[Update: some court documents have been added on December 2, 2013.] Hello again. I didn’t mean for the wait from Part 1 to be dramatically longish, but I cannot read Japanese reliably without my assistant by my side and there are quite a few documents. I’ve been recently reminded to get on with it. So, you’ll have to excuse me for writing first and including court documents later when I can verify details.
That doesn’t stop us from discussing the essentials, though!
So, Ms. Tran realized that a strange man in the university industry she didn’t even know (Aoyama Gakuin University Professor, Gregory Strong) had written a terribly defamatory email about her–sent to her current employer. He specifically cited St. Mary’s admin as the source of his information. Because the email was so full of personal vitriol against Ms. Tran, she couldn’t imagine how a stranger would convincingly be able to do it. It seemed very probable that St. Mary’s was behind it.
Why always court, Ms. Tran?
1. The best thing about litigation in Japan is that it is much cheaper than it would ever be in the US or Europe. Therefore, regular people can afford to resolve their problems in a civilized way and leave the yakuza out of it. Depending on the lawyer, Ms. Tran has paid between 315,000 to 440,000 yen per case. Appealing is an additional 100,000 yen or so. And there are document fees (sending, printing) of a few more man. If you win a settlement, the lawyer gets 16%.
2. In addition, taking a case to court causes it to be accessible to the public. For instance, all of Ms. Tran’s cases can be found at the Tokyo District Court under their file numbers. And under Japanese law, all parties are free to discuss matters in the case, except details under a confidentiality order. Believe it or not, I have actually adhered to this rule. I figure, taking it online and making this narrative known is just good to know. Sunlight disinfects.
3. Matters get solved while you go on with your life. Ms. Tran was in the university industry and worked every day. Her lawyers went to the court meetings (and she did too sometimes), but it did not disrupt her work. Furthermore, taking her bullies to task through expensive litigation (for the school) was an important sting she wanted them to feel every time they felt entitled to #$%! with people. With this lesson, would St. Mary’s think twice about what they’d say to her future employers–some of whom might be “testing” the school? Ms. Tran thought it would certainly help.
4. As a foreign worker in Japan, there is actually SO MUCH bullshit dealing with an employer who leverages your ignorance of your rights and Japanese law to screw you, that hiring a bilingual lawyer is the only way to understand and assert your rights.
So, court it was!
Ms. Tran at this point didn’t know the identity of the St. Mary’s admin who had been cited as the bully in her new profession. It was important to find out. She figured it was either Curriculum Coordinator Linda Wayne, or (now) Elementary Principal Michael DiMuzio, since both of them were the main muddle-managers [sic] in the fiasco of 2006-8, and have proven capabilities in such a thing. The elderly Catholic Brothers? Maybe, if they weren’t always napping.
Though Gregory Strong was a stranger, professional and grown man, there was always the possibility that he made all that strange gossip up. Who knows, people with an obsession and a lot of time on their hands can do a lot of damage. In any case–“it was important to find out”.
Round 1: The school was caught in a panic once Ms.Tran served them court papers. In the District Court they brought out everything they could to mitigate why or what they did or didn’t talk to Gregory Strong about–several strands of cooked spaghetti from the school’s lawyers, were thrown at the wall, which one would stick?
- *Ms. Tran held a scholarship for her former students on YouTube!! (um….so?)
- The blog was never taken down!! (well, that was never in the settlement terms, my dears)
- Linda Wayne, was stressed about the prolonged court case and had to talk to her friend Gregory Strong–but it was just over dinner. And he’s a friend. (also coincidentally a long-time recruiter in the university teaching industry)
- Linda Wayne, although an administrator, wasn’t exactly present herself at the settlement signing so she couldn’t have known the details of the settlement to ever be speaking about them accurately (I guess the “school corporation” only includes the 2 dudes present at the signing)
- Linda Wayne only helped draft the settlement of the first case–she didn’t actually get to see the final version (oh yes! the drafts were one week apart and several adjectives different)
(I know, I know, the logic is amazing)! [UPDATE: Here is her letter to the court (in English and in Japanese) being vague on dates and details (for instance, conveniently only remembering dates after the incident of defamation), vague on whether it is Gregory Strong who is the liar for saying that she had spoken to him about the settlement, or whether she is the liar for being a top administrator, yet claiming not to be privy to a settlement she helped to draft:
And here is Gregory Strong’s signature on the case:
Gregory Strong (you can imagine how popular he must be with St. Mary’s admin) had to step up too! After all, it was HIS indiscreet email that had caused legal harm to befall the sacred institution of his long time friend. What did he say?
- He had seen Ms. Tran demonstrate at the SMIS carnival himself!! (I guess she had been holding a sign detailing her contract terms for him to see?)
- He had seen Ms. Tran’s scholarship Youtube videos!! (declaring the settlement details in way that would ruin her career?)
- He did have a conversation with Linda Wayne about the settlement, but since she didn’t actually know any details, then it was all just gossip and lies–nothing true about Ms. Tran or the settlement details.
- The email that he wrote then, was just conjecture (i.e. gossip) and not truth; not a breach of the settlement’s actual details.
Ms. Tran’s lawyer, an older gentleman who has long defended foreigners from all kinds of crap (and from other foreigners in this case), in addition to being the president of a law firm in Kita-Senju, had asked Ms. Tran to choose at the beginning: defamation or breach-of-settlement case? But there would not be two cases at once. Ms. Tran thought that establishing identities and getting testimonial court records was a pretty necessary first step. So, that was the breach-of-settlement case.
The Tokyo District Court ruled that since the details Gregory Strong cited in the email turned out to be all inaccurate, it means that Linda Wayne wasn’t telling the truth about the settlement, and therefore wasn’t talking about the details of the settlement. Therefore the school lied about, but did not breach the settlement.
Do we smile or frown at this verdict? Laugh or cry? It’s hard to tell. I myself am going to get a beer.
Next, Part 3: Ms. Tran asks the High Court: doesn’t lying about the settlement qualify as speaking about it? #curious (What’s the point of a confidentiality clause again?)
* This is the YouTube scholarship video Ms.Tran made after the settlement, that the school used in their defense. Basically, if SHE talked about the settlement in the video, why couldn’t they? The judge ruled that this was a non-issue (because there’s nuthin in this video) and was not part of the settlement details.