Thursday, July 28, 2016

I'm back with an important message! Don't trust Justice Hal Stewart

On Monday, June 20th, 2016 I appeared in Superior Court of Aroostook County, Maine, for a hearing on defendants' motion to dismiss my lawsuit... and discovered that the new judge, Hal Stewart, is dirty. Judge Hunter had been presiding over the case, but is now semi-retired. Hunter, I thought, showed leniency towards both the Martins and I. We were both pro se for some time. They later hired an attorney...I couldn't afford to.  

My lawsuit, CARSC-CV-2014-0001, against Ken and Deb Martin of Sinclair Maine has been lingering in Superior Court of Aroostook County since late 2013. The Martins are the former owners of the restaurant Long Lake Sporting owned by their son Neal. I worked as a waitress for the Martins for a short time before they fired me in September of 2011. They did that after I insisted that I receive an equal share of the pooled tips I had helped earn. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) an employer cannot withhold an employee's tips for any purpose, including training; and tips must be equally divided. I also told my employer that it was illegal to not pay me for hours worked simply because no customers came to dine.

At the time, I didn't know there were laws regarding tip pooling; I hadn't waitressed since high school in the early 1980's. It's very clear, however, from the many documents filed in the case - some by the Martins themselves - that certain practices at the restaurant were illegal. Here the rules regarding tip-pooling at a U.S. Dept of Labor website.

The Martin's attorney, Norman Trask, sent interrogatories to me, and I to them. Many of their responses were incomplete. And they withheld information I requested which was crucial to my claim: specifically payroll records which would show that other waitresses received more of the pooled tips than I for the same hours worked. Responses to interrogatories are made under oath. Lying under oath, and concealment of evidence is criminal. Their attorney had a duty to supplement the record if he came into any new evidence, such as statements made by his clients that contradicted their earlier statements.  

I let Judge Stewart know during the hearing on June 20th, about the incomplete and/or contradictory responses of the defendants; and I immediately filed these interrogatories and the defendants' responses with the clerk, along with a hand-written motion to compel complete responses and produce documents. I also requested a jury trial...stating that I had not waived my right, but simply couldn't afford the $300 fee. And I filed a request for a discovery dispute conference; but none was scheduled.

On the 23rd of June, 2016 on the same day that the police officer driving the van in the Freddie Grey case was found not guilty, Judge Hal Stewart dismissed my claim against Ken and Deb Martin. I'll appeal to the Maine Supreme Court.