A Miami-Dade circuit court judge ruled against North Miami Councilman Philippe Bien-Aime in a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a former city employee after the councilman did not show up for court on Wednesday. Bien-Aime claims he never got the summons, according to an affidavit filed by his attorneys Friday along with an emergency motion asking the judge to overturn the default judgment.
The summons was actually served to his son on March 1, who “was never told of the importance of the documents, only to ‘give them to your father,’ ” according to the affidavit. His son, who is 15 years or older according to court records, never told Bien-Aime about the documents, Bien-Aime said, and nothing ever came in the mail.
A judge will decide whether or not to overturn the judgment at a hearing scheduled for Monday.
Bien-Aime is currently a favored candidate for mayor in the upcoming city election scheduled for May 14.
Former North Miami staffer Janice Antoine filed the lawsuit in Miami-Dade civil court in February, alleging that Bien-Aime had assaulted her and repeatedly harassed her when she worked in City Hall in 2016. Bien-Aime, who was a council member at the time, has repeatedly denied the allegations, saying in the affidavit that he “deserves his ‘day in court.’ ”
Bien-Aime told the Miami Herald he had been aware of the lawsuit against him since early February. However, he said he was unaware of the May 1 hearing date. According to the affidavit, Bien-Aime never received any mailed notice of court filings because his address was incorrect on the documents.
Bien-Aime told the Miami Herald he never followed up on the case or looked at the docket, where the summons and hearing date are clearly marked, but denied any perceived negligence.
“I was on the campaign and I thought that my lawyer was working on it,” he said, when asked why he had not followed up on the case. “I was under the impression that he [the lawyer] was going to follow up.”
Bien-Aime’s attorneys, who were assigned to him by the city, declined to comment. The North Miami City Attorney’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
“Mr. Bien-Aime and his lawyers had the lawsuit three months ago,” said Antoine’s attorney Michael Pizzi “Mr. Bien-Aime does not seem to understand that sexual assault should be taken seriously.”
This isn’t the first time Bien-Aime lost a case for not showing up to court. In 2010, Bien-Aime failed to show up for a pretrial hearing in small claims court in Broward County, resulting in a $2,838.01 default judgment against him.
This article has been updated and the status of Bien-Aime’s federal court case removed.