On Tuesday, Supreme Court Justice Barry T. Allen ordered a stay in the incarceration of Ari Schochet who has been held in the Bergen County Jail on a work release program for the past two months. Schochet’s crime -- failing behind on alimony payments.
Schochet, the father of four girls, who once worked as a portfolio manager at Wall Street firms, has been jailed for missing court-ordered payments at least eight times in the past two years after the end of his 17-year marriage. Job losses and a weak economy caused him to run through his savings trying to pay his ex-wife alimony and child support that totaled almost $100,000 a year.
Once a portfolio manager at several major hedge funds, Schochet was laid off when the financial services market collapsed in 2009, and for Ari it has been hard going since. After a failed new venture in a different field of finance in 2010, Mr. Schochet has been doing whatever he can and now works at an entry level position earning as fraction of what he once did. “Being able to pay the alimony amount based my old salary will be impossible to do.”
Schochet, who was the subject of a Bloomberg News article
about being locked up in the Bergen County Jail on August 27, filed an application with the Appeals Court requesting a stay of his incarceration.
The request was quickly denied by Judge Jonathan Harris of the Appellate Court of NJ.
In his order, Judge Harris responded that Mr. Schochet waited almost 50 days before requesting an appeal and therefore his emergency is “self-created and does not warrant adjudication on short notice”.
Disheartened by the denial Schochet contacted the Bergen Dispatch looking to spark interest in his case after spending nearly two months in jail with no end in sight.
In an email Schochet wrote, “I filed a motion to request an Ability-to-Pay hearing on October 1, as suggested by the court. It was only at my October 15th enforcement hearing that I realized I would remain in jail until the Ability-to-Pay hearing takes place, and that could be another month or two. If I realized how long they would keep me in jail, I would have appealed earlier? Do you think I would rather go to jail every night, being degraded and sleep deprived?”
“I have become a prisoner of Bergen County even though Debtors Prisons were abolished a hundred years ago. I desperately want to regain my freedom and be with my kids.”
After the Appellate rejection, Schochet filed an Emergent Matter Intake Form with the New Jersey Supreme Court. He was told to expect a decision by tomorrow morning but had little hope the Supreme Court would make any decision let alone one in his favor. “Fingers crossed” Schochet told the Bergen Dispatch on the phone just an hour before receiving the news that his stay was granted.
Jeffrey S. Mandel, a New Jersey attorney who specializes in appeals told the Bergen Dispatch that for the Supreme Court to issue such a stay, among other things, the Court would need to agree that Mr. Schochet would likely prevail on the merits of his case.
Jeffrey S. Mandel, Esq. is a partner in Cutolo Mandell, LLC
and has taught Appellate Advocacy at Seton Hall Law School and he currently teaches at Rutgers Law School-Newark. He is the author of “New Jersey Appellate Practice” (Gann Law Books), a 900+ page treatise on appellate practice and procedure used by lawyers throughout the State.
“What they are doing in Bergen County is wrong, it’s criminal” Schochet said after being released tonight at about 7:30pm. When asked how does it feel to have the Supreme Court agree with you Schochet responded, “very good - it’s good to know somebody is listening - but there are fifty guys being held here, some for over a year, and not many of them have the ability to file motions on their own.”