Victory for Poor Mom After Center Challenges LA Court

In a recent success, a very low-income mom was able to file her court case because the Center challenged local fee waiver barriers.  The Center’s legal team went to the court of appeal on her behalf, and after extensive briefing on an expedited basis by pro bono appellate lawyer, David Ettinger, a partner at Horvitz & Levy LLP, the Los Angeles Superior Court reversed its prior decision. It granted Ms. S* the fee waiver she had previously sought, but had been denied.

Ms. S, a day wage earner without any job benefits or security, earning only $8 an hour, needed free legal assistance to see her kids.  Directed to the Center’s outreach site in South Whittier, she attempted to file her case with a request to waive fees. She fully anticipated being given a court date to hear the custody matter. To her shock, the court denied her fee waiver–not once, but twice. The Center helped her tell her story about living on $1,100-1,500 a month with reductions in time worked, to no avail. The Center marshaled its resources quickly, and the eloquence and legal prowess of Ettinger arguing on behalf of Ms. S and the Center, prevailed.

Immediately Ms. S filed her case and went to court-ordered mediation. The children have been with her on a shared basis since that time, and a court date is scheduled. In ordering a parenting evaluation, the judge waived the assessment fee.

Over the past two decades the Center has been a vigorous advocate on behalf of its indigent clients, addressing access to the family law courts.  Barriers impeding poor persons, such as improper denials of fee waivers, have been at the top of the list. “We are proud to be an institution willing to address problems affecting disadvantaged persons.” said Betty Nordwind, Harriett Buhai Center Executive Director.

*Name has been changed to protect the client.