My premonitions about Dr. Cenci’s determination to reduce the number of outstanding court cases in Citta di Castello prove to be somewhat accurate. On the morning of May 19, 2009, our case against James Fat Boy Stephens, his geometra Leonardo Petturiti, and the building firm once known as LAME (boy does that look like a warning in hindsight, even though it means ‘blades’ in Italian) ends, not with a bang, but with a whimper.
It is at least fitting that Giorgio Merli, the frequently drunken builder who was probably most responsible for leaving gaps on our roof where water-proof roofing felt would more normally be applied, is present on the part of the now-defunct LAME (reborn as LACOS, in case they are on your roof as you read). On the other hand Giorgio is perhaps just one of life’s sad people; it is his brother who is studiously unpleasant and who perjured himself unashamedly in court. To Giorgio’s left is Fat Boy and to Fat Boy’s left is his bouffant court jester, little Leo Petturiti.
Cenci begins the way he means to continue: ‘Is it possible for the parties to arrive at an agreement? This case has been going on for nine years.’ He says this as if it is the fault of an organisation other than the one he works for.
Fat Boy’s Perugia lawyer offers Euro7,000. This is against an estimate (based on standardised, state-approved costs) of something over Euro13,000 that was calculated for the cost of repairs (most of them now done) to the roof. I say no, for two reasons. The first is that the Italian legal system being what it is we only brought one case against Fat Boy, when in fact we were unhappy about all sorts of things that happened at our house before we sacked him. This leads to the second, key reason, that what I really want is a decision by the court that says that what these people have done is wrong, legally wrong, and that ultimately we have a judicial system that establishes that. The defendants haven’t been conciliatory for the past eight years, they didn’t give a toss when the roof leaked in 12 places and my wife was pregnant (Petturiti finds this remarkably funny), they have sought at every turn to prolong the case, and it is not really a question of money, it is a question of principle and of being able to say that dishonesty does catch up with you.
Unfortunately, Dr. Cenci and I don’t seem to be on quite the same wavelength. His overriding concern appears to me to be to get the case closed — at least I don’t like the faces he makes when I suggest the court moves to a ruling, which would involve reading all the files (it is quite clear he has not read anything so far). Fat Boy’s Perugia lawyer ups the offer a bit, Cenci talks about the case going on for many more years, my lawyer points out that if Cenci allows the other side to send the court-appointed geometra to our house a third time — as has been requested — it will likely be two more years before we get even an initial decision which, of course, they can then appeal.
Numbers are discussed in the background. I am fairly sure that at one point Fat Boy offered more than I actually accepted. I am not really concentrating. I am thinking that I can’t face more of this when we now have estate ageent Davide Leonardi of Leonardi SRL to deal with (more anon). After nine years I have all the evidence I need that the local court system is everything that caricature books about Italy indicate. I have what I need for anecdotal purposes and it is time to start doing something useful. For nine years I respected the court, waited for it to do its job, and did not publicise what Fat Boy and his crew get up to. The few preparatory entries on this blog have not been publicised and they have not, according to the blog software, been viewed. Now that can change.
I accept Euro9,000 and ask Cenci a question: ‘Why is it that with a system like this there isn’t more crime in Italy? Why doesn’t every thief in Europe come here?’ It is a cheap parting shot, but it is also a reasonably serious question. Luckily for Italy, the predictions of mathematised models beloved of contemporary social science rarely stand up to empirical tests — if it were the case, this place would truly be an anarchic hell.
Finally, the farcical addendum. There is, of course, inevitably, a farcical addendum. After we leave, our lawyer recommends that we apply for state compensation that exists for people whose legal cases exceed the current duration ‘norm’ (around three or four years). My immediate response is that there is no way that I am taking taxpayers’ money to compensate me for the incompetence and inefficiency of the state. The lawyer’s argument, however, is that this is one’s only available form of legal protest against a system that does not work. We discuss, and eventually agree to go ahead, on the basis that if we get the money we will not keep it. The compensation is around Euro1,500 for every ‘excessive’ year in court. If you would like to recommend a deserving local charity, please do so…