By STEVE KARNOWSKI
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A judge ordered the arrest of a Minnesota attorney with a small Wisconsin-based religious group who repeatedly made anti-Catholic slurs in court filings and failed to show up for a Wednesday hearing on whether she should be sanctioned for her statements.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Nancy Dreher held Naomi Isaacson in contempt for her absence. Isaacson was already in contempt for failing to turn over documents in a long-running bankruptcy case involving a subsidiary of the Shawano, Wis.-based group, the Dr. R.C. Samanta Roy Institute of Science and Technology. Dreher said Isaacson will remain jailed until she produces the documents or gets someone else to do it.
The judge also ordered Isaacson and another attorney, Rebekah Nett, to pay $5,000 apiece in penalties.
Dreher had ordered them to appear Wednesday to show cause why she should not sanction them for a memo they filed in November that the judge said was “replete with unsupported and outrageous allegations of bigotry, deceit, conspiracy and scandalous statements against this court … and bankruptcy courts in general.”
The memo repeatedly referred to “Nancy Dreher, the Catholic judge” and called her a “black-robed bigot” and “a Catholic Knight Witch Hunter.” It also called one trustee in the bankruptcy case a “Jesuitess” and another trustee a “priest’s boy” and accused them of conspiring against the group, known as SIST.
Ex-members describe the group, which is led by an Indian immigrant who goes by the name Avraham Cohen, as a cult. Its bankrupt subsidiary, Yehud-Monosson USA Inc., used to own gas stations and convenience stores.
“Across the country the court systems and particularly the Bankruptcy Court in Minnesota, are composed of a bunch of ignoramus, bigoted Catholic beasts that carry the sword of the church,” the memo said.
Dreher was indignant as she read aloud from that document and from the replies Isaacson and Nett filed last month in response to her threat of sanctions.
Isaacson, who identifies herself as chief executive of SIST and president of Yehud-Monosson, wrote that the attorneys weren’t calling Dreher a member of the Roman Catholic Church when they called her a Catholic judge.
“It is referring to a mentality and an adherence to a universal creed of White Supremacy,” she wrote.
The response from Nett, who represents Yehud-Monosson, took a similar tone, alleging that Catholics and the Jesuit order were behind the slave trade, the sinking of the Titanic, World War II, the Holocaust and U.S. involvement in the war in Vietnam.
Dreher wrote in an order last month that she has never been Catholic and is “not of any particular faith.” She said Wednesday in court that her religious views are not relevant to the case.
The judge did not order Nett jailed, though she said Nett had made no effort to determine whether any of the accusations made against her or other court officials were accurate. And she pointedly noted that Nett had not apologized in writing or during her oral remarks in court.
“Sometimes that is really important,” Dreher said.
Nett told her the November document was an “emotional outburst” written by Isaacson and she “wasn’t trying to condone that” when she filed it on behalf of the company. She argued against disciplinary action, saying sanctions are meant to prevent a repeat of similar actions in the future.
“This is a one-of-a-kind case, and I don’t see this happening again ever,” she said.
Along with paying $5,000 in penalties each, the attorneys must take legal ethics classes. Dreher also said she will forward the matter to Michael Davis, the chief U.S. district judge for Minnesota, for a decision on whether they should face removal from the roster of attorneys allowed to practice before federal courts in the state.
Nett declined to comment after the hearing. Outside the courthouse, more than 20 supporters of SIST picketed Dreher and other court officials.
“The face of justice in Minnesota is ugly, racist, bigoted, biased,” one sign read.