Television pilot by Alan Nafzger (90 pages)
Legal Drama / Comedy
LOG-LINE – Her own divorce causes an attorney to move her practice from a Century City high-rise to an East Los Angeles washateria.
Attorney Toni Destrehan has been accustomed to ruthlessly handling high profile divorce cases from a high-rise office building in Los Angeles. She has practiced family law in one of Hollywood’s elite law firms. When her own divorce happens she is ostracized from her work at the firm, her reputation is besmirched and is she is financially devastated. Her husband hides assets and ruins her reputation. He does to her what she has been doing to people for years. She is told that after 10 years of orchestrating divorces of some of Los Angeles’ most powerful people, “the chickens have come home to roost.”
Toni is forced to open a family law practice in an East Los Angeles Washatria that she has inherited. And she changes into a better more compassionate attorney. More than half the cases she takes don’t result in divorce as she councils the couples before processing. She is far more cautious dealing with the bottom of society than she ever was dealing with the upper crust. She becomes a likeable character.
Toni refurbishes the washers and dryers and the building is open as both a law firm and a law office. Toni does collect some legal fees from her cash strapped clients; however, pays for everything in quarters.
When business is good and the washers and dryers are in use, it is a loud place to be. Toni then must abandon her desk and take clients into a back room for consultations.
Toni hires a homeless man as a receptionist and handyman, Concepción. While Concepción’s history is a mystery; evidently from his manners and good sense he was once an successful office manager.
Hard up for cash, she hires a sign maker to make a “DIVORCE” sign and it is hung over the “WASH” of the original sign “WASHATERIA”.
The fuel for drama is the question, “Can Toni save this marriage?” Sometimes, when able, she is successful. In other cases, she isn’t able to solve the problems, but in those cases a divorce is the best resolution.
Divorcateria isn’t really a show about a lawyer, or about Los Angeles or East L.A., or about politics, or about a woman. Divorcateria is a show about delicate relationships.
Toni is a character who is guilt ridden and obsessed with keeping families together.
Toni has a two year old daughter. For no reason except political corruption and judicial favoritism, she has lost custody of the child in her divorce.
Toni is bilingual (Spanish and English).
Toni is Catholic.
She baby sits for short periods to keep couples together.
She frequents a neighborhood bar, confiding in the bartender and always paying in quarters.
Ross’ straightforward, no-nonsense approach has served her—and her clients—well over the course of her 10-year career in family law. Those clients have included actors, rock musicians, and a number of heavy-hitting venture capitalists. Frequently when she needs a favor, actors and rock musicians from her past appear in cameo.
More than once, she receives referrals from people who watched her work from the opposing side, then sent friends seeking divorce attorneys her way.
There are a lot of good lawyers out there, but many focus just on the issues. Toni holds a much broader reach in mind that encompasses the well-being of all the people involved. She has an immense capacity for compassion that extends to all parties in the room.
Toni frequently says, “I only fire up my broom when I have to.”
It was Toni’s grandmother who initially suggested the legal profession to her granddaughter, who was all of 11 at the time. Basically, she saw that Toni had a mouth and figured she might as well put it to good use. Her grandmother, she adds, “was one of those elderly ladies who would sit at the back of the courtroom and watch the proceedings as a hobby.”
Ross was committed to pursuing law from the moment her grandmother suggested it. She went to Bryan University for her Associates degree and graduates from Occidental College, went on to obtain her J.D. from the University of Santa Clara, then headed to Los Angeles.
Once in L.A., Toni says, a friend dragged Ross to a legal mixer (“I hated those things”) where she met her future boss and husband, the notoriously quirky Walter Summer. He ran a busy, elite family law practice.
Ex-husband Summer exclusively hired female associates, but they didn’t tend to stay.
Summer was a serial adulterer but he did teach Toni the right way to do things. She is a stickler for detail, intolerant of cutting corners, meticulous in his selection of words, and she is harsh on herself about the enormous sense of responsibility that comes with doing this work.
The notion of family law has changed so dramatically and quickly. And always in the episodes is the realization that poor people can’t afford attorneys but are faced with many of the family issues that wealthy people have.
Toni likes fast cars and baseball. She’s an avid poetry reader, goes to the annual Burning Man festival. Before her divorce and relocation Toni was preparing for the opening of an exhibit of her photography from global travels. Toni’s been to Antarctica, Myanmar, Bhutan, Laos and Cambodia, has participated in ceremonies with Amazonian shamans at Lake Titicaca in Peru, and sat with a witch doctor in Zululand, South Africa.
Toni is frequently haunted by her successful “jet set” past. She has frequent flashbacks.
And, she is humbled everyday at her current job.
DIVORCE IN AMERICA
According to statistics, 29% of first marriages among women aged 15–44 were disrupted (ended in separation, divorce or annulment) within 10 years. It is commonly claimed that half of all marriages in the United States eventually end in divorce, an estimate possibly based on the fact that in any given year, the number of marriages is about twice the number of divorces. The National Survey of Family Growth has forecast in a 43% chance that first marriages among women aged 15–44 would be disrupted within 15 years. PolitiFact.com estimated in 2012 that the lifelong probability of a marriage ending in divorce is 40%–50%.
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