A Tucson-area U.S. Air Force staff sergeant now has more than $4,800 back in his pocket thanks to the pro bono efforts of two Ballard Spahr attorneys in Phoenix. The sergeant’s homeowners’ association had obtained a judgment against him for unpaid fees assessed and collected through wage garnishments while he was deployed overseas. The case was settled in his favor last month after a two-year court battle.

Ballard Spahr attorneys Jonathon A. Talcott and Dean C. Waldt accepted the sergeant’s case in late 2012 after a referral from the American Bar Association’s Military Pro Bono Project. In March 2014, they convinced the court to set the judgment aside and then successfully pursued reimbursement of the garnished wages above the $452 amount actually due.

"We were very pleased with the settlement and glad to be able to be of service to a member of the military,” said Mr. Waldt. “Our client and his fellow servicemembers have dedicated their lives to serving our country. The least we can do is ensure that they have access to the basic rights they defend.”

The saga began when the serviceman was sued by his homeowners’ association for $452 in payments and fees that were not paid while he was deployed. The homeowners’ association failed to provide the notice required by Arizona procedural rules and under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, which mandates special due process procedures so that active servicemembers have the opportunity to defend actions against them. The association obtained a default judgment against the sergeant, which snowballed into more than $5,000 in assessments, costs, and attorney fees.

The sergeant, who was overseas on active duty at the time and had no knowledge of these events, only became aware of the matter when the homeowners’ association garnished his wages. He contacted an Air Force Judge Advocate General, who put him in touch with the ABA’s Military Pro Bono Project.

The ABA Military Pro Bono Project accepts case referrals from military attorneys on behalf of junior-enlisted, active-duty military personnel and their families with civil legal problems, and it places these cases with pro bono attorneys where the legal assistance is needed. The Project is also the platform for Operation Stand-By, through which military attorneys may seek attorney-to-attorney advice to further assist their servicemember clients.

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