Miscarriage of Justice (part #1)

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Dear Editor,

I am writing this letter to express my concern regarding an incident of abuse of power, I had to face in the Courthouse on St. Maarten.

On September 21st 2020, I went before Judge Paula van der BURGT, where by decision of aforementioned date, the divorce between parties was pronounce and the division of the matrimonial community was ordered. The plaintiff requested Naf 1500,- for spousal support.

On October 5th 2020, I returned to court, where Judge Paula van der BURGT, handled the processing of the plaintiff request for spousal  support. However the requested spousal support was increased from Naf 1500,- to Naf 1800,-. In my opinion this drastic increased was done intentionally to benefit the plaintiff, who is on pension and receiving an amount  Naf 1000,- monthly. The increased spousal support of Naf 1800,- together with the old age pension of Naf 1000,- is equivalent to the plaintiff’s salary she earned when she was working.

On November, 2nd 2020, judge Paula van der  BURGT, rendered her decision pertaining the request for spousal support. Her judgement in my point of view is bias in arriving at her orders and decisions.

In an effort to shed more light on Judge Paula van der BURGT abuse of power in the Court House on Sint Maarten, I decided to expose this abuse of power in this correspondent to the fully extent.

On October 5th 2020, I presented  Judge Paula van der BURGT,  several receipts,  pertaining to monthly payments for Credit cards, maintenance, septic, Garden and transport.

I paid  Naf 1500,- monthly for  two (2) credit cards.

Judge Paula van der BURGT opinion  was, that it doesn’t appear that I was obliged to repay Naf 1500,- monthly. And that the credit cards payments can also be made with a lower monthly payment and decided that Naf 350,- is sufficient. The credit cards costs concern community debts, that also are in the interest of the plaintiff.  When will I ever finish paying  the community debts with the monthly payment of Naf 350,- Judge Paula van der BURGT ordered?

Pertaining to the septic Naf 144,-; garden/maintenance Naf 790,- and transportation Naf 450,-. 

Judge Paula van der BURGT opinion was, that I increased the costs and  I have partly substantiated the costs I stated for septic, garden, maintenance and transport with documents and that it has not been shown and cannot be assumed that these are monthly recurring costs. However  the decision, by Judge Paula van der BURGT, on the one hand  that the costs are to high and or not recurring, but on the other hand determine an amount of Naf 350,- that should be charged for the above mentioned services is very contradictory.

Judge Paula van der BURGT, didn’t have to reduce the credit cards nor maintenance costs.

Judge Paula van der BURGT, reduced the credit cards,  maintenance, septic, garden and transport payments in order to award the plaintiff the requested and increased spousal support. 

Whereas in the meantime Judge Paula van der BURGT, also awarded the plaintiff Naf 400,- for transport without any evidence. Is this JUSTICE ?

Judge Paula van der BURGT, mentioned in her decision of November 2nd 2020, that the plaintiff also left the former matrimonial home, but forgot to mention the date. For the sake of clarity, the plaintiff live at the matrimonial home before, during and after the petition was filed, being June 10th 2020. The plaintiff left on September 21st 2020. Three (3)  months after the petition was filed.

Judge Paula van der BURGT,  went as far as to involve our adult daughter in this divorce case.  Entirely out of openness, I  informed her (Judge Paula) that the plaintiff received USD $ 500,- c.q  Naf 900,- monthly from our adult daughter who is living at home and that she (the plaintiff) no longer accepted the money.  However from the reasoning of Judge Paula van der BURGT, she didn’t mentioned this in her decision. Very strange.

Judge Paula van der BURGT,  immediately reversed the burden of proof and opining that the US$ 500,- c.q  Naf 900,-  raised by me must be deducted from my expenditures. 

Judge Paula van de BURGT, opinion is that my monthly expenses until November 2020, are budgeted at Naf 4,172,- after  deducting  (Naf 900,- as daughter contribution from     Naf 5071,-). And from December 1st 2020, Naf 3139,- after deducting  (Naf 900,-  as daughter contribution from Naf 4039,-).

In connection with the aforementioned, Judge Paula van der BURGT decided, I had  therefore sufficient financial capacity, also before December 1st 2020, to pay the requested and increased spousal support. “A divorce is between parents and not children”.

The plaintiff requested  spousal support with effect from the date on which the petition was filed, being June 10th 2020. 

Judge Paula van der BURGT,  granted the plaintiff the increased spousal support effective July 1st 2020, because according to her (judge Paula’s)  opinion, no defence has been filed against that effective date and she (Judge Paula) didn’t find  it unreasonable.

However by decision of September 21st 2020, the divorce was pronounced between parties. In view of Art 1:157 BW, I cannot be sentenced of an obligation to contribute to the plaintiff before  September 21st 2020.

As a matter of fact, as a rule of policy, Judge Paula van der BURGT, was obliged to use the  date of  the divorce decision  when determining the effective date in this case.  

Due to the fact,  I  disagree with Judge Paula van der  BURGT bias and wrong decisions, I immediately lodged an appeal.

My appeal was filed on November 30th 2020. Due to some “so called” misunderstanding  my appeal wasn’t sent to Curacao, but filed causing an enormous delay in my appeal case.  

I see this as an effort to delay my appeal hearing, in order for me to continue paying the increased spousal support of Naf 1800,- to plaintiff.

I also see this as a denial of meaningful access to justice.

On June 15th 2021, it has been determined by decision of the court that a meeting between parties will take place on June 30th 2021, at 2.30 pm in the Court House and that the Judge who will preside over the appearance of the parties will be Judge Paula van der BURGT.  

Because of Judge Paula van der BURGT bias and wrongly decisions in my case, I lost all trust and confidence in her and I immediately  requested my attorney to request her to recuse herself from the case. 

Judge Paula van der BURGT bluntly refused to recuse herself from the case, citing that  she sees no reason whatsoever to withdraw from the case. Because of my reasoned suspicion of impartiality, she (judge Paula) should have step down.

On June 30th 2021, the meeting between parties took place. Judge Paula van der BURGT,  

presided over this meeting and  refused  to talk about the acquisition of the matrimonial assets. I am not in a position at this moment to give further details, but I will definitely follow upon it.

The judiciary is the people last resort of hope and expectation.

I cannot remain mute in the face of what looks like an abuse of power. 

Judge Paula van der BURGT, openly exercised her influence over my case in a way that benefits the plaintiff.

The rule of law and judicial abuse of power cannot go hand in hand. If judge Paula van der BURGT continue abusing her judicial power, the rule of law will remain confined only to  books.

I believe it is way past time that we men standup, unite and send a strong message to  some Judges and Lawyers so that they can be fair, honest and impartial to both sides in divorce cases.

Can you imagine, this happening today, immediately in the wake of the big fight against corruption on St. Maarten?

I will be happy to provide a copy of Judge Paula’s decision  of November 2nd 2020, plus  any another documents to corroborate my statement I am making.

Julien Henry.