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Bigamist Lawyer Handed Six-Month Suspension

(CN) - A New York appeals court instituted a six-month suspension against a bigamist Manhattan lawyer who married his much younger mistress in Jamaica.

When Joseph Isaac Rosenzweig began a romantic relationship with Radiah Givens in 1995, he had been practicing law for 12 years and been married to Theresa Wong for 10.

Though Rosenzweig never divorced Wong, with whom he had two children, he married Givens in Jamaica in 2004.

Court records show that Givens, who was a student 19 years his junior, soon discovered Rosenzweig's duplicity and got an annulment in 2007.

As their relationship was disintegrating, Rosenzweig filed suit to foreclose on two mortgage loans that he purportedly made to Givens when they were dating in 2002.

Givens meanwhile insisted that Rosenzweig had given her the encumbered Greenwich Village apartment as a gift, and that she had been defrauded into signing the mortgage documents, which she allegedly would not have signed otherwise since she was a student without the resources to pay. Indeed, Givens never made mortgage payments on the condominium, and Rosenzeig paid the maintenance and other expenses until their relationship soured.

A Manhattan Supreme Court judge later granted Rosenzweig summary judgment, despite noting her "displeasure with [his] behavior in this case."

Givens persevered on appeal, however, where a three-judge panel found her claims credible, "given that the marriage was a sham and that plaintiff forged defendant's signature on a loan application for $150,000."

The court threw out the summary judgment order and revived Givens' counterclaims for fraudulent inducement to marry and to enter into the mortgage agreements and forge her name.

New York's highest court, the Court of Appeals, affirmed in late 2009.

Two years later, the Departmental Disciplinary Committee for the First Judicial Department brought three disciplinary charges against Rosenzweig related to his bigamy.

Though a referee recommended a public censure after sustaining the charges, a hearing panel recommended a six-month suspension.

The Appellate Division confirmed that determination and sanction last week, noting that Rosenzweig "admitted all of the factual allegations and liability to the charges, but denied that he intended to enter into an illegal marriage in Jamaica or that he intended to violate Jamaican law."

He had been charged with engaging in "illegal conduct that adversely reflects" on his "honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer;" falsely informing a Jamaican government official that he was a "bachelor;" and engaging in conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness as a lawyer.

Rosenzweig deserves suspension because his conduct included multiple instances of deception toward the Jamaican government, the unsigned decision states.

"That respondent's misconduct involves his personal life only, does not warrant a sanction less severe than suspension," according to the ruling, which cites longer suspensions for other lawyers who deceived government officials or courts.

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