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Rabbi Freundel Voyeurism Class Actions

Case Description

Case Type: Sexual Harassment/Gender Discrimination

June 15, 2016, New York, NY – When Rabbi Bernard “Barry” Freundel, a nationally recognized authority in Jewish law, and the longstanding rabbi of Georgetown Synagogue-Kesher Israel Congregation was arrested in October 2014 on charges of voyeurism, the news made national headlines and generated two proposed class action suits. Yesterday, in a significant move forward, the D.C. Superior Court issued an omnibus order establishing a series of deadlines for vigorous prosecution of several proposed class actions arising out of Freundel’s voyeuristic and criminal acts. The order set dates for the filing of a consolidated class action complaint, specifies deadlines for the close of fact and expert witness discovery, and directs that any motion for class certification be submitted on May 12, 2017, with a hearing on class certification to be held on June 13, 2017. In another important move, the Court appointed Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP as interim class counsel.

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The lawsuit arose from a shocking betrayal of trust by Bernard Freundel. Early in 2015, Freundel plead guilty, in a criminal proceeding before the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, to numerous counts of illicitly filming women as they used the “mikvah”- a Jewish ritual bath frequently used by married Orthodox women as well as by women undergoing conversion to Judaism.

The D.C. law firm of Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. filed one of the original class actions. “We are honored to be working with Sanford Heisler to bring relief to the women who were so terribly abused by Bernard Freundel’s illegal conduct,” said Ira Sherman,  founding partner of Chaikin Sherman, who is collaborating with Sanford Heisler Sharp on this matter. “It’s a team effort we are proud of and I am confident that together we can achieve some measure of justice for the victims in this case.”

After briefing and argument, Judge Brian F. Holeman of the D.C. Superior Court appointed Sanford Heisler Sharp as lead interim counsel. The Court stated that Sanford Heisler Sharp Chairman David Sanford’s “willingness to follow the Court’s directions and his succinct presentation on behalf of [Sanford Heisler] demonstrates that [the firm] possesses the understanding, knowledge, experience, and capability to perform the required work on behalf of the putative class Plaintiffs.” The court also praised Mr. Sanford’s candor, experience, and foresight in proposing a definitive timeframe for pre-certification discovery. Judge Holeman emphasized that Sanford Heisler has been recognized by various courts for excellence in class action litigation and representation. Based on all of these factors, Judge Holeman concluded that Sanford Heisler Sharp is “capable of exercising the managerial functions required of lead interim class counsel.”

In response to Judge Holeman’s ruling, David Sanford said, “We are gratified that Judge Holeman selected our firm to serve as interim class counsel.  It is a serious responsibility and one we are confident that we can handle successfully. Our firm has a long history of representing women who have suffered gender discrimination. This suit is another variation on a sadly too-familiar theme.”

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