A lawsuit filed in February 2018 by Rabbi Shmuel Krawatsky and his wife, Shira Krawatsky, against five people they said had engaged in a scheme to damage them and their reputations was dismissed on Sept. 21 by a federal judge.
The rabbi’s lawyer plans to file in state court.
Rabbi Krawatsky was fired in mid-January from Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School, where he was a middle school Judaic studies teacher, and resigned from Suburban Orthodox Congregation Toras Chaim following allegations of child sexual abuse of three boys at a Frederick County summer camp dating back to 2015. He and his wife then filed a 55-page complaint Jan. 30 against the parents of two of the boys who alleged the abuse, Joel and Rachel Avrunin and another couple, as well as against Chaim Levin, an advocate for sexual abuse victims who first publicly aired the allegations on his blog.
The suit included 57 counts against the five defendants, including defamation with malice, defamation with negligence, conspiracy to commit defamation with malice and negligence, invasion of privacy, interfering with Krawatsky’s ability to work, inflicting emotional distress and aiding and abetting. In addition, the suit said actions by the five defendants caused Shira Krawatsky to suffer “injury to the marital relationship.”
The lawsuit also included an injunction to stop “defamatory and harassing actions” against Krawatsky, which were causing him to suffer “great emotional distress” and economic harm. “The public interest is best served by granting the injunction,” the suit said.
Monetary judgments in compensatory and punitive damages demanded by the Krawatskys in the suit totaled $520 million. The Krawatskys requested a jury trial.
But last week, U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland Judge Ellen Lipton Hollander dismissed the Krawatskys’ complaint “for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.”
In laypersons’ terms, the case was dismissed because the complaint was filed in a U.S. District Court, which does not have jurisdiction over the case. Because of the way the case was filed, the “citizenship [residence] of every plaintiff must be different from the citizenship [residence] of every defendant.” And the Krawatskys and two of the lawsuit’s defendants live in Maryland.
In other words, a point of law regarding the specific jurisdiction of the U.S. District Court caused the case to be dismissed, as well as a failure to cite any other reason for the court to have jurisdiction over the case.
“Because the complete diversity of citizenship does not exist in this case, this court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. Moreover, plaintiffs have failed to establish any other basis for federal jurisdiction,” wrote Hollander in her decision. “Accordingly, the complaint must be dismissed, without prejudice.”
Christopher M. Rolle, attorney for the Krawatskys, said via email on Sept. 25, that they “will be filing in state court this week.”
“Same complaint, same allegations,” he said. “Not a big deal.”
Also on on Sept. 25, attorney for the defendants Jonathan Little said via email, “We look forward to advocating for our clients in the appropriate venue.”