RALEIGH—The North Carolina Bar Association announced May 19 that Johnnie C. Larrie, the head of our consumer practice group and Economic Justice Initiative, is this year’s recipient of the Deborah Greenblatt Outstanding Legal Services Attorney Award. Read the announcement.
Johnnie will receive the award June 17, during the Bar Association’s Annual Meeting, which will be held virtually this year. Learn more about the Annual Meeting.
The Greenblatt Award honors legal aid lawyers who make exemplary contributions to the provision of legal assistance to North Carolinians living in poverty. The award is one of the Bar Association’s annual Pro Bono Awards, which are given to lawyers, law students, law firms and other groups for public-interest legal work. Learn more about the Pro Bono Awards.
The late Deborah Greenblatt was the executive director of Disability Rights North Carolina for more than two decades before her death from cancer in 2005. She was an inspirational leader in the legal aid and disability rights communities. Learn more about Deborah Greenblatt.
To learn more about Johnnie Larrie’s career as one of North Carolina’s leading consumer-rights lawyers, read the award nomination submitted by her Legal Aid colleagues.
Nomination of Johnnie C. Larrie
Deborah Greenblatt Outstanding Legal Services Attorney Award
In her roles with Legal Aid, Johnnie manages the statewide consumer practice group responsible for fostering litigation, general advocacy strategies, and practices that enhance positive legal, economic, and social outcomes for North Carolina consumers. Additionally, she manages a highly skilled unit of paralegals and attorneys who provide consumer case management, supervisory assistance, and technical resource support to field offices responsible for providing legal representation to vulnerable populations. Established in 1991, The Deborah Greenblatt Outstanding Legal Services Attorney Award, formerly known