Attempting to Bribe Judge Constitutes Marital Fault in Equitable Distribution

In making equitable distribution awards in divorce actions, courts may consider marital fault as Domestic Relations Law § 236(B)(5)(d) contains a catchall provision, which allows consideration of “any other factor” which may be “just and proper.”

What if you attempt to bribe the judge presiding over your divorce action? Can that be considered in making an equitable distribution award. Yes, held the Second Department Tuesday in Levi v Levi, 2007 NY Slip Op 09562. That case arose from the divorce fixing scandal in Kings County Supreme Court. The divorce action originally appeared before a certain Justice of the Supreme Court, Kings County. The action terminated abruptly after it was learned that the plaintiff-husband attempted to bribe the judge with a $10,000 payment for a favorable outcome.

When the divorce action appeared before a new judge, the new judge equitably distributed the marital residence entirely to the defendant-wife because the plaintiff-husband had attempted to bribe the judge. The Second Department affirmed the distribution finding that the new judge properly exercised its discretion in finding that the plaintiff’s attempt to bribe the former judge constituted egregious marital fault to be factored into the equitable distribution award. The Second Department also rejected a claim by the plaintiff-husband that his conduct was not egregious because he was suffering from a mental disease or defect at the time he made the bribe.

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