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Silence in the Courtroom - The Justice Cafe'

I had a horrible experience in Court last week.

As is often the case, my case, the one which brought me to court, was not the first case called.  I sat through several hearings awaiting the call of my case. What I watched made my skin crawl and blood curdle because in case after case, pro se litigants (parties who don't have attorneys) were getting shot down and cut up like fish in a barrel becoming sushi and there was nothing I could do about it.

Attorneys are prohibited by State Bar Rules from offering their services, person to person, to a party who has an active case. The initiative has to come from the client. I could not whisper a word to these battered and beaten people, though the words I would have whispered would have saved them their hard earned money, access to their children and even their freedom. The words I would have whispered if only I could?  "Justice Cafe'."

I'll give you a case in point.  A father had fallen behind on his child support.  He had already been before the Court in February with an arrearage of  over $2,000.00.  His child support was over $1,000.00 each month.  He had been paying over $800.00 each month, not enough to pay all of his child support.  He couldn't pay the full freight because he had lost his job and had to find another.  His new job did not pay as well.  

So now he was in court again on another Contempt, farther behind than he was in January.  The judge did quite well for this fellow, going as far, or perhaps farther than he could go.  The judge told this fellow to hire a lawyer to get his child support modified.  He calculated the child support the fellow should be paying, based upon his new income.  It fell from over $1,000.00 to a little over $400.00. But the judge could not modify the support without the proper request from the fellow to have it modified.  This fellow was going to jail for the want of an attorney.

"But Judge," he plead, "I can't afford an attorney.  I can't afford my child support."  This fellow is right, when he's thinking about the traditional soup to nuts approach.  There he can expect a minimum of $2,000.00 to perhaps $5,000.00 for a retainer to hire counsel.  But what he didn't know, and what I couldn't tell him, was that the Justice Cafe' was right next door with attorneys who only charge $75.00 an hour and work on an unbundled basis.  They only do the work absolutely necessary to move the client's case forward.  The client handles the rest.

This case was perfect for The Justice Cafe'.  But the client wouldn't know that unless he happened to search for it or unless some well informed, kind friend made him aware. He couldn't afford $2,000.00.  But he could afford $75.00.

Unbundled services aren't for everyone.  They're not for every case.  But there are hundreds of thousands of people out there who could use a little legal help to get pointed in the right direction, to have all their ducks in a row, to have just the necessary muscle in court to ensure that justice prevails.  There is where The Justice Cafe' fits perfectly.  

The Justice Cafe' isn't the answer to everyone's prayers.  But it is the answer for many.  Pass it on!

Michael Manely

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