The law secretary of Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Martin Schoenfeld may be in hot water for dating the secretary of a plaintiff’s lawyer who had a case pending before the judge. Nathan Lewin, a defense attorney for the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada, said the court’s Jan. 23 ruling against his client in several pre-trial decisions is "suspect" because of that relationship, of which he was not informed until late last month.
Lewin is defending the rabbis in an $11 defamation million suit filed by Helen Chayie Sieger of Borough Park, who claims their decision to allow her husband to remarry without requiring him to grant her a rabbinic divorce in effect labeled her an unfit spouse.
Lewin said in court papers that the law secretary, Arthur Engoron, claims he only began dating the secretary of the opposing counsel, Christopher Sullivan, on May 10. But Lewin said Sullivan’s actions in the case may have been "influenced" by information he received from the woman, identified in the papers only as Sue. And Lewin noted that Engoron "was drafting [later] decisions and communicating" with the judge about this case during the time he was dating Sue.
Schoenfeld, at the request of the defendants, recused himself from the case July 1 after revealing that he had recently learned of the relationship. He said Engoron’s conduct raised ethical questions that he would report to the appropriate authorities, Lewin noted in his papers. Lewin said actions taken in this case may be criminal in nature and asked the court to conduct a full investigation.