Divorce judge punished for misusing power

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A judge in Hunan province was expelled from the Party and dismissed from his post for failing to withdraw from a case involving his wife, chinanews.com reported on Saturday.

The judge, surnamed Zhou, of the Lengshuitan district people's court in Yongzhou, heard a divorce case in 2008 in which he awarded the house and a plot of land owned by the couple to the woman, surnamed Feng. The husband, surnamed Cheng, was given responsibility for debts and custody of their daughter.

Though Cheng appealed to a higher-level court, the original verdict was upheld.

Zhou, the judge, married Feng in May 2011, according to a government statement.

Two months later, in July 2011, Zhou, who had been transferred to a post in the court's executive office, launched a compulsory execution in the case, whose terms had not been carried out, and Cheng was required to pay his ex-wife — who had by then married the judge — 200,000 yuan ($32,515).

The case was reheard several times, attracting wide attention. Cheng claimed Zhou "stole his wife and occupied his property".

In July, a team from the Yongzhou Intermediate People's Court investigated, and the court reheard the case. It affirmed this month that the original judgment was valid — that the facts had been clearly ascertained in the first trial and the procedure was legal.

But investigators said Zhou should have withdrawn from the case after he married Feng, and his subsequent actions constituted an improper use of influence. It also said Zhou breached discipline, and that the circumstances were serious.

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