Case involving Jewish discrimination claims by former magistrate proceeds

A federal judge has ruled a former magistrate can try to prove Butler County Common Pleas Judge Greg Stephens fired her because she is Jewish, but 12 other claims are out in the case against Stephens and Prosecutor Michael Gmoser.

Kimberly Edelstein filed a $1 million lawsuit against Stephens, Gmoser and Assistant Prosecutor Dan Ferguson in May, claiming Stephens fired her for wanting to take off eight high holy days and that all three men bad-mouthed her, preventing her from keeping another job.

She was asking the court to declare the county’s vacation policy unlawful; to force the three men to stop giving her negative job references and to be awarded in excess of $300,000 each for compensatory, punitive and liquidated damages.

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In February Magistrate Judge Karen Litkovitz dismissed 16 of 21 claims against the three men. The rest of the claims are fact based and thus require discovery, according to Gmoser.

Edelstein objected to the dismissal and U.S. District Court Judge Michael R. Barrett has ruled on those objections, including the county’s vacation policy.

“Plaintiff was not prohibited from taking paid leave on Christmas Day or any of the other listed holidays because of her religion. Instead, Plaintiff complains that Judge Stephens terminated her for requesting time off to observe religious holidays,” Barrett wrote. “These allegations form the basis of Plaintiff’s claim that her termination was in retaliation for engaging in the free exercise of her religious beliefs. Plaintiff does not allege a factual basis for an equal protection claim based on Ohio Revised Code § 325.19. Therefore, the Magistrate Judge did not err in concluding that Plaintiff has failed to state a claim.”

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The county’s attorney Linda Woeber said the judge found no merit in Edelstein’s defamation claims but she can still try to prove discrimination. The county is off the hook altogether.

Edelstein said she is already working on getting discovery from the defendants so she can prove her remaining claims.

“I’m looking forward to getting this thing completed,” she said. “I’m confident, I wouldn’t have filed if I wasn’t confident.”

Gmoser told the Journal-News he is anxious to see the case end as well.

“I look forward to that, I really do,” he said.

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