An investigation into judicial misconduct
They arrested him for violating the order, reporting that Stuart had stared down at Margaret with his arms folded on three consecutive nights. She got temporary possession of the family home. But in the years that followed, Margaret Besen’s hopes for an equitable settlement dwindled as she battled a series of harsh and hard-to-explain decisions against her. Though she could never prove anything, she suspected that the scales had tipped for reasons unrelated to the evidence in her case. If true, she faced what experts say is one of the most troubling threats to our nation’s system of justice: judges, who, through incompetence, bias or outright corruption, prevent the wronged from getting a fair hearing in our courts.
By Peter S. Green and John Mazor
When Margaret Besen, a 51-year-old nurse from East Northport, Long Island, filed for divorce from her husband in March of 2010, she had every reason to believe that justice was on her side.
But within weeks, the situation deteriorated. Stuart Besen, a politically connected attorney for the town of Huntington, had an anger problem, Margaret told authorities. The couple’s screaming matches left Margaret feeling intimidated and their children — a daughter, 11, and son, 7 — terrified, she said. So in August of that year she obtained an order of protection prohibiting Stuart from harassing her. Three weeks later, Stuart entered Margaret’s bedroom and hovered over her as she slept, she told police.