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Lawyers make a difference for people and for society.
They solve legal problems, provide free legal help to
the poor, and give time to many other community efforts.

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Inspiring Stories of Service

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how lawyers can and do help…

pro bono service

More than a Minivan

Bodman lawyer Chris Bernard didn't just save Mr. L's minivan, he saved his home.

To Mr. L, his minivan was everything. It was his home, his shelter, and his only source of transportation. So when it broke down, he took it to the repair shop, hoping the repairs would be minor. They weren't. And because he couldn't afford to pay, the repair shop deemed it abandoned, the police impounded it and issued papers allowing the towing company to "scrap" it, and Mr. L was homeless.

That's when Bernard stepped in. He reviewed the case and discovered that the repair shop, police, and towing company may not have followed the statutory procedural requirements for scrapping the vehicle. As a result, he filed a petition in the district court to get the minivan back, as well as a second petition asking the court to waive the filing fee and bond requirement, which Mr. L was unable to pay. Both petitions were successful.

Upon receiving a copy of the petition, the impound lot finally came to the negotiating table, and it eventually released Mr. L's minivan for an affordable $175. Needless to say, Mr. L was thrilled to have his home back. His joy and gratitude were evident in a letter he later wrote to Bernard and Bodman Pro Bono Counsel Kim Paulson, who also helped on the case. The letter read:

"Thank you for all your help. I would have thought that this would appear to be a minor and frivolous issue to most people, but both of you took this very seriously and got a good conclusion as a result."

Meanwhile, Bernard's work did not stop there. Recognizing the problems in the system, and hoping to ensure impound procedures are properly followed to avoid future problems for other low-income people, he contacted the city attorney to discuss the matter and received assurances that she would investigate.

In the end, not only did Mr. L get his "home" back, but next time it needs a repair he will likely get better service, thanks to Bernard.

—Benjamin Ensroth

Do you have a Pro Bono or Community Service story to share?
it today to be included in our "A Lawyer Helps" story bank.

Chris Bernard



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