In The News / Case Studies 2017-11-01T09:01:42+00:00

Equal Justice Awards – Event Spotlight

Bill Sheppard and Samuel S. Jacobson
Attorney At Law Magazine, Vol. 2 No. 5

Gunster Partner Completes Daily Marathons for Legal Aid Funding

Daily Business Review, The Associated Press, 06/05/17

Freed celebrates marathon mission

Financial News & Daily Record, 06/05/17

Alan Pickert 2017 Lawyer of the Year

Financial News & Daily Record, 06/05/17

Local firms step up for veterans in need

Financial News & Daily Record, 06/05/17

Freed To Run: 6 Marathons in 6 Days

ECB Publishing, Inc., 06/01/17

Services offer legal help at an affordable price

Financial News & Daily Record, 05/25/17

Marathon mission to boost legal aid

Financial News & Daily Record, 05/24/17

Help is needed to ensure equal justice

Financial News & Daily Record, 05/17/17

Law students, Noon in June is just for you

Financial News & Daily Record, 05/15/17

Citizenship Day: 10 life-changing years

Financial News & Daily Record, 05/08/17

Trucker’s job regained, foreclosure avoided

Financial News & Daily Record, 05/01/17

Legal Aid celebrates fundraiser’s 10th anniversary

The St. Augustine Record, 04/05/17

75 attorneys provide services in 1st quarter

Financial News & Daily Record, 04/01/17

Helping those in need prepare documents

Financial News & Daily Record, 03/27/17

Finding Legal Aid May Get Easier

Capitol News Service, 02/03/17

St. Johns lawyer Jay Grife honored for pro bono work

The Florida Times Union,, 02/01/17

Pro bono spotlight: Program gives youth reason to be hopeful

Financial News and Daily Record, 01/02/17

Pro Bono Spotlight: Area law firms step up to help veterans;

Financial news & Daily Record, 10/17/16

October spotlights volunteer service;

Financial news & Daily Record, 9/19/16

HabiJax residents seek help;
Financial News and Daily Record,8/10/16

Pro bono spotlight: Ask-A-Lawyer visits JASMYN;
Financial News and Daily Record,8/8/16

Pro bono spotlight: Helping seniors sign on the dotted line;
Financial News and Daily Record,7/25/16

Ninja warriors help out JALA;
Financial News and Daily Record, 5/02/16

Lawyers help nearly 1,000 people at family law clinics;
Financial News and Daily Record, 3/21/16

Jacksonville Area Legal Aid director honored for public service;
Financial News and Daily Record, 9/07/15

Case Stories

Case Stories

Click topics below to expand for more information.

An elderly couple came to Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, Inc. asking for help after they had been sued in a foreclosure lawsuit for purportedly abandoning their home that they have been living in for almost 20 years. Not only was the couple forcefully removed from their home, but every single one of their possessions were thrown all over their front yard, including sentimental items that could not be replaced.

Their case involved a “reverse” mortgage, a sometimes risky mortgage product, available to people who are over 62 years old. No monthly payments are required with a reverse mortgage. The borrowers’ equity in the home is used to cover principal, interest and many miscellaneous monthly fees. A mortgage foreclosure of a reverse mortgage can be caused by a borrower dying, permanently moving away from the home, failing to maintain insurance for their home or by failing to pay ad valorem taxes. The elderly couple were “mortgage free” until they obtained the reverse mortgage to fund home repairs. JALA often sees elderly homeowners with reverse mortgage problems – for many, JALA is their only line of defense against a complicated legal process and servicer banks who far too often make mistakes during their collection process.

In this case, even though the bank claimed the couple had not occupied their home for a year, they were hand-served with the summons and complaint at the home. Despite being actually aware of this contradictory information, the bank proceeded to judgment, all the while the elderly couple had no idea the bank was claiming they did not live in their home.

 In fact, despite their advanced age, JALA’s clients were were considered the “grandparents” of the neighborhood, always holding neighborhood barbecues and actively involved in the community. Additionally, their yard had recently won “Yard of the Month,” a source of great pride.

Ultimately, due to the judgement, their home was sold at a foreclosure sale and they were forcefully removed from their home. When all of their possessions were thrown in their yard, the elderly homeowner slept outside in the rain, in a last desperate effort to keep the lenders from further taking anymore of their valued possessions. They lost irreplaceable heirlooms, one of which was a family bible signed by one of the borrower’s mother before she died.

