An Army servicemember stationed outside of the continental U.S. needed to respond to a motion for child support but was not properly served because notice was sent to the wrong Army post. As a result, a default judgment was entered against the soldier and the court was threatening to hold the soldier in contempt. In addition, the underlying child support order failed to account for issues that the soldier would have addressed, such as his ability to provide military health insurance to his child. The soldier did not know how to address this, and the mother of the soldier’s child was represented by counsel. The ABA Military Pro Bono Project referred the soldier to a pro bono attorney who was able to get the contempt hearing vacated and rescheduled for a later date. In the meantime, the parties negotiated an outcome that was acceptable to the court and, with the help of his attorney, the soldier was able to successfully avoid a contempt finding.
A servicemember allowed her parents to care for her child for one year while she was on active duty with the Navy. During this time, the sailor supported her son financially while he was in her parents’ care and all parties agreed the guardianship was temporary until the sailor was discharged from the Navy and could care for her son full time. However, when the sailor was about to leave the Navy and attempted to retrieve her son, the grandparents filed for and were granted emergency temporary guardianship over their grandson. The sailor sought legal assistance to regain custody of her son but, because she could not afford an attorney, the ABA Military Pro Bono Project referred the servicemember to a pro bono attorney. With the help of that attorney, the guardianship matter was voluntarily dismissed by the grandparents and the sailor was allowed to return home with her son. The sailor and her parents also entered into an agreement including annual visitation by both parties to each other’s residences.
A Navy servicemember terminated his apartment lease early due to poor conditions in the apartment and crime in the area. The landlord filed a claim for unpaid rent and the servicemember paid the amount ordered. The next year, while the servicemember was deployed, the landlord filed another lawsuit. The servicemember did not receive notice nor or have any knowledge of the basis of the lawsuit. A judgment of over $5,000 was ordered against him, potentially in violation of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), which was set to be garnished from his military pay. The ABA Military Pro Bono Project referred the soldier to a pro bono attorney who successfully was able to persuade the court to vacate the judgment and dismiss the wage garnishment against him.
A Marine had learned that a mechanics lien for over $10,000 had been placed on his vehicle despite lack of evidence of any accidents to warrant the repairs. In addition, it appeared that under Florida law, the lien was placed on the vehicle prematurely. The ABA Military Pro Bono Project referred the Marine to a pro bono attorney who was able to persuade a judge to strike and set aside the lien on the soldier’s vehicle. Through additional litigation and a deposition of the mechanic’s representative, the pro bono attorney ultimately arranged for the return of the Marine’s vehicle and had the claim against him dismissed. The attorney was also able to arrange for the soldier’s auto insurer to reimburse him for the out-of-pocket expenses he incurred, including deposition costs. The Marine is indeed pleased with the outcome of the litigation with the help of his volunteer attorney.
A National Guard soldier had been unemployed, except for her drill pay, for approximately four years. She had fallen behind on her financial obligations – a situation which, if not corrected, could have adversely affected her eligibility to stay in the National Guard. The servicemember had been receiving unemployment benefits; however, her home mortgage, automobile loan and credit obligations were delinquent or in collections. Financial advisors and credit counselors had all been advising her to file for bankruptcy but she could not afford the attorneys fees for the bankruptcy petition. The ABA Military Pro Bono Project referred the soldier to a pro bono attorney who was able to file a bankruptcy petition for her. Over the course of four years, with the help of her attorney, the servicemember successfully completed her Chapter 13 bankruptcy case and has received a bankruptcy discharge.
An active duty servicemember in the U.S. Army left his beloved automobile with his mechanic when he was transferred to England. The mechanic was later evicted from his place of business and all cars on the mechanic’s lot were towed. The servicemember contacted the towing company and informed them that he was on active duty, stationed overseas. However, the towing company was unsympathetic and informed the servicemember that he would have to remove his vehicle and pay all impound fees or it would be sold at auction. Without a court order, this sale violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). The servicemember informed the towing company of his rights under the SCRA and provided proof of his active duty status. Despite this, the towing company sold the vehicle two days later. The ABA Military Pro Bono Project referred the servicemember to a pro bono attorney who filed a complaint in federal court on the servicemember’s behalf, demanding damages and attorneys’ fees under the SCRA. The towing company, eager to settle, contacted the attorney to agree to a settlement and dismiss the lawsuit. This case illustrates how the SCRA protects the legal rights of servicemembers, who may not always be aware of their rights without legal assistance.
An Air Force servicemember could not afford the mortgage payments on a home he was awarded after a divorce so he tried to negotiate modification of his mortgage loan; the bank refused. The servicemember then vacated the home and unsuccessfully tried to sell it. The home was ultimately foreclosed upon and the servicemember was sued for the homeowner association fees, served with court papers and received discovery requests as part of the lawsuit; however, because he was unrepresented, he failed to respond within the required time. Fortunately, the ABA Military Pro Bono Project was able to connect the servicemember with a pro bono attorney who assisted with his responses as well as the filing of additional pleadings. As a result, the lawsuit was dismissed and the plaintiff will be forever barred from suing the servicemember on the same claim. The servicemember was extremely appreciative of the pro bono legal assistance that he was provided.