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Former lawyer for Rifqa Bary could face sanctions

9 January 2011 No Comment Email This Post Email This Post

Fathima Rifqa Bary

Pamela Geller made the Rifqa Bary case her raison d’etre in 2009, but it died out with a whimper. Now her ex-lawyer could face sanctions for his Islamophobic tirades.

Former lawyer for Rifqa Bary could face sanctions



The former lawyer for an Ohio teenager who ran away to Florida after converting to Christianity could face sanctions from the Florida Supreme Court.

Now, his response to hearing that news is angering his former legal adversary.

John Stemberger, the Orlando attorney who had formerly represented Rifqa Bary, has been basically accused of slander in a misconduct complaint filed by the lawyer who represented Bary’s parents in Ohio when the case was removed from Florida.

That lawyer, Omar Tarazi, said Stemberger continued to go on television as Rifqa’s attorney, even though he had stopped representing her.

When The Associated Press reached Stemberger for comment on the complaint, he called it “a frivolous motion by a disgruntled opposing lawyer.”

The complaint came after Stemberger allegedly accused Tarazi of being paid by groups with terrorist ties, a claim the AP said was based solely on information from Facebook and a blog.

Stemberger then told an AP reporter: “Muslims in the U.S. have become a protected class that institutions are bending over backward to accommodate.”

“For him to pick on somebody, another lawyer who is Muslim, is unacceptable,” said Shayan Elahi, who represented Rifqa’s father in Orlando. ”If anyone has issues with another attorney or another individual, they have a right to complain, and there is a process that’s followed. What should be avoided is getting personal about people’s religions.”

During Rifqa’s hearing in Orlando, Elahi recalled how Stemberger would repeatedly make statements he felt were insensitive of the Muslim religion.

“He never attacked non-Muslim lawyers who were representing the parents ever, and that’s a clear case of Islamophobia,” said Elahi.

The Bary family said there is still no resolution with their daughter, according to Elahi.

“They don’t know where she is,” he said. “They haven’t heard from her since she turned 18. They just hope she is doing well, wherever she is, and maybe at some point, they will reconcile.”

Rifqa Bary said she ran away to Florida because she feared her family would try to kill her for becoming a Christian.

Stemberger told the AP reporter he believes the complaint will ultimately be dismissed.

Possible penalties range from a reprimand to disbarment, but legal experts said the latter was highly unlikely.

Original post: Former lawyer for Rifqa Bary could face sanctions

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