My Day in Haitian Court
As you probably know, I had my court appointment with Rosie (Audancin’s wife) today at 10:00 am and I wanted to update everyone about what went on with the judge. First of all, thank you for praying for us. I know it seems like a really simple thing and it should be cut and dry, but we are operating in a different country and you just never know. This blog will probably end up being pretty long, so I will go ahead and tell you the outcome of the case…We won! In the end they could not produce any evidence and it was clear to the judge that we did not need to proceed any further. The rest of this blog will describe my day and how the court appointment went, but I wanted you to know the outcome first. Also, I did not know what to think about judges in Haiti. I had this American mindset of what a judge was, but this guy was awesome. He did not take any nonsense, and he had complete control of his courtroom. He was extremely fair to both parties, and he was an excellent and impartial judge who just wanted the truth and wanted what was best for his community.
To start with, my appointment was at 10:00 am so I showed up at 9:40 just to be safe. We waited around for the judge to arrive until about 11:15, and we were his first case. As we were waiting, Rosie (who was the sole name on the summons) strolled up right at 10. I had never seen her on time for anything prior to today, and I almost expected her to not even show up so I was a little disappointed, but I was ready to get it over with. At about 10:25 is when Audancin showed up. I knew he was behind the whole thing, but I did not necessarily think he would show. He and Rosie have not been together since we left, but they seemed to be teaming together again for one more shot at us. At 11:15, the judge called us in and it was time to begin.
I brought Sony, one of our security guards and a great translator, with us to make sure I understood everything that was being said, and he did a wonderful job. He translated faster than I have ever heard anyone before and I knew exactly what everyone was saying the whole time thanks to him. However, when Rosie saw him, she got really irritated. She immediately told the judge “Blan ka pale kreyol” or the American can speak creole. She wanted Sony removed from the courtroom. The only thing I can figure is that she wanted to have the upper hand with the language barrier, but the judge said that Sony would stay and translate everything for me. At that point, the judge asked Rosie what her grievance was and everything began.
Her first grievance is that we had her children’s birth certificates still (which we do not). She told the judge that she tried to put them in school but the school would not let them enter because I was holding their birth certificates. That was how she got the meeting with the judge, but then she went into a lot of other details. She said that I fired her 18 months ago, that I owed her money for every month she did not work, and on top of that she had worked for the orphanage for the past 5.5 years so she really needed $50,000. And that was the bottom line, she thinks I owed her $50,000. The judge asked me what I thought about that, and I told him that I did not have that money and that I could not give it to her anyway. I then asked why $50,000 and she said because I made money off of her children and her. The judge turned to me and asked what I thought.
I told him that I never fired her, but in fact she stopped working for me when she and her husband told me I could never come to their orphanage again. This is when they called me a liar for the first time, and said that Pastor Herold was there and knew the whole story but he has since left for America. I informed them that I still had his number and we could call him if they wanted, but they decided they did not want that. I then explained to the judge what really happened, how they told us not to come back, we informed all of the kids’ families, and then we started taking care of them in a new place. The judge looked at them and said, how much money do you really want? Rosie said that we owed her $1,800 because that is $100/month for the past 18 months that she had worked, and then pulled out her old contract to show how much we paid her.
The judge then looked at the contract and asked me if I could pay her for the past 18 months, and I showed him the actual date of the contract. It was signed in February 2014 and was a 1-year contract. The judge said that this proved I did not owe them anything and he was about to call the case when Audancin began speaking. He said he was the director of the orphanage and that he had a committee for it. He said that I “kicked out all of the other white people that were helping him” and then “took the orphanage for myself.” And then said that he knows I am a pastor and that I am not a liar but that I have lied about everything today. That I still have the birth certificates, that I stole their badges (I still have not figured out what they are talking about here and neither could the judge), and that I kept all of the other contracts that they signed so they did not have proof of anything to show.
This is when the judge finally said, it is not my job to keep their children’s birth certificates, if I “stole their badge” they should have come 18 months ago and told him, and they wanted me to pay them for the past 18 months they should have kept contracts proving that I owed them that. He then looked at me and asked if I wanted to give them anything just to help them. I told him that if they had come to my house and asked nicely for these things I would have talked with them and we could have had a conversation, but they brought me to court so I do not want to give them anything. The judge said that was ok and dismissed the case and said there was no proof of anything.
Let me give you a couple of other pretty funny details. The first is that the judge’s office had 2 doors, one of which opened to the outside and the other to a hallway. When the case started, both doors were wide opened and we attracted quite the crowd. There were at least 50 people gathered around the doors to hear what was going on. The funniest thing is that everyone kept saying, “The white guy knows what he is doing, he is really smart, he is not even responding to them” and all I was doing was sitting there letting them talk. I had spoken with a friend of mine, Pastor Herold, the night before and he told me that I should only talk when spoken too and I should keep my cool and only answer the questions given. That is exactly what I did and it worked. I told our translator, after the case was over, that there is an American saying that goes, “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.” He laughed and laughed because he knew that, even if I was a fool, Rosie and Audancin removed all doubt about themselves.
Also, at one point, the judge asked if either of us had lawyers there. I did not, but Rosie brought one with her and called him to come and speak. The judge immediately said that this guy was not actually a lawyer and had no place in his courtroom and would not let him speak. After that, Rosie said she had another lawyer, and this guy actually had credentials. So the attorney asked the judge if he could have 10 minutes to speak with his clients since he had just arrived. The judge said, “Sure, but for my edification, you can use those 10 minutes right here so that I can hear everything that is said.” The attorney did not say another word.
All in all it was not a bad experience. The truth is, when they asked for $50,000 it took a lot of self-control not to say something. When they continually called me a liar and then told lies about me, it took a lot not to try and say something. Lener, who came with us, told me after it was over that I should have said things to, “shut their mouths,” but the truth is I just wanted the truth to come out and for everything to be over. I learned that, this judge at least, was very fair and understood the truth. I learned that documentation is very very important. And I learned that the truth really does mean something here just like it should everywhere else.
I tried to include as many details as I could, but I know I left out a lot of things. The bottom line is thanks for the prayers and I know we were protected in this. I know that we did not do anything wrong, but I also know that Rosie and Audancin will say whatever they can to try and take things from us. The judge saw right through them, and in the end, I did not give them anything. I really wish they would have just come to me and asked. I probably would have said no, but at least it would have been friendly!