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The Law Office of Mike Moceri is proud to be the recipient of the 2016 Pierce County Pro Bono Service Award
Mike Moceri was awarded 2016's Pro Bono Service Award for his dedication to helping the low income community in Pierce County. Mike volunteers Thursdays and Fridays with Pierce County Volunteer Legal Services to help with family law and landlord/tenant cases.
Just yesterday, I was sitting in a settlement conference on a family law case. My client was a disabled veteran, living on a fixed income of $2,400 a month. The mediator was an older gentleman, a retired judge. My client made a reasonable settlement offer - a one time payment of $2,000 to settle the case. The judge left the room to give the offer to my client's wife, who rejected it, saying she needed at least $3,000 to buy a car. The mediator came back into the room, asking if my client could pay her $3,000.
My client and I talked about it. He didn't have very much money -- he had retained my services on a flat-rate basis at a discount. We determined that he may be able to scrounge together another $500, but that was all he had. Not a penny more. We told the mediator that he could afford $2,500, and the mediator left the room again. What happened next was one of the most depressing and eye-opening experiences of my career so far.
When the mediator returned, he said that our offer had been rejected. It would be $3,000 or we were going to trial. The mediator kept repeating to my client that "it would cost him well in excess of $10,000 to keep his attorney through trial," and that my client was being stubborn for failing to settle "over a measly $500."
I was outraged. Not only would I never charge a disabled veteran on a fixed income over $10,000 to try his case, but my client couldn't afford to keep me on for trial regardless. For my client, $500 wasn't "measly." It's nearly a full month's rent. It's a car payment. It's food plus utilities. It's everything my client has. My client rejected the offer and we had to walk away from the table after four hours of negotiations because my client was too poor to settle the case.
What angered me more than the fact that my client wasn't able to reach settlement was the attitude of the mediator. His assumption was that ordinary people have plenty of money to live on, and that $500 was "measly." So many lawyers, judges, mediators, and court commissioners have absolutely no idea how ordinary people live, and how hard it is just to get by in day-to-day life. When you're working part-time, or when you're disabled, or when you have kids and a deadbeat spouse who won't help support them, it becomes almost impossible to get by.
For many Americans, the "economic recovery" has been anything but. People are working longer hours for less pay, and they can no longer afford to hire attorneys or even to settle cases out of court. For many in the legal community, that reality is completely invisible.
Not to me.
I understand that people need an attorney who will work with them, who offers affordable unbundled legal services, and who will reduce their fee for low-income clients. I work to protect the rights of ordinary people, not billionaires. That's why I'm proud to receive this award and to be able to help the thousands of individuals throughout Western Washington who otherwise would not have been able to obtain counsel.
If you have limited income, but want to ensure your rights are protected, give Mike a call at (888) 510-1961 today. Mike offers FREE consultations in-person or over the phone.
Posted in Family Law on Feb 11, 2016