Expatriate Owl

A politically-incorrect perspective that does not necessarily tow the party line, on various matters including but not limited to taxation, academia, government and religion.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Where Did All That Money Come From?

The New York State judiciary has been perceived by many as viewing itself above the need to share in the pain of the current budgetary crisis. Judges whine that their salaries are far below what they could earn in private law practice, never mind that they chose to run for the seat on the bench in the first place. The New York Court of Appeals is now completing, if it has not already completed, construction of luxury apartments for its judges to use while up in Albany. Many court personnel are where they are on account of political patronage, which wouldn't be so bad if so many of them were not so insolent towards the attorneys and members of the public whose circumstances compel dealings with the court system. And Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman did a lot of pouting and pissing and moaning before he grudgingly conceded the need for the judiciary to make some painful cuts in its budget.

But there is at least one judge who understands his duty to stand watch over the public purse. Justice Robert A. Ross, of the Nassau County Supreme Court (don't be too impressed by the "Supreme" terminology; the county Supreme Courts in New York are the lowest courts of general jurisdiction), has before him the matrimonial action of Felice Cohen against Eyal Cohen. In the course of the proceedings, Eyal had asserted that his income was approximately $10,000 per year and that he lived rent-free on Mom & Dad's dime, and, pleading poverty, was assigned counsel (i.e., on the taxpayers' dime).

Eyal apparently had been less than fully cooperative with the Court's directives, and a contempt hearing (not the first one) had been scheduled. Shortly before the scheduled contempt hearing, Felice and Eyal reached a settlement whereby Eyal would pay Felice a settlement of $45,000.

The numbers did not add up when Justice Ross crunched them. How would a person whose income is only $45,000 and who has few assets come up with $45,000? It is one thing to hide assets and income from your soon-to-be-ex spouse. But Eyal hid the assets and income from the Court, and, based upon Eyal's representations, the Court upheld Eyal's Constitutional right to counsel by dipping into the public fisc to engage an attorney for Eyal.

Judge Ross has now called upon Eyal to attend a hearing to explain the apparent discrepancy. In his order, the Judge gives Eyal the opportunity to file an amended Statement of Net Worth, and, to spare Felice's purse, has dispensed with the need for her to attend the hearing. Unless Eyal has a good and credible and documentable explanation, it seems that Judge Ross intends to make Eyal reimburse the State for paying the assigned counsel. And if Eyal did make a major misrepresentation to the Court, then his proper and honest filing of an amended Statement of New Worth would, in all likelihood, give Judge Ross a basis for not sending Eyal to the slammer.

After 20-something years, my own marriage is in no danger of going before Judge Ross or any of his colleagues on the bench. This good investment in my marriage has saved my wife and I lots of money that otherwise would go to the divorce lawyers. It also has saved the taxpayers of New York the expense of having another matrimonial action work its slow and convoluted way through the judicial system.

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