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Pro Bono Stories: Carlos Sardi

This is the second in our series on Pro Bono Stories.  We would love to hear about YOUR Pro Bono Story. Carlos Sardi of Sardi Law PLLC, has been a pro bono champion his entire professional career.  Carlos is a former chair of the Pro Bono Committee of the Business Law Section and currently serves as President of the Bankruptcy Bar Association of the Southern District of Florida.  In recognition of his many contributions to pro bono, Carlos was awarded the Chief Judge’s Pro Bono Award by the Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Florida.

Carlos SardiDuring the pandemic, Dade Legal Aid’s Put Something Back Program referred a client to Carlos.  The client was disabled – she was unable to walk without a cane as a result of physical injuries and her disabilities.  The client’s only source of income was the meager disability check she got from the government due plus whatever her estranged husband would give her month to month.  The client made less than the poverty median level for Miami-Dade County.  She struggled month to month to pay subsidized rent and make ends meet.  With more than $25,000 of credit card debt, the debtor only had one asset she valued the most- – her 4-year-old Toyota Odyssey van which allowed a person of her height and heavy weight to comfortably get in and out of the vehicle.  The debtor had an adult son who had recently joined the military and daughter who was financially struggling herself with a minimum wage job.  From time to time, the debtor’s children would gift their mother some minimum amount of money to buy food and survive.  The sad reality was that the debtor could not financially survive without completely removing the weight of her debt.  So, Carlos filed a Chapter 7 case on behalf of the client.

The case went well, except that the Debtor’s Toyota Odyssey van appraised for more than it should have been worth, because of the effect of the pandemic on the value of all used vehicles.  Even with the $1,000 vehicle exemption, the non-exempt value of the van was about $8,000.  Even though it would cost money to auction the vehicle or sell it, the Chapter 7 trustee had to administer the asset.

After some tough negotiations with the trustee, the Debtor and the trustee ended up settling for $4,000 payable over a period of 16 months in equal monthly installments of $250 each.  This was not the result Carlos wanted to obtain for his pro bono client, but it was the best result available given the Chapter 7 trustee’s position.  The Debtor’s son has made the settlement payments on behalf of his mother from his small military salary.  The Debtor has been able to keep her much needed van.

Thank you, Carlos, for your continuing commitment to pro bono and for sharing this story with us.

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