Obiter Dicta

Courtly Con$olation

Illustration by Francisco Caceres

In the ongoing saga of Bernard Madoff—the New York City “invest­ment manager” currently under lock and key awaiting his sentence for managing his investors out of billions of dollars—intrigue has spilled from the financial pages into divorce court.

It seems that one of Madoff’s al­leged victims—prominent Man­hattan attorney Steven Simkin—paid a sizable sum to divorce his wife of 30 years, Laura Blank. The size of the sum was based on the value of an investment account that had been under Madoff’s watchful eye.

The account was sporting a healthy balance of $5.4 million in 2004, Sim­kin was told. So, in the interest of a clean split, he cut Blank a check for $2.7 million. The problem, Simkin says, is that Blank got real money while he got the shaft.

In a lawsuit filed in New York State Supreme Court in February, Simkin seeks the return of a portion of the payment to Blank, claiming that the ac­count statement was noth­ing more than “a sham and fiction.”

Blank, for some reason, was not quick to cut him a check.

Apparently, “take-backs” are all the rage these days after a marriage goes south—though a vascular surgeon from Long Island might be taking the concept a skosh too far.

Dr. Richard Batista of Ronkon­koma, N.Y., says he do­nat­ed a kidney to his gravely ill wife in 2001. He claims in a lawsuit filed in January that she subsequently carried his kidney on an adulterous affair with a physical therapist, and that she refuses to let him see their three children.

So now Batista says he would like his kidney back, thankyouverymuch, but says he could be talked into accepting its value in cash—which he estimates at about $1.5 million (no Madoff vouch­ers, please).

Batista’s legal claim to the kidney—or its pecuniary value—might be uncharted territory, but like Simkin, dagnabbit, he wants to come out of this with something.

And speaking of $1.5 million, that’s the precise value a jury placed on a man’s bruised ego after his wife took advantage of certain, shall we say, non­pro­fes­sional services offered by an attor­ney they hired to handle a medical-malpractice case.

Ernest A. Cook got wind of the shenanigans and the couple divorced in 2002. The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed in August that Cook had suffered alien­­ation of affection, intentional infliction of emotional distress and breach of contract at the hands of Ronald H. Pierce, a solo practitioner in Jackson.

In regard to the ruling, Pierce offered this rather tone-deaf assessment to the Na­tional Law Journal: “I knew I was going to get [expletive deleted].”

And lastly, a Florida man found a novel way to put the kibosh on ali­mony payments. Andrew Craissati of Palm Beach Gardens had been paying $2,000 per month to his ex-wife, Patricia, since their divorce in 2001. In 2005, however, she got a nine-year stretch in the pen on a DUI-related charge.

Craissati invoked a clause in the alimony agreement that states payments may be halted if Patricia is remarried or has been “cohabiting with another person for more than three months.” Her cellmate is her cohabitant, he argued.

In December, a three-judge panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal agreed with Craissati, 2-1.

So while it’s hard to put a price on a busted romance, these four gents certainly seem willing to try.

We welcome your comments, but please adhere to our comment policy and the ABA Code of Conduct.

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.