Attorneys Laura Boeckman and Jay Grife on Thursday in Tallahassee were awarded the Florida Bar President’s Pro Bono Award.
Boeckman accepted the honor for the 4th Judicial Circuit.
Grife, unable to attend to accept his award in person, was recognized for his work in the 7th Judicial Circuit.
Boeckman has assisted dozens of low-income people through legal clinics and has provided hundreds of hours of representation, primarily focusing on consumer disputes.
She has accepted cases referred by Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, the U.S. District Court and the American Bar Association’s Military Pro Bono Project.
Boeckman’s volunteerism has not been limited to case representation.
She also has served as a mentor, guide and expert for pro bono and legal services staff attorneys. She has developed and presented educational topics available for volunteer attorney training across the state.
Boeckman was one of the coaches in the 4th Circuit for the Bankruptcy Pro Bono Practice Groups, in which new attorneys join a practice group to gain experience, receive guidance and assist clients.
The effort helped clear a backlog of bankruptcy cases and fostered a new group of committed volunteer attorneys.
When Boeckman joined the staff of the state attorney general in the Consumer Protection Unit, she continued to look for ways to participate in pro bono efforts as a government attorney and to increase access to justice for low-income Floridians.
She is a presenter in the Lawyers in Libraries project and speaks filing claims in small claims court and bankruptcy and credit issues.
Boeckman has presented to new homeowners and clients of Habitat for Humanity about their rights as consumers when buying or financing a home or a car.
She holds a leadership position in the Chester Bedell Inn of Court and initiated the group’s pro bono project.
The president of the Jacksonville chapter of the Federal Bar Association, Boeckman has supported the participation of members in the Federal Legal Assistance Program in which federal practice attorneys work with legal services staff attorneys to provide guidance for pro se litigants in brief counsel and advice sessions.
Boeckman also serves as the co-chair of the Pro Bono Committee of The Jacksonville Bar Association. She has been instrumental in launching the JBA Pro Bono Initiative, a focused effort to define and implement pro bono projects in each of the association’s subcommittees.
Grife’s pro bono efforts focus primarily on representing low-income residents of St. Johns County in consumer finance and banking matters.
He represents foreclosure defendants, victims of predatory lending and door-to-door consumer fraud, victims of wrongful garnishment, defendants in suits filed by junk debt buyers, questionable used car sales and elderly clients who have been the victims of predatory lending and sales practices.
Since January 2014, Grife has contributed hundreds of hours to case representation, client intake and case review at the St. Johns County office of Jacksonville Area Legal Aid.
In one case, a 94-year-old client came for help because her house was in foreclosure. The client had no knowledge of a mortgage on her home and could not understand why she was in foreclosure.
Grife quickly agreed to assist her with the foreclosure and started investigating.
He learned a relative of the client had fraudulently obtained a reverse mortgage on the home and was using a power of attorney without the client’s consent.
Furthermore, the bank was not foreclosing because the homeowner had not paid an obligation under the mortgage. Instead, the bank claimed she no longer lived in her house and that was grounds to foreclose under the terms of the reverse mortgage.
The lending institution failed to complete its due diligence before filing suit and failed to discover the client had at all times occupied the house as her primary residence.
In fact, the bank had her served with the foreclosure papers at the house they claimed she no longer occupied.
In the end, Grife helped the client set aside the default and defended the foreclosure. He helped her save her home despite the bank proceeding with the foreclosure case even after being informed of its error.
Boeckman and Grife are steadfast believers that justice should not be only for the wealthy.
They understand the law needs to protect indigent people, especially from those who engage in deceptive practices, because the impact on the indigent can be catastrophic.
Their efforts have not only leveled the playing field, they have helped lift people out of poverty and have helped families establish sound economic footing.
Attorneys interested in pro bono opportunities are encouraged to contact [email protected]