Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Should Jewish Judges Recuse Themselves From Cases Involving Palestinian Terrorism?

Parallels, and precedents, in recusal cases based on race, sex, ethnicity, and sexual orientation

By Sam Kleiner for Tablet Magazine

In 2007, the Jewish Federation of Detroit bestowed its highest honor on Judge Paul Borman, a longtime leader in the Jewish community who worked as a federal prosecutor and a law professor and worked hard to improve relations between the Jewish and African-American and Arab-American communities before being nominated by President Clinton in 1994 to be a federal judge. This year, Judge Borman became the latest in a series of Jewish judges who have been asked to recuse themselves because of their personal identity. Judge Borman was assigned the case of Rasmea Odeh, a Palestinian who was accused of lying on her U.S. naturalization papers and covering up the fact that she had been convicted in an Israeli court of playing a role in two bombings. She admitted this was the case but turned down a plea deal with the goal of proving that she should not be deported because she had been mistreated in an Israeli prison and had PTSD when she filled out the naturalization forms. Her case became a cause celebre with dozens of activist groups calling for her not to be deported.

Wanting to avoid Judge Borman, the defense counsel filed a motion that went through Borman’s record as a Jewish leader, even citing his 2007 award from the federation as evidence that Borman could not be impartial in the case. The motion went so far as to argue that he had “personal extra-judicial knowledge” about the case because of his trips to Israel.
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