Federal Judge Rules That Elian's Relatives Can Sue Reno

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:19 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - The attorney representing the Miami relatives of Elian Gonzalez said Monday he will begin taking depositions in the wake of a Miami judge's ruling that the relatives can pursue their lawsuit against former Attorney General Janet Reno and two other Clinton administration officials.

The Miami relatives are suing Reno, former Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder and former Immigration and Naturalization Service Chief Doris Meissner on the grounds that federal agents may have used "excessive force" during a raid last year to seize the 7-year-old from the relatives home in Miami's "Little Havana" section.

Federal Judge Shelby Highsmith, citing a Chicago Police case said, "the Gonzalezes have alleged sufficient facts to support such a claim that the government may have violated their constitutional rights.

The government was attempting to have the relatives' suit tossed out. On Monday, the government still hadn't decided whether to appeal the judge's ruling, but they have until August to decide, according to Justice Department spokesman Charles Miller.

Frank Quintero, the attorney representing Elian's Miami relatives was pleased with the judge's ruling.

"First of all, the government's got to decide whether they are going to appeal the judge's decision. They haven't decided that yet. If that happens, everything gets put on hold for probably anywhere between 18 months to two years," Quintero said.

"I don't know whether they are going to do that or not. They probably will. It would seem to be continuing their style of delay and delay," he said.

But if the government doesn't appeal Quintero said they will proceed with the discovery process.

"We take the depositions of all witnesses and finish our investigation and hopefully get a trial date within the next 12 to 18 months. Hopefully, we will be in trial within the next year," he said.

Quintero said they will begin taking depositions immediately, and whether the federal government appeals or not "may obviously delay the taking of those depositions, but we won't wait for them to make their decision. We're planning on proceeding as normal."

Elian Gonzalez was rescued off the Florida coast on Thanksgiving Day, 1999. He was eventually reunited with his Cuban father and taken back to the Caribbean island after lengthy and numerous court battles.

Meanwhile, last Saturday, Reno was in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to attend a bar mitzvah of 12-year-old Shoshana Breitburg-Moya. Shoshana had written Reno a letter of support of her handling of the Elian Gonzalez case.

During the ceremony, Shoshana thanked Reno for attending.

"Thank You, Ms. Janet Reno for being here. The experience of meeting you has been an inspiration to all of us. We are all incredibly honored by your presence and your wisdom," she said.

Reno has also expressed an interest in running for governor of Florida next year on the Democratic ticket. Republican Gov. Jeb Bush announced Friday he is seeking re-election.