Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Horrible Neighbors or Horrible Me – Part 6

If you have ever been sued, you will know what I mean when I say it is not fun.  Now the judge gets to decide how the laws apply. While sitting in the back of a courtroom, watching and listening to the battle of words, I noticed the power structure – the judge front and center up high and each of the warring parties facing each other in front of her on either side.  

When I looked at what I had defined as the aggressors, images quickly flashed by in my mind as though a menu of emotional steaks were being offered up as temptations for the taking. Thankfully, I am aware of the consequences of accepting such dishes and therefore declined by getting out of the mind and focusing on the physical reality of the courtroom drama. This is a continuation of my story, Horrible Neighbors or Horrible Me – see parts onetwothree and four and five, which I have written over the last three years.

The gang of five appears to have dwindled down to two, who are sitting across the aisle in the chairs behind me. As the proceedings are all in Chinese, I am only catching 30-40 percent. Therefore, I watch the facial expressions and listen to the tonality of the words. Behind me, I can hear one of the gang, giggling condescendingly as my partner interrupts the judge. Purposely, I turn to the right and look back at him. I do this not to intimidate him, but to be certain that I do not experience intimidation.

Raising her hand as if to say stop right there, my partner (A) points her finger at the two lawyers on the other side and loudly counters what they just stated. After a while, the judge interrupts her for a second time and finally A. stops but only for about thirty seconds before beginning again. LOL: I even felt a little sorry for our lawyer, a quiet man from a law firm in Taipei. Every time he attempted to speak, my partner would interrupt him, take over with a litany of legal discourse and counter-speak that I did not really understand.

At first, I was concerned that A was not adhering to a code of conduct I imagined one would adhere to in a courtroom. Nevertheless, the more she spoke, the more I realized that, not only did she understand what she was talking about, but that is was also her right to speak out. Although, the judge seemed content to define the narrative along the lines of accepting the necessity of paying money in return for maintaining the peace, my partner made it clear that there was much more to the story (see parts 1-7 for that). On the surface, the judge’s suggestion that we pay the money in order to maintain the peace may have sounded reasonable to some. However, from my perspective, it is the same line used by gangsters to justify extorting protection money from people. “A lot of bad things could happen, but as long as you pay protection, we’ll make sure nothing happens to you.”

 I guess that, what the gang of five did not realize in the beginning, about my partner and I, was the diligence with which we would express our determination to see this matter through to the end. Perhaps, at the community level, it was easy for them and their cohorts to disregard community bylaws and ignore government regulations, as they pressured homeowners to hand over thousands of dollars to them. Perhaps, they also failed to consider that, my partner, a professional accountant, would scrutinize the financial records to find the error of $1.4 million NT, about $40,000 dollars being over-charged to the community. I also wonder if they have realized yet, that, A. is just getting started.

From our first court appearance, it looks as though the judge wants to hear testimony from some witnesses and is likely to order the community to pay an architect to inspect our roof. This indicates that, the judge rejected, as insufficient, the evidence they presented against us in an attempt to convince the court that our roof is dangerous. Accordingly, the two men (what is left of the gang of five) who were in the courtroom yesterday will have to convince the community to vote on and allocate this money or they will have to pay it themselves in order for the suit to continue. Thus, in addition to the $200,000 NT ($6,000 dollars) that the community has already spent on suing us, $60.000 NT more will be required if the community chooses to continue the suit. The downside is: if the architect were to declare our roof to be dangerous and in need of replacing, we would then be ordered to replace the roof and pay the $60,000 NT plus $20,000 NT in court fees, totaling about $380,000 NT, which would be about $7,000 more than we would have had to pay if we had just obeyed the gang and gave them the money to replace our roof.  So far, no surprises.

To those who would ask, is it worth it, I would say this. So much of what I do every day in relation to my students is to remind them that, if they do not stand up and speak out, no one else will.  Every argument has at least two perspectives and, in reality, there is right or wrong. Every move I make is but a guess as to the best move I am able to make. I realize that I have made some mistakes. However, in relation to the stand my partner and I are making, it is the same stand that I would have had the rest of the community make.

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