We all know that it is unwise to “bite the hand that feeds you”. What that means in divorce litigation is that it would be foolish to tip off Revenue Canada or the IRS that your spouse is cheating them, at least until you have your share of the family property and your legal relationship is severed.
Unfortunately, Janice Schacter of New York either didn’t get that advice or simply ignored it , which is more likely. Janice and her husband, Ira Schacter’s divorce was far from low-key, in part because Janice, in her anger, posted unflattering stories about her estranged husband on a variety of websites. Eventually, the New York Post and other publications picked up on the acrimonious divorce and Mr. Schacter’s reputation as a wealthy and successful partner of a major New York law firm, went “down the toilet”.
Their divorce litigation began in 2007 after each of them was arrested for assaulting the other. During the course of the proceedings Mr. Schacter filed 40 separate motions, while his wife filed 26. At the end of their divorce wars, Ira Schacter had spent about $2.3 million on legal fees, $500,000 on expert’s reports, and $460,000 on criminal and child protection investigations. Ms. Schacter owes two law firms several hundred thousand dollars, monies they are suing her for.
Part of Janice Schacter’s “defence” were regular calls to the police, who attended at her husband’s home one hundred times. He was also the subject of seven separate child protection investigations.
However, the incident that Mr. Schacter alleged led to a significant downturn in his law practice at Calwalader, Wickersham & Taft, with an accompanying decrease in the value of his law partnership interest, was an article published by the New York Post that he had purchased a $215,000 diamond engagement ring for his fiancé, but refused to pay $12,000 for his hearing impaired daughter’s hearing aids. The New York Post’s source for the story was none other than Janice Schacter!
The story caused popular website “Above the Law” to select Ira Schacter as their “Lawyer of the Month”, an accolade that was anything but
prestigious. As it turned out, by the time the story was published the hearing aids had been purchased and the issue of who should ultimately be responsible for the cost was pending before the court.
At trial, Mr. Schacter argued that his wife’s disparaging comments on the internet and in other publications led to a significant decrease in the value of his partnership interest. Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Laura Drager agreed that Ms. Schacter’s conduct contributed to the decline in Mr. Schacter’s law practice, but also found that the 2008 economic crisis was integral to his firm’s 94% decrease in revenue, particularly because the firm’s business was tied to investment banks and mortgage-backed securities. During this time-frame the firm had laid off 131 associate lawyers.
However, Ira gave as good as he got as Justice Drager set out in her Reasons:
“They each shouted and interrupted court proceedings. They made inappropriate comments and gestures to each other immediately outside the courtroom.”
She also noted that after an incident between Mr. Schacter and his daughter he was arrested and ordered to enroll in mandatory anger management classes. Justice Drager also found he made vulgar and cruel comments about his wife to the children.
Mr. Schacter called witnesses who confirmed they refused to retain him as counsel due to the negative publicity. Justice Drager remarked:
“His testimony (and others) establishes to this court that the Internet postings have been injurious to the husband’s professional standing and ability to retain clients….The wife was well within her rights to publicly raise her concerns about domestic violence. However, the wife’s incessant postings and discussions about the issue went beyond any reasonable discussion of this very serious issue.”
As a result of her findings, Janice Schacter received only 17% of her husband’s partnership interest, the sum of $855,440, while he retained 83%, amounting to a value of $4.17 million.
But Ms. Schacter has not abandoned her public pulpit. An article about her case was published in the New York Law Journal this week where she took on the trial judge, writing:
“This was about protecting her (the judge’s) career. I stood up to a judge that wouldn’t enforce court orders, follow state laws, ensure my family was safe, give me legal fees, proper discovery, experts, and then created a record to prevent an appeal.”
Methinks we haven’t heard the last from Janice Schacter.
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang