Butler County prosecutors dismissed from lawsuit alleging religious discrimination

A federal judge has ruled a jury will now decide whether a Butler County judge fired a magistrate for requesting Jewish holidays off.

That judge also ruled two Butler County prosecutors would be dismissed from the lawsuit.

Kimberly Edelstein filed a $1 million lawsuit against Butler County Common Pleas Judge Greg Stephens, Prosecutor Mike Gmoser and Chief Assistant Prosecutor Dan Ferguson in 2017, claiming Stephens fired her for wanting to take off eight high holy days and that all three men said negative things about her, destroying her legal career.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen Litkovitz issued a 75-page recommendation last summer, finding the claims against Gmoser and Ferguson should be dismissed and determining a jury should hear discrimination accusations against the judge. U.S. District Court Judge Michael Barrett agreed.

RELATED: Jury likely to decide if former Butler County magistrate was fired for being Jewish

“The Court finds no error in the magistrate judge’s conclusion that a reasonable juror, viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to plaintiff, could conclude plaintiff was terminated in retaliation for requesting leave to observe the Jewish High Holy Days,” Barrett wrote.

Barrett and his magistrate both found the short time span — four days including a weekend — between when Edelstein requested the vacation and her firing could lead a jury to find Stephens improperly fired her. Stephens has argued Edelstein was fired because she couldn’t get along with the court staff. The court denied some other allegations against Stephens, but will allow a jury to consider punitive damages.

Edelstein, who has essentially been jobless for three years, told the Journal-News there have been no settlement talks.

“I am very anxious to have a jury hear everything that has gone on,” Edelstein said. “What occurred was very wrong. I told the truth, my reputation was smeared and ruined to the point where I can’t get employment and my career is stagnant because of it, or rather non-existent.”

She also claimed Gmoser and Ferguson bad mouthed her after the fact. Edelstein got a job with the Wood County prosecutor’s office after she was fired, but lost that job too. She said it was Gmoser’s fault.

“This was a man (Gmoser) I only met once in my entire life, so why he would be calling my new employer five times to discuss my lawsuit, over the course of a few weeks, I think is clear he was interfering with my career,” she told the Journal-News.

Barrett didn’t see it that way.

“Plaintiff maintains that Gmoser has concealed the true nature of these conversations, or what was discussed in the conversations, however, as the magistrate judge explained, plaintiff cannot rely on speculation to support her claims…” Barrett wrote. “Moreover, the circumstances surrounding the conversations do not demonstrate the requisite intent on the part of Gmoser.”

Gmoser said he was grateful for the ruling but can’t say more since Edelstein could appeal, after the entire case is concluded.

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