Haitian Orphanage Founder Asks Courts to Reconsider Defamation Suit against Paul Kendrick
By Edward D. Murphy
Portland Press Herald
May 12, 2017
The founder of a Haitian orphanage is appealing a court ruling that affirmed a decision to toss out his defamation suit against a Freeport man.
Michael Geilenfeld, the orphanage founder, had sued Paul Kendrick over an email campaign that began in 2011 in which Kendrick accused Geilenfeld of sexually abusing boys in his care. Later, Kendrick expanded his campaign to include Hearts with Haiti, a North Carolina charity that raised funds for the orphanage.
Geilenfeld won his suit in 2015 and a federal jury awarded $14.5 million in damages, roughly split between the charity and Geilenfeld. But last summer, a federal judge in Maine threw out the case and the award, determining that Geilenfeld hadn’t lived in the U.S. for years and therefore lacked standing to bring the suit in an American court.
Geilenfeld, a native of Iowa, has been living in Haiti and, more recently, the Dominican Republic, for decades.
The lower court ruling dismissing case was appealed to the First Circuit Court of Appeals, which in April, upheld the lower court ruling dismissing the suit.
On Thursday, Geilenfeld’s lawyers filed motions asking for the three-judge panel that made the original decision to rehear the case or for the full 10-member appeals court to hear the case.
Such motions are rarely granted. Under federal court rules, a case handled by the three-judge panel is reheard only if lawyers can convince the judges that a rule of law was overlooked or misapplied. A full-court “en banc” hearing is only for cases in which the judges decide the panel ruling was inconsistent with other court rulings or if the question before the court is of “exceptional importance.”
It’s not clear when the court will decide if it will hear the case again. In the case of “en banc” requests, no vote is taken unless one of the appeals court judges asks for one.
Usually, if an appeals court doesn’t rehear a case, the next step is to seek a hearing before the U.S. Supreme Court, which only takes a small fraction of the cases it is asked to hear each year.
Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at: