Assemblyman Sean Kean says he and Judge Paul Escandon do not share a political agenda, that his proposed legislation to reform alimony and child support is not anti-women, and that he believes in the integrity, ethics and fairness of Escandon.
Kean was responding to Rachel Alintoff’s comment to Governor Chris Christie, “Judge Escandon is the former law partner of Assemblyman Sean Kean whose main platform is reducing Alimony for women. What will you do as Governor to make sure that Judges are kept from carrying out their own political agendas from the bench?”
“Alintoff has been having lots of people call my office about her case,” said Kean, “we tell them we are not familiar with the case and it would be inappropriate for a legislator to call a Judge about a case.”
Kean is the sponsor of two pieces of legislation regarding alimony and child support.
A685, which is co-sponsored by Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon. The companion bill in the Senate, S1388 is sponsored by Democratic Senator Nicholas Scutari, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Republican Senator Gerald Cardinale. The bill provides for modification of child support and certain alimony cases due to changed circumstances. Kean says this bill makes the Lepis decision, a 1980 NJ Supreme Court decision that defined “change of circumstances” for alimony cases legislated law rather than case law. “This bill puts the current case law into legislation,” said Kean.
AJR36, Kean’s other proposed legislation, is an Assembly Joint Resolution, not a bill, that would create a “Blue Ribbon Commission” to study alimony reform. The commission would include the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, or his designee, the Attorney General, or his designee, one member of the Senate appointed by the Senate President, one member of the Senate appointed by the Senate Minority Leader, one member of the General Assembly appointed by the Speaker of the General Assembly, one member of the General Assembly appointed by the Assembly Minority Leader, and five public members to be appointed by the Governor. The public members appointed by the Governor shall include at least two persons licensed to practice law in the State with a specialization in marital law. To the extent that it is possible, the commission shall consist of an equal number of male and female members.
The commission shall study all aspects of State alimony law and avenues of potential reform, including but not limited to:
(1) the scope of State alimony laws as compared with those in other states;
(2) Statewide trends in alimony awards, including an analysis of how those trends compare with alimony award trends in other states;
(3) whether current economic conditions have affected trends in State alimony awards; and
(4) any other such issues as the commission may identify as necessary to understanding and reforming State alimony law.
b. The commission shall propose new legislation, if it deems appropriate.
Kean said this resolution is not anti-woman, but about fairness to both men and woman who pay alimony. “More and more woman are paying alimony in this economy, but it is true that men still pay it more often.”
“The idea is to bring the standards for alimony more in line with the standards for child support where the law is clearer and Judges have less discretionary power.”
“I have never been through a divorce,” said Kean, “I don’t have a personal agenda here. This resolution is the result of complaints from many constituents whose economic circumstances have changed; people who were making six figures on Wall Street when life time alimony was awarded, but are now collecting $600 in unemployment checks every two weeks. These people are finding it difficult to get Judges to reconsider their cases when they are not able to pay. The Blue Ribbon Commission would study the issue, which is two complex to decide in a two hour legislative committee hearing, and make appropriate recommendations based upon their findings.”
As for Escandon, Kean said he knows him to be fair minded, principled and ethical. “I signed off on his nomination to the court when I was in the Senate. He was my law partner and my childhood friend. We played Little League Baseball together.”
“I feel terrible for him because as a sitting Judge he cannot defend himself publicly. I don’t know the facts of the Alintoff case and I would not comment on the allegations, but I believe in Judge Escanlon.”