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What started as a lawsuit over the sale of some cheap knock-off watches has become intensely personal, resulting in allegations of “Jew-baiting” and racial prejudice by one lawyer and a barrage of name-calling by another. Jack Dominik, a longtime patent attorney at Dominik Knechtel Demeur & Samlan in Miami Lakes, claims that his clients became the victims of “a scheme” by Miami patent attorney Steven Peretz of Kluger Peretz Kaplan & Berlin to “sandbag innocent, small businessmen into paying attorneys’ fees.” The imbroglio between the lawyers began over a lawsuit filed last year in Miami federal court by Japan CBM Corp. against Miami-based Ogden International Inc. Ogden allegedly sold counterfeit versions of Japan CBM’s Q&Q watches under the name “O&O.” Ogden had obtained the watches from Dominik’s client, Time Zone of Miami Inc. Dominik, 76, repeatedly claims in court filings that the only reason the “Peretz Gestapo” and his “goon-squad investigators” filed suit against Ogden and Time Zone was to obtain attorneys’ fees from “innocent, smaller dealers.” Dominik also spoke disparagingly of Peretz’s clients during a telephone conversation with Peretz colleague Stephen Gaffigan, saying: “When I get in front of a jury, I’m going to remind them that these are the same sneaky yellow bellies who bombed Pearl Harbor.” Dominik admits to making that statement, but in court documents that he says it was during a conversation that he thought was confidential between two lawyers. Peretz said Dominik “pushed beyond the extreme limits of zealous advocacy to a zone of nauseating racial bigotry, Jew-baiting, personal attacks and unprofessionalism,” all of which were “strictly forbidden” not only by the Florida Bar, but also by the rules of the court. “Equating plaintiffs counsel to the Gestapo, the most vilified instrument of terror in the 20th century, is by itself an outrage,” Gaffigan wrote in a motion for sanctions. “For Time Zone’s counsel to associate Mr. Peretz, by name, with the driving force behind the destruction of European Jewry during World War II is an abomination and must be viewed as a deliberate attempt at provocation,” Gaffigan wrote. For his verbal assault, Dominik was slapped with a $3,000 fine by a federal magistrate, John J. O’Sullivan, who warned that the penalty would be much harsher should Dominik engage in further name-calling. O’Sullivan sent the case to the Southern District Grievance Committee for possible further action. Peretz, who represents Japan CBM, a marketing subsidiary of Citizen Watch Co., alleges in his suit that Ogden and its principals, sisters Irma Ogden and Sarah Kelly, tried to pass off the watches as the real thing. Peretz asked the court to stop the sales, to allow the goods to be seized and to award Japan CBM triple damages. U.S. marshals seized several of the watches during a raid on Ogden’s Miami store. Ironically, the initial raid didn’t target Dominik’s client, Time Zone Inc. It was only after the seizure of the watches from Ogden that records were discovered that implicated Time Zone for selling the merchandise to Ogden, Peretz noted. In a motion for summary judgment, Dominik argued that there was no likelihood of confusion between the registration of the two trademarks and that “to find otherwise is to find the American public illiterate from the age of 8 forward.” U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore not only denied Dominik’s motion for summary judgment, but struck the offensive language from the motion. “The court said the issue isn’t whether you disagree with the raid, but the words you used to articulate your argument,” said Peretz. During a September hearing to determine what sanctions should be imposed, Dominik told O’Sullivan that, as a World War II veteran, he used the term “Gestapo tactics” to refer to “raids by surprise” and “using more force than possibly necessary.” He said the remarks were not meant to offend. “The bottom line is that these people engaged in investigatory activity that, in my opinion, went way beyond what it should have,” Dominik said in an interview. “I believe what I said was right. They did use Gestapo tactics. It’s not capitalized when I referenced it and the goon squad, and if you look at Webster’s unabridged dictionary, it means people who were hired to frighten,” he said. That argument didn’t fly when he made it before the magistrate. “There are a lot of words that appear in that dictionary that are not appropriate for use in this court,” O’Sullivan said. Dominik has refused to apologize, insisting he did nothing wrong. Indeed, he said he was surprised to learn that what he said in his pleadings could possibly be offensive. “I had no idea that Mr. Peretz was Jewish. I thought he was of German extraction, the same as I am. That’s the other part that shocked me,” Dominik said. “He doesn’t wear a Star of David, and I didn’t see anything in Martindale-Hubbell that says they are Jewish,” he said, referring to a well-known directory of law firms and lawyers. Dominik followed the judge’s denial of his motion for summary judgment with a motion asking that a jury consider whether his comments were reasonably provoked. That motion, too, was denied. “It’s unfortunate that Mr. Dominik sought to have a jury revisit the findings of the judge as to the offensiveness of his remarks, because it reflects an unwillingness to acknowledge that what he did was wrong,” Peretz said. As for Dominik, he says he’s just laying low for now. “I am sitting here in my foxhole, staying out of shell range.”

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