Pro Bono Attorney Forces Company to Comply With SCRA and Helps Soldier Avoid Default
While an Army servicemember was stationed in Hawaii, a Virginia furniture company from which he made prior purchases refused to lower an interest rate and obtained a default order in violation of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). The SCRA provides an interest rate limitation opportunity and protections against default orders for active-duty servicemembers. The furniture company had ignored several legal assistance attorneys’ warnings that they were violating the SCRA and proceeded to collect on the default judgment by freezing the soldier’s bank account, withdrawing funds from his monthly household budget and initiating garnishment actions against the servicemember. Military attorneys generally are not permitted to represent soldiers in state court, and the soldier was struggling to work with the court to simply obtain his case documents. As a result, the servicemember was facing a scheduled court hearing for which he could not access his documents, was unable to appear personally because he was stationed thousands of miles away, and could not find an attorney to appear on his behalf.
The hearing date was quickly approaching so the servicemember’s military attorney referred him to the ABA Military Pro Bono Project. Within only one week of the referral, the Project was able to secure representation for the soldier with a local pro bono attorney who had been actively involved in the ABA’s efforts to assist military personnel and veterans. This volunteer attorney was quickly able to obtain a favorable settlement for the soldier by which the furniture company agreed to reduce the soldier’s interest rate below the SCRA’s requirement. In addition to this positive result for the soldier, the company agreed to change its business practices going forward to comply with the SCRA for their servicemember customers.