Judge who made key Washington state shellfish ruling dead at 79

Los Angeles, California (AP) 4-08

Edward Rafeedie, a federal judge who issued a key ruling on Indian shellfish harvest rights in Washington state and heard other high-profile cases in two decades on the bench, has died. He was 79.

Rafeedie died at his Malibu home after a 11/2 year battle with cancer, the Los Angeles Daily Journal reported.

“He was a judge of fortitude, insight and wisdom, and he will be greatly missed,” Chief U.S. District Judge Alicemarie H. Stotler said.

Rafeedie was appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1971 to be a judge on the Los Angeles Superior Court, where he heard cases involving celebrities such as Groucho Marx, Rod Stewart and Evel Knievel.

Reagan later appointed Rafeedie to the federal bench, where he heard the torture-murder case of a Drug Enforcement Administration agent.

In an unusual assignment beyond his court district, Rafeedie also presided over litigation over Indian tribal shellfish harvest rights in Washington state. In late 1994 he ruled that under 18th century treaties, tribes are guaranteed access to private tidelands and to shellfish occurring naturally under commercial beds.

The next year Rafeedie ruled that 17 tribes must be granted a share of the oysters, clams, mussels and other shellfish grown on some tidelands in Washington. The issue continued to simmer until last May, when the tribes accepted a $33 million settlement to relinquish their share of the shellfish in some of those areas.

Rafeedie also presided over the plea agreement of Steven Cooperman, a Beverly Hills doctor who masterminded the disappearance of valuable paintings he owned, including a Picasso and a Monet, and fraudulently collected the insurance money.

Cooperman’s cooperation led to the criminal investigation of the firm now known as Milberg Weiss, which was indicted in a lucrative kickback scheme involving payments to plaintiffs in class-action lawsuits against some of the nation’s largest corporations.

A native of Orange, N.J, Rafeedie served in the Army during the Korean War before starting his legal career.

Rafeedie was survived by his wife Ruth Alice Horton, son Frederick and daughter Jennifer.