MILWAUKEE — An Australian woman who won a Japanese civil judgment against a former American seaman she accused of rape 10 years ago has brought her long legal fight against her attacker to Milwaukee.
But whether a Wisconsin court will enforce the judgment is far from decided, as the man she blames for sexual assault denies a crime occurred and has hired his own lawyer to fight the unusual action.
Catherine Jane Umehara, more widely known as Catherine Fisher, sued Bloke Deans earlier this year, asking that a Wisconsin court order Deans to pay about $61,000 in damages that a Japanese court had ordered in 2004.
Her attorney, Christopher Hanewicz of Madison, Wis., argues that the state can enforce the Japanese order under the Uniform Foreign Money Judgments Recognition Act.
Deans’ attorney, Alex Flynn of Milwaukee, objects to the claim of jurisdiction and sought to have the suit dismissed. Milwaukee County Circuit Judge William Pocan has not thrown the case out.
“This doesn’t come across your desk every day," said Flynn, regarding the legal novelty of the case. “We really have no comment, other than we look forward to litigating. And we are confident in the outcome."
Fisher’s case has already generated publicity in her native Australia, where it was the subject of an Australian “60 Minutes" television news program; in Japan, where she has lived since 1980; and in the widely read British news magazine The Economist.
The Australian consulate staff in Chicago even attended one of the hearings in Milwaukee earlier this year.
“We have an interest obviously in providing the kind of support a government should provide its citizens," Deputy General Consul Lorenzo Strano said. “These are very delicate issues. When people come up against barriers, we try to assist as we can.
“We’re not normally involved in civil matters," Strano said. “This case is a bit different."