Was this Butler County magistrate fired for being Jewish or a bad employee? Federal case nears its end

Both sides in the case involving a former Butler County magistrate saying she was fired for being Jewish are asking a federal judge to decide in their favor.

Kimberly Edelstein filed a $1 million lawsuit against Judge Greg Stephens, Prosecutor Michael Gmoser and Assistant Prosecutor Dan Ferguson in May 2017, claiming Stephens fired her for wanting to take off eight high holy days and that all three men bad-mouthed her, preventing her from securing another job.

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U.S. District Court Judge Michael R. Barrett dismissed most of Edelstein’s claims already. Now the two sides have asked the judge for summary judgment — effectively ending the case because there is no “genuine issue of material fact” — on their behalf.

Edelstein claims the three men essentially rendered her unemployable in the legal community here and statewide.

“Plaintiff has, in effect, become a pariah in the legal community,” Edelstein wrote in her motion. “Plaintiff has been labeled incompetent to be a magistrate with this termination and was forced to commit the great sin of suing her employer and other lawyers.”

Stephens, Gmoser and Ferguson say the ex-magistrate has no proof of any of her claims. They say she is speculating on their intent and using “inadmissible gossip” as proof.

“Although this action has been pending for over two years, Edelstein has not adduced any evidence to support her claims that she was discriminated against, slandered and otherwise victimized by the three defendants,” their attorney, Linda Woeber, wrote.

Edelstein claims Stephens never indicated he had any issues with either her or her work before he fired her in August 2016. She claims her request for vacation days to celebrate Jewish holy days in October of that year prompted the dismissal.

Stephens says he “terminated Edelstein after months of internal strife between Edelstein and other members of his personal staff, which created a negative and disruptive work environment,” according to court records. In addition Woeber noted Stephens did not fire her because of her religious practices and in fact the magistrate that replaced her is Jewish.

Edelstein wrote that based on depositions taken in the case, Stephens “fabricated” the problems after she accused him of discrimination.

“During the four and a half months that plaintiff worked for Stephens, Stephens never mentioned issues with plaintiff to the court administrator or to the presiding judge,” she wrote. “Furthermore staff at the court attested that she had never witnessed plaintiff acting abusively.”

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Her issue with Gmoser and Ferguson has to do with her future job prospects. She claims Ferguson’s alleged “she’s horrible” remark harmed her reputation, and she claims Gmoser caused her to lose her job as an assistant Wood County prosecutor.

She said after Gmoser passed on Ferguson’s opinion about her work to Wood County Prosecutor Paul Dobson and made subsequent calls to his friend, Dobson forced her to resign.

“The act of Gmoser calling the employer of the person who sued him was at the very least reckless, and at most done with malice and ill will or revenge,” she wrote. “Clearly, an angry call to a colleague about a colleague’s employee would likely result in termination of that employee.”

Woeber responded that Gmoser didn’t call Dobson to get her fired and Dobson terminated her for some of the same reasons Stephens did.

“Dobson advised Edelstein, as sworn in his affidavit, that he did not fire her because of her lawsuit against Gmoser, but rather because of Edelstein’s own actions in lying on her employment application, lying about the extent of her claims in this lawsuit and her confrontational and disruptive manner with both colleagues and opposing counsel,” Woeber wrote.

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