. The Court further concludes that these cases are fundamentally local controversies. While Fruendal's crimes have generated wider interest and may well have broader ramifications for the Orthodox community, these cases, at bottom, involve events, parties, and alleged harms in the District of Columbia and will be decided based solely on District of Columbia law. The Court will, accordingly, grant the plaintiffs' motions and remand both cases to the Superior Court for District of Columbia,” US District Court Judge Christopher Cooper reportedly ruled.