Judge Judy Sued Over Best Friend’s Wedding China
What would Judge Judy do – in her own trial? We may find out, since the judge’s former best friend is suing her in California to get back property the plaintiff says the judge bought during a contentious divorce.
Judge Swoops in for a Deal
Patrice Jones reportedly alleges Judith Sheindlin and Jones’s former husband, a producer on Scheindlin’s “Judge Judy” show, conspired in 2009 for the husband to sell Sheindlin their valuable china and silverware collection for just $50,000.
Jones has already tried to sue her ex, Randy Douthit, to get back the collection – wedding gifts worth over half a million dollars, confirms Jones’s lawyer, Perry Wander of Beverly Hills, Calif.
“The husband was held to have breached his fiduciary duty to [Jones] for failing to maintain the community property pending the court’s division of the community property,” Wander explains. Douthit “was ordered to unwind the sale and return the property to the community and pay all attorney fees related to this transaction.”
Because the sale involved marital property and happened without her consent, Patric says Sheindlin, who still has the china and silver, has to give the property back. Another judge reportedly appraised the china and silver at $125,000 and ordered Sheindlin to return it. She ignored him.
“I don’t owe this lady a cent,” Sheindlin has reportedly said about the case. “And if this 50-year-old woman would spend her time more productively at trying to find a job, instead of abusing the judicial system with frivolous lawsuits, we would all be a lot better off.”
Marital Property Means Forever
A third party who buys marital property without the consent of both spouses has to give it back. “The sale is voidable by the non-consenting spouse,” who can either get the full value of the property or the property itself, explains Wander.
Called a “claim and delivery” in California, the non-consenting spouse has to apply to a court for a “writ of possession.” If it is granted, she gets “immediate temporary possession of the property at issue, until the court makes a final judgment regarding the rights to its title and possession,” he says.
That could mean that the property would be divided by the community – the formerly married couple – so Douthit could ultimately get some of it back.
This applies to all community property, acknowledges Wander. California is one of nine states that treat all property acquired during the marriage as “community property” by default. The other eight are Arizona, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. In Alaska, couples can opt in to the community property system.
In “common law” states, property acquired during the marriage is treated as the property of the spouse who acquired it.
In Judge Judy’s case, her former best friend may have gotten the upper hand for now. “Judy is returning the dishes to the court for disposition,” says Wander. But that may not be the end. “This will not absolve her of damages or result in the dismissal of the lawsuit,” he adds.