Local Businessman Loses Appeal Based on Family's Nazi Past and Arbiter's Holocaust Nightmares

The Fourth District Court of Appeal in Santa Ana has upheld an arbiter's ruling that had been challenged because he is Jewish and his sister died in the Holocaust.

What does that have to do with the price of beans in Tel Aviv?

Well, the father of the arbitration loser fought in the German army and his father-in-law was in the SS.

Peter Rohde is the CEO of Science and Ingredients, a Laguna Niguel supplier of phospholipid ingredients for the nutritional supplement industry. Science and Ingredients used to be known as Precious Smart Ingredients, which set about to create a new entity, Lipoid USA, LLC , with the German company R&R Beteiligungsgellschaft (RRB) owned by Herbert Rebmann.

Under the terms of their agreement, Precious Smart would own 25 percent of Lipoid and RRB would control the other 75 percent. But Rohde and Rebmann later had a business dispute that sent them to abitration and Stephen Haberfeld, a former federal magistrate employed by an arbitration service.

Haberfeld ultimately rejected Rohde's claims and awarded Rebmann nominal damages of $1,000, plus $1.1 million in attorneys' fees and legal costs. After the arbitration decision, Rohde searched the Internet and discovered the Nazis had persecuted the family of Haberfeld, who is Jewish and belongs to an organization dedicated to preventing future Holocausts.

Speaking of families, Rohde's father fought in the German army, and his wife's father was in the Schutzstaffel, or SS as the Nazi security force that ran the death camps was more commonly known.

Rohde built his appeal to the arbitration decision on the theory that Haberfeld was punishing him because the arbiter's sister died at in a concentration camp and parents lost their property in German-occupied Poland.

The San Francisco Chronicle's Bob Egelko compares the case to the one California's same-sex marriage opponents brought against gay federal Judge Vaughn Walker's overturning of Prop 8.

Like the Walker challenge, Rohde's was also unsuccessful. Voting 3-0, the appeals court in Santa Ana said there was no evidence that Haberfeld had known about Rohde's background or had ever shown bias against Germans "or anyone else."

"A judge or arbitrator's impartiality should never be questioned simply because of who they are," Justice Eileen Moore says in the ruling.

But Dean Smart, Rohde's lawyer and a Science and Ingredients VP, has vowed to appeal again, this time to the U.S. Supreme Court.


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