JALA attorney Lynn Drysdale spent months on the case – going to court to set aside the judgment and undo the numerous errors the bank had made. Ultimately, Lynn’s clients were returned to their home.

Although many of these items can never be replaced, they are happy JALA was able to successfully get them back in their home where they can continue to be among friends, hosting barbecues and get-togethers with the neighbors that they so love.

While many of us know inherently that is it difficult to navigate the legal system without a lawyer, some may not realize that it is possible to do everything correctly, by yourself, and still lose and then need the assistance of a lawyer to fix something that never should have happened in the first place.
Take the case of Ms. A, a widowed single mom with an elementary school son.  She had been sued for credit card debt, and had properly appeared in Small Claims Court to contest the debt.  Unfortunately, even though she appeared on time, denied owing the debt, and wanted to proceed in court, the creditor in her case later provided a Judgment to the court indicating that Ms. A had failed to appear.  Relying on this misrepresentation, the Judge entered a Final Judgment against Ms. A, and the creditor then repossessed her car – her only means of transportation to and from work and her son’s school.
Ms. A reached out to JALA, and JALA attorney Ariel Cook took on this last-minute crisis, filing an emergency motion to set aside the incorrectly-entered Judgment.  Ariel was able to get the case heard at 3:00 pm the day before the car was to be sold.  After walking the Judge through the facts, the Final Judgment was set aside.
Ariel then personally went to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office to deliver a copy of the Order, and the Sheriff’s Office was able to cancel the sale.  Ms. A was able to pick up her car the next day.
JALA will continue to represent Ms. A, and Ariel hopes to completely resolve this issue.
JALA recently defended (September 2016) a single mother who was facing eviction from public housing because of criminal allegations against her 17-year-old son, who was no longer a member of her household.  The client was working to support her son and her 12-year-old daughter.  She had sent her son to live with his grandmother on a trial basis because there were signs that he was getting into some trouble at his school and in the neighborhood.  The client and her son’s grandmother agreed a change of environment might help.

Staying with his grandmother did not seem to be improving the situation, so they got the son into a residential youth treatment program.  A month or two later, the son left the treatment program without permission and without the client’s knowledge, and he was reported missing.  While he was missing, he was arrested for alleged criminal activity.

When the Jacksonville Housing Authority learned of his arrest, it filed an eviction case against the client, seeking to evict the client and her daughter.  The Housing Authority asserted it was entitled to evict the entire household because the son’s name was still on the client’s lease and his alleged criminal activity violated that lease.

JALA submitted evidence showing that the son had not actually been in the household for months and was in no way under the client’s control when he allegedly engaged in criminal activity.  The Housing Authority voluntarily dismissed the eviction case before trial, and the client remains affordably housed with her daughter.

Sadly, so many of our neighbors suffer from problems most of us cannot understand or comprehend fully. Consider the recent case we handled of a hoarder who was faced with eviction as well as a civil injunction as a result of his hoarding behavior. JALA was able to secure accommodations pursuant to the Fair Housing Act which accommodations afforded the client more time to come into compliance with the law.

JALA also assisted client in securing mental health resources directed at his hoarding behavior. Client is now moving from the subject property to a new home and, as a result, will no longer be subject to eviction or to the injunction action.

As a result of this case JALA has begun work with a local non-profit to set up a “hoarding task force” as resources for client’s with this particular mental illness are sorely lacking.

Nothing breaks the heart more than seeing a child in hospice care – imagine having legal troubles on top of that! In this case, our client had a medically fragile child receiving hospice care. As expected , the child’s condition only worsened   and the mother became ill herself.

As a result, client was unable to pay rent. JALA was able to assist by identifying problems with the eviction lawsuit and negotiating with landlord for more time to pay rent and waiver of attorneys fees. As a result the mother and medically fragile child were able to remain housed.

Our client has a young daughter who, sadly,  struggles with mental illness. the daughter was told by her doctor that an emotional support animal would be beneficial and may help to reduce the symptoms of her illness. The landlord refused to allow the support animal (a dog) into the apartment unless the child’s doctor completed an onerous and illegal form which the doctor refused to complete.

Our client was forced to move the support animal from the home and, as a result, his daughter ‘s condition worsened.

JALA attorneys demanded accommodation from the landlord and instructed the client to move the support animal back into the home. Thankfully our client now has the support animal in the home for his daughter’s therapeutic benefit and JALA stands ready to defend against any eviction from the landlord as a result of the support animal.

From the Financial News and Daily Record, 4/6/16

An immigrant family seeking asylum was referred to the Northeast Florida Medical Legal Partnership (NFMLP) for legal assistance. The family had an asylum application which had been pending for many years with no response. The family also had a young son with severe autism, a condition that responds to early, intensive intervention. Without the approval of the asylum application, the family could not access medical services and therapy for the preschool son prior to a five-year waiting period. Pro bono attorney, Rebecca Black, stepped up to try to assist with getting the needed asylum decision. Black described her pro bono efforts:

What were the basic facts of your case? My client had an asylum case pending with USCIS for several years after his asylum interview. He had asked Immigration for updates and never got a response.

What were you able to accomplish for your client? After review of his case, I prepared a letter for the Miami asylum office and made a follow up call requesting they let us know what information they needed to approve the case. I did indicate that I was getting ready to request the local congressman’s office assistance as it was outside of the required application processing time-frame. Within a few weeks, USCIS approved his asylum application.

Why was the outcome important to your client? The family has much needed stability. He can now become a permanent resident, he doesn’t have to go back to a country that is dangerous and in chaos, and his son can get the treatment he needs.

Why was the experience important to you? That is, what did you gain from the experience? It is always a good feeling when you can help good people achieve their American dream.

What is the name of your firm? In what areas do you practice? Rebecca Black Immigration, PA, Immigration- business, investors, employment, naturalization, residency, marriage, deportation.

What advice do you have for other attorneys considering pro bono involvement? Just do it. The rewards are great. And Kathy Para loves you. . . .

When NFMLP staff attorney, Katy DeBriere, was closing the case with the client, she received these comments from him, “This is certainly a great outcome, and we are so happy for that. Rebecca was so prompt and professional in handling our case and we are so thankful for her efforts!”

Black provided hope to this family and a chance for a new beginning. There is no better outcome than that. Sincere appreciation is extended to Black and the hundreds of pro bono attorneys assisting low-income clients with civil legal matters. Your work matters to your clients and to our whole community.

JALA Attorneys Prevent Mother and Daughter From Remaining Homeless

A Recent Case Study

As part of the Northeast Florida Medical Legal Partnership, JALA staff attorney Katy DeBriere meets weekly with Jacksonville residents seeking assistance at the Sulzbacher Center. JALA has found that connecting with the community is one of the most powerful ways to get proximate to the systemic problems which affect many in our region.

This past November 2016, Katy met Alicia, a single mom with a young daughter who had experienced years of difficulty finding an apartment. As a result, Alicia and her daughter were homeless and living at Sulzbacher. For years, Alicia had tried to find an apartment, applying again and again – and being denied again and again, due to a 5 year-old eviction judgment on her record.

Katy decided to look into the old judgment, wondering what could be done to remove this 5 year weight from Alicia’s past. She examined the case history, and, working with another JALA attorney, realized that the judgment should never have been entered in the first place. The underlying eviction had been dismissed, but because the judgment paperwork was tracking on its way to the judge assigned to the case, the judgment had been entered after the case was dismissed.

Alicia had been burdened by a judgment on her record that should never have existed in the first place – an issue that would have only been spotted by an alert, caring attorney.

After confirming the mistake, the JALA lawyers conferred with the landlord’s attorney, and, within a week, were able to secure an order setting aside the final judgment – removing the 5 year old burden as if it had never happened.

JALA will continue to follow Alicia to make sure the credit reporting agencies accurately update their records, so that she can now find a safe place she and her daughter can call home.

The hours of time spent by Katy and the staff at JALA, spotting and fixing this 5 year mistake, will prove far less expensive than the cost of providing homeless services to Alicia and her daughter. This sort of focused, caring attention to detail for our clients – clients who often have nowhere else to turn, and no one else with the skill set and perseverance to take the time to peel back time and reverse a 5 year mistake, is a JALA trademark.

Kay and a friend of hers made an appointment with JALA after the electricity was cut off from her house and the mortgage company threatened to evict her. Kay, mentally disabled since birth, was 59-years-old and had never received assistance of any kind for her disabilities. She was also caring for her 92-year-old mother with dementia.

Kay met with JALA attorney Katy DeBriere to work together on getting her qualified for emergency aid through the Department of Child and Families. Over the course of several months, Katy maneuvered the red tape and assisted getting Kathy qualified for Medicaid. With this new assistance, Kathy was able to receive help from a life coach, a job coach and a social worker. 

Today, Kay lives independently, happily works at Publix, and is involved in her neighborhood church. Shereceives regular medical care, psychological evaluations and assistance, and her mother is cared for in an assisted living facility.