Story of Justice: Tania Fights a Garnishment Order
Tania* is a cook in a pre-school cafeteria. She was of very humble means and suffered from high blood pressure. Her landlord had recently sold her home and gave her some time to move.
One day, Tania got the news that the court ordered a garnishment to help a creditor collect money from Tania. A garnishment order instructs a third party who owes money to the defendant to pay some or all of that money to the plaintiff instead of the defendant.
Between 2 accounts consisting of re-employment assistance, COVID assistance, and her wages from her job as a pre-school cook, she had about $5000, which made up all of her savings.
She needed this money to pay for her rent, and subsequently to find a new place to move.
Tania reached out to Legal Aid Service of Broward County (LAS) looking for free civil legal assistance. An LAS attorney recommended a garnishment action. Tania wanted to settle, so the LAS-appointed attorney tried reaching out to the attorney of the counterparty, but their attorney did not accept a settlement.
The bulk of the money was in the savings account, which was arguably not protected by a head of household exemption as the monies in the account were very hard to trace. In addition, she had transferred the re-employment and covid assistance from their original deposited account into her savings, which could likely cause her to lose the public benefit exemption to those funds.
LAS assisted in writing a memo, which supported her entitlement by law to personal property protection of her bank accounts, along with being head of household, and submitted the memo to the judge.
The judge agreed with the memo and provided a favorable order. The judge’s exemption order quoted our case law.
Why it Matters
Marking this as a win!! The case came on a continuation of a hearing, in which the judge was not apprised of the personal property protection. LAS used that time to draft the memo, which the client provided to the judge and opposing counsel before the hearing.
The judge granted the release of the accounts. LAS was able to assist Tania with the return of the money in both accounts, totaling almost $5000. This outcome prevented Tania from being evicted and allowed her to find a new home to move into.
*Names and images have been changed to protect the privacy of our clients
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