Tuesday, February 26, 2013
The New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department has imposed a six-month suspension for an attorney's bigamy:
The underlying facts are undisputed. Respondent married Theresa Wong in 1985. In or about 1995 he entered into an amorous relationship with Radiah Givens. Although married to Wong, respondent traveled with Givens to Jamaica, falsely informed a Jamaican government official that he was a "bachelor," executed marriage documents indicating that he was then a bachelor, and participated in a ceremony by which he and Givens were "officially married" under Jamaican law. According to respondent, Givens understood that their purported marriage was not a legal union, and they had no plans to cohabit after the Jamaican ceremony.
The court rejected public censure as the sanction:
That respondent's misconduct involves his personal life only, does not necessarily warrant a sanction less severe than suspension (see Matter of Gurevich, 94 AD3d 39 [1st Dept 2012] [18-month suspension for misconduct arising in the context of a commercial real estate transaction to which therespondent was a party]; Matter of Zulandt, 93 AD3d 77 [1st Dept 2012] [three-year suspension for misconduct stemming from an incident of domestic violence resulting in a misdemeanor assault conviction]; Matter of Bikman, 304 AD2d 162 [1st Dept 2003], lv denied, 100 NY2d 506  [18-month suspension for deceiving the landlord of a rent controlled apartment by submitting rent checks purportedly bearing the signature of the respondent's deceased sister]). On this record, we find that a six-month suspension is the appropriate sanction.