Peeping Tom Rabbi Case Remanded to State Court

     WASHINGTON, D.C. (CN) – Hundreds of women who claim to have been victims of peeping tom Georgetown rabbi convinced a federal judge on Monday to move their respective class actions back to D.C. Superior Court.
     Rabbi Bernard “Barry” Freundel was sentenced to 6 1/2 years in prison on May 12, 2015, after acknowledging as part of a plea agreement that he secretly recorded at least 150 women in a Jewish ritual bath over several years.
     Freundel led the Kesher Israel synagogue in Georgetown for 25 years before he was arrested on Oct. 14, 2014, after one of his recording devices was discovered hidden inside a clock radio.
     He told prosecutors that he started setting up hidden cameras in the changing and showering area of the National Capital Mikvah – a cleansing bath – in 2009.
     Freundel acknowledged that the clock radio was only one of his hiding places, that he also placed recording devices in a fan and a tissue box holder, and that he sometimes used as many as three cameras to capture women from different angles.
     His recordings captured woman undressing, using the toilet and entering and exiting a shower, prosecutors said.
     Within weeks of his arrest, two separate groups of women filed class actions against Freundel in the D.C. Superior Court. While the allegations in both complaints overlapped, the proposed classes differed. In one case, the propose class consisted of all women who Fruendel illicitly recorded during his tenure; in the other, the proposed class all women who used the mikvah during the same time period, regardless of whether they were recorded.
     “The cases are otherwise closely related,” U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper wrote. “They are grounded on the same factual allegations, were filed simultaneously, and are subject to a pending motion to consolidate by the defendants.”
     Attorneys for the rabbi successfully petitioned for their removal under the Class Action Fairness Act, but the lead plaintiffs in the action immediately moved to remand the cases based on the Act’s “interest of justice” exception.
     That exemption permits Federal Courts to decline jurisdiction over predominately local disputes if between one-third and two-thirds of the proposed class members are citizens of the state forum.
     “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,” Cooper wrote. “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.”

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