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Judge With Israeli Military Ties Won’t Recuse Himself from Immigration Fraud Case Against Palestinian American

Federal judge Paul Borman serves in the Eastern District of Michigan

A federal judge in Detroit has refused to recuse himself from a case involving a Palestinian American woman who allegedly committed immigration fraud and neglected to disclose on naturalization forms that she had been imprisoned by Israelis in Palestine for decades for terrorism-related offenses. The defense had argued his support for the Israeli military made it impossible for him to fairly hear the case.

Rasmea Odeh is an organizer in Chicago. She has been a naturalized citizen in the US since 1995. But, on October 22, 2013, the Department of Homeland Security suddenly had her arrested. She now faces up to ten years in prison if convicted and immediate deportation after her release.

US District Court Judge Paul Borman’s own foundation, The Borman Fund, has supported several groups that are pro-Israel. A defense filing submitted [PDF] by Odeh’s attorney, Jim Fennerty, showed in particular $2,000 was donated to the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) in 2006. FIDF promotes “educational, social, cultural and recreational programs and facilities for the young men and women soldiers of Israel who defend the Jewish homeland.”

Borman ruled [PDF], “Defendant has not provided facts that would permit a reasonable, objective person to question this court’s impartiality. Defendant’s motion strikes at the very heart of a federal judge’s pledge to administer impartial justice, and does so with careless and rank speculation.”

“Defendant misrepresents the nature of my actual work,” he added. “Based upon statements contained in a biography created in connection with my receipt from the Detroit Jewish Federation of an award for my work on behalf of the Jewish Federation, defendant leaps to the conclusion that I have inside information regarding the ‘Israeli military legal system in the Occupied West Bank,’ that will affect my ability to be impartial in this case. Not a single piece of factual evidence is offered to support this baseless assertion.”

The judge clearly interpreted the request to recuse himself as an attack on his religious convictions, however, Odeh’s attorneys had only questioned his support for groups that support Israel. No part of their motion to recuse himself addressed his Jewish identity.

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."