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Can a Party in a Divorce Case Sue a Judge?

Suing a judge occurs rarely, but does happen. In 2015, the judge presiding over a NY divorce case sanctioned an attorney who represented himself in the divorce case. Recently, the attorney filed a lawsuit against the judge and sued for damages.

Details of the Filing

The New York Law Journal reported at the end of July that Anthony Zappin, a former associate of Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo, filed a lawsuit against a Manhattan judge who imposed a $10,000 sanction on him for misconduct during his divorce case.

  • Zappin alleged that the judge:
  • Maliciously and knowingly made and publicized false statements and vicious personal attacks against him
  • Engaged in extrajudicial conduct to maximize publicity of false statements and harm him by sending copies of the sanctions to the media, including the New York Law Journal, New York Post and New York Daily News
  • Recited allegations as facts without affording him a hearing
  • Made false and defamatory statements that he pulled out of the air in the sanction decision

The day the press coverage was released, Zappin was fired from his position as associate at the law firm and suffered significant damages including loss of future earnings potential and denial of a fair trial on custody of his son.

Judge Recusal

Judges bear the responsibility to be fair and impartial when presiding over a case. If a party in the case believes the judge is unable to be fair and impartial, several means of recourse the party can take is to request that the judge recuse himself or move to have the judge recused from the case.

In a article, examples given as reasons for recusal include:

  • Bias or prejudice concerning a party or attorney
  • Judge’s personal knowledge of disputed facts
  • Judge’s relationship to a party of attorney
  • Judge or judge’s family member’s economic interest in the case

It remains to be seen what the court will decide in the lawsuit brought against the judge.

If you have questions about divorce or family law litigation, Attorney Chris Palermo will be glad you answer your questions and advise the best course of legal action.