First thing we do, let’s blame all the lawyers! Okay, that’s not exactly what Shakespeare said, but it seems to be the attitude of Teresa Giudice, the Real Housewives of NJ star who was convicted of fraud as a result of her bankruptcy filing with her husband Joe.
This conviction stems from a 39-count indictment by the feds accusing them of hiding rental income and her salary from the reality show. Ms. Giudice subsequently plead guilty to four of those counts, while her husband Joe plead guilty to five. She starts a 15 month incarceration on January 5.
It's My Lawyer's Fault!
Now, facing the consequences of her actions, she is bringing suit against her lawyer, James Kridel, claiming that all of this is his fault because he did not list the family’s earnings on the bankruptcy petition. In fact, she says, he never even met or spoke with her before filing the petition. She wants $5 million.
Granted, if true, Kridel should have met with the Giudices at least once before the petition was filed. This can sometimes happen where high volume bankruptcy firms have paralegals handle most of the preparation process, while the lawyers just review the paperwork and appear in court. Other than that, here’s where the problems start for her suit.
I Didn't Know What I was Signing!
First, she signed the petition under oath, stating that its contents were true and accurate to the best of her knowledge. The income schedule for a bankruptcy petition, appropriately called Schedule I, is not that complicated a form. Did she not see that it did not include her salary or rental income?
Now, to be fair, as admitted by Kridel himself, she might not have known that there was no full disclosure of income because she did not handle the family books. As he told People Magazine,
"I did not believe that Teresa was all that knowledgeable about any of the finances of her family until ultimately she became the breadwinner. Everyone seems to blame her that she knew or should have known. I don't find that to be true in real life, though. People come in and sign tax returns quite often, and the spouse who is not in charge of the finances has no information. They just do what the accountant tells them."
This seems to be borne out by Teresa, who told People, "this was a long time ago. Whatever Joe told me to sign, I signed.” But that only gets her so far.
It's Not My Husband's Fault
Second, she didn’t sue her husband, Joe. Why isn’t she saying that it is her husband’s fault for not disclosing all of their income to Kridel or not telling her that the income reported on Schedule I was incomplete or inaccurate?
Basically, if Joe was the family CFO, isn’t he ultimately to blame for what happened? But maybe it is just easier to sue your lawyer rather than your husband.
What Guilty Plea?
Third, she plead guilty to four of the counts in the indictment, and that is the basis for her 15-month sentence. Under the federal rules a criminal defendant must be given the opportunity to speak or present any information to mitigate the sentence. It is called an Allocution.
Defendants are also often expected to give a factual statement admitting to certain facts that would support a conviction of the charges. If she admitted to these facts in her plea, and did not try to mitigate by blaming her husband, she has some ‘splaining to do in her malpractice suit.
People often look to blame others for their own misfortunes. But in this case, I am rather skeptical of Ms. Giudice’s actions in doing so. She needs to take responsibility for her own actions, or at least acknowledge them as a contributing factor.
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