A Stockton judge on Friday postponed a ruling in a lawsuit between two feuding factions of the Lodi Muslim Mosque, pending historical documents that might clarify rightful leadership of the organization.
Her decision could be moot, however, since a December election would re-outfit the mosque board with all new members.
The lawsuit casts Mosque President Mohammad Shoaib and his followers against several members of the Muslim community, including Nasim Khan and Taj Khan (no relation), who claim themselves as duly elected board members.
The plaintiffs are seeking a restraining order that would prohibit Shoaib from representing the mosque in business matters. No injunction has been ordered by the court.
San Joaquin County Judge Elizabeth Humphreys gave attorneys until next Friday to produce documents that could reveal rightful leadership of the Lodi Muslim Mosque. If Humphreys rules in favor of the plaintiffs, they would assume leadership until the December elections.
Brian Chavez-Ochoa, a Valley Springs attorney for the plaintiffs, said he was pleased with the judge's request and feels confident his clients can produce election results that support their claims to the board.
Chavez-Ochoa added, however, that a decision postponed too long could would make his case irrelevant.
"Once you have a new election and a new board, these allegations are gone," Chavez-Ochoa said.
Stockton attorney Joe Rishwain claimed that several of the plaintiffs were dismissed from the mosque for missing three or more meetings -- a dismissable offense according to the mosque's by-laws.
During the hearing, Rishwain accused plaintiffs Taj Khan and Nasim Khan of defending former imam Shabbir Ahmed, who was arrested in June on immigration violations. Ahmed was recently denied bail by a San Francisco immigration judge, who ruled that he is a flight risk and a potential threat to the community.
"If they admit they made a mistake, we would drop everything," mosque board member Malik Ahmad said of Taj Khan and Nasim Khan.
Chavez-Ochoa said after the hearing that the Ahmed case in San Francisco should have no bearing on the case or written testimony of his clients.
In the original lawsuit, plaintiffs claimed they had been harassed and intimidated by the defendants. They accused Shoaib and his supporters of barring his clients from information and records that reveal the true leadership of the mosque.
Several defendants claimed after the hearing that Nasim Khan and others had written unauthorized checks with mosque money to special interest groups abroad. During an alleged break-in at the mosque in December 2003, Shoaib said, several documents and canceled checks were stolen.
Rishwain suggested that the case be consolidated with another mosque dispute being heard in San Joaquin County Superior Court. In that case, Rishwain represents Shoaib and others, though the client is listed as "Lodi Muslim Mosque."
The attorney said there is so much confusion about who is qualified to represent the mosque that perhaps one judge should hear all the issues surrounding the organization.
Humphreys agreed a unification of cases could be beneficial to avoid two judges making contradictory rulings.
Despite the accusations and various legal issues, both parties said they feel confident they'll have some records to hand over to Humphreys within the next week.
Contact reporter Sara Cardine at firstname.lastname@example.org.