Palestinian Activist Requests Removal of Jewish Judge From Citizenship Case

Attorneys for a Palestinian woman who is facing charges of hiding her conviction for involvement in several terror attacks in Israel on her application for American citizenship has issued a motion to remove Judge Paul Borman from the case on the grounds of his involvement in Jewish communal affairs and

public support for the State of Israel.

The document filed asserts that “clearly, one who has been a life-long supporter and promoter of Israel and has deep ties to the State of Israel spanning over 50 years … cannot be ‘reasonably’ said to be impartial when these claims of torture and illegality are raised by a Palestinian defendant.”

Rasmea Odeh, who is an associate director of the Chicago-based Arab American Action Network, checked “no” when asked about past criminal convictions when applying for American citizenship.  When information surfaced regarding her conviction in an Israeli Military Court for her role in an attack that claimed two lives and injured several others, she was arrested and served with charges that could result in a ten-year prison sentence and the loss of her citizenship. The defense’s argument is largely based on claims of unfair judicial treatment at the hands of the Israeli government, thereby rendering the conviction illegitimate.

In a comment to Hamodia, defense attorney, Michael Deutch claimed emphatically that “the motion has nothing to do with the Judge being Jewish!”  Rather, he insisted that the request details that the defendant’s case directly raises issues about what he referred to as the legality of the “occupation of the West Bank by the State of Israel.”

Defense documents cited the fact that Judge Borman was a recipient of the Detroit United Jewish Federation’s Fred M. Butzel Award. Its 2006 annual report says that he was “instrumental in bringing hundreds of Detroiters to Israel” including Michigan Legislators. Further, a page entitled “Builders of Israel” records over three million dollars in donations.

A key issue in the case is whether Mrs. Odeh’s case truly depends on her involvement in the 1969 attacks that she was convicted of or, rather, on the immigration laws at hand.

Left unsaid by this motion was, should it be upheld, is the possible precedent it will set regarding how far do the personal affiliations of judges go in disqualifying them from cases

Lead defense attorney, James Ferrety, declined to comment on how far-ranging the effects of such a precedent could be. Gina Balaya of the Attorney General’s office simply responded that “the government will be filing its response in opposition to defendant Odeh’s motion.  That filing will be made within the next two weeks. Because this case is set for trial in September, the government will not be making any public statements.”

Yosef Chaim Salazar, an attorney who practices in Baltimore and New York, and who is not affiliated with the case, told Hamodia Tuesday that “in general a judge would have to have a direct connection to the case in order to justify his removal.

“However, there are standards for determining levels of impartiality,” Mr. Salazar added. “In this case, it will have to be determined if this falls within those standards.”