Judge Scolds Family of Terrorism Victim
WASHINGTON (CN) - A federal judge ordered the family of a kindergarten teacher who was shot to death by a group affiliated with the Palestinian Authority to pay the organization's legal costs after its counsel violated court-ordered discovery rules.
The family of Esther Klieman sued the Palestinian Authority and others in 2004, claiming that an affiliated group shot Klieman to death on March 24, 2002, near Neve Tzuf, Israel.
U.S. Magistrate Judge John Facciola last year sent a letter to the Directorate of Courts in Jerusalem, asking Israel to help counsel for Klieman's family, and counsel for her alleged killers, by deposing the Israeli police officers who investigated.
But the plaintiffs' counsel didn't stop there.
According to Facciola's ruling, counsel for the plaintiffs violated a court order requiring them to ask Facciola for leave to conduct further depositions, by flying to Israel without seeking the judge's permission.
"Indeed, as counsel in this case are well aware, the court stood ready to resolve any discovery controversy brought to its attention. A phone call with counsel would have permitted the court to either suggest a way to resolve their controversy or permit the court to rule on it, if it could not otherwise be resolved," Facciola wrote. "That plaintiffs' counsel never made that call before getting on a plane to take a deposition in Jerusalem is mystifying."
Klieman's family sought sanctions against the PLO and the Palestinian Authority, for withholding documents; the Palestinian groups filed for a protective order after the plaintiffs' inappropriate discovery and asked the court to order the family to pay its legal costs.
"The court is not persuaded by plaintiffs' arguments," Facciola wrote. "The issue is whether plaintiffs should be sanctioned for necessitating the PA's filing of a motion for a protective order in light of this court's previous order denying plaintiffs' motion to compel additional 30(b)(6) depositions, and the fact that the deadline for completion of fact discovery had already been extended multiple times."
Facciola ordered the family to pay the costs, including attorney's fees, for the PA and PLO's protective order.
Klieman was ambushed and killed while traveling to her job as a special-needs kindergarten teacher. Tamer Rimawi, who admitted involvement in the murder, was arrested and interrogated by Israeli police.
Rimawi was convicted after allegedly telling police that he committed the murder as a member of the terrorist group Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.
Rimawi later changed his tune, claiming he was not a member of the group.
Klieman's family successfully sought to depose the Israeli police officer who interrogated Rimawi, an alleged Al-Aqsa recruiter and the former head of Palestinian Security Services.