Suit Against Vegas Synagogues and Rabbis Rejected

By Cy Ryan (Las Vegas Sun)
August 1, 2011

The Nevada Supreme Court has ruled that two Las Vegas synagogues and their rabbis are protected from a lawsuit that resulted from the intentional misconduct of one of its members.

The decision closes the 10-year-old case filed by Theressa "Zissa" Janetta Ramani, who filed a civil lawsuit after she was sexually assaulted by Michael Segelstein in the parking lot of Temple Beth Shalom in 2001.

Segelstein pleaded guilty to open and gross lewdness, a gross misdemeanor.

Ramani then filed a civil suit against the Chabad of Southern Nevada and Rabbi Yehoshua Harlig, and the Chabad of Summerlin and Rabbi Yisroell Schanowitz.

She said she sought help, but instead of counseling her they said they did not believe she was Jewish. And her son, who attended studies at the Chabad of Summerlin, was treated differently, no longer being asked to read from the Torah or pray from the stage during services.

The Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision written by Chief Justice Michael Douglas, said the synagogues and rabbis cannot be held liable "for Segelstein's intentional conduct, as it was outside the scope of Segelstein's duties."

Douglas said there was a question about whether Segelstein was an employee, volunteer or cantor, but it still does not make the synagogues liable.

The court also rejected Ramani's claim that Harlig sought sexual favors from her. Harlig filed a slander countersuit. The court said Ramani's intentional infliction of emotional distress claim was deficient, and District Judge Timothy Williams was correct in granting a summary judgment in the case.

The court also said it could not consider the appeal of Ramani, who was ordered to pay $175,000 in attorney fees and court costs. It said the appeal was filed beyond the legal deadline.