|Family||Melissa Thayer (ex-wife)|
Judge Joel Thayer is a corrupt judge and Claire Kincaid's former boss and lover.
At some point in his life, Thayer met and married a woman named Melissa, and eventually became a judge. Claire Kincaid eventually became his clerk and stayed in the position for two years. During that time, Thayer started subtly seducing Kincaid and eventually started a relationship with her despite the fact that he was married. This relationship lasted for three months before Kincaid broke it off when he started getting possessive. Thayer threatened her, but he eventually backed off and even wrote a glowing recommendation to the Manhattan District Attorney's Office for Kincaid. He later became a member of the Pequot Club where, in 1988, he met and befriended Dan and Janet Rudman. Both couples started traveling and eating together, becoming rather close. In 1993, Thayer and Janet started having an affair, which Janet broke off a year later because of Thayer's possessiveness. Thayer decided to threaten her family in order to get her back. In preparation for his plan, he stole the silver bicycle of a disgruntled ex-employee named Ron Blocker. He then followed Janet's daughter Laura to the zoo and talked to her while wearing a disguise. While Laura wasn't looking, he stole her doll, Miss Pinky, and rode off on Blocker's bicycle.
Thayer sends Laura's doll back and leaves a message on the Rudmans' answering machine, mentioning Laura and where she had been that day. The next day, Thayer works on making a videotape of him stalking Laura on his boat. He then overlays a message in a distorted voice, saying how Laura could be kidnapped so easily and her parents wouldn't even know. Thayer then sends Janet the videotape along with a note, both with a demand: pay him $20,000 tomorrow or he kidnaps Laura. The next day, Thayer pays an ex-convict, John Blanchard, $20 to pick up the payment, but he is soon arrested by the police and Thayer flees the scene in his car. When Thayer's involvement is uncovered due to Blanchard identifying his photo, the press gets wind of it and Thayer's face is plastered all over the news. He makes a statement to the press, claiming that he committed no crime and will not resign while his attorney, Arthur Gold, defends him.
At EADA Stone's office, Thayer listens to Gold and Stone argue over his case and Thayer mentions Janet testifying in his defense. When Stone mentions Blanchard's identification, Thayer and Gold inform him that they are challenging it on the grounds that Kincaid targeted Thayer from the beginning. The strategy works, and the identification is suppressed as evidence. Thayer decides to punish Kincaid from crossing him and brings files a complaint with the disciplinary committee, claiming she framed him because she rejected him. Thayer testifies that he was against hiring female law clerks and only relented under political pressure, and that Kincaid was a fine attorney. He claims their relationship changed when Kincaid started hitting on him and became threatening when Thayer refuted her advances, so he sent her to work for the District Attorney's Office to get rid of her. Kincaid confesses to the affair on the stand and everything Thayer did, but is still censured by the committee.
Melissa eventually hears about all of this and files divorce proceedings against Thayer. Kincaid later confronts Thayer on his boat about his affair with Janet, and he confesses that he chose Janet because she had a husband and a daughter he could threaten her with, which is what he learned from Kincaid. Thayer then demands she get off his boat and stay out of his life, but Kincaid only does the former. Kincaid later convinces Janet to testify against Thayer. When Stones offers him a plea, Thayer smugly declines it and leaves while his attorney says that neither Janet or Kincaid will take the stand, but the judge rules both able to testify. When Melissa takes the stand, she reveals she cleaned and stored away the newspaper clippings Thayer used to make the note he sent the Rudmans. Thayer eventually decides to accept a plea of attempted grand larceny in the second degree, which carries a sentence of one to three years and his maximum sentence is 18 months. At the allocution, he tries to avoid saying he was the one who did this, but Stone and Judge Schreiber demand he stop avoiding the questions and fully confess. After some prodding, Thayer eventually admits that he sent her the video to scare her into not leaving him. (L&O: "Censure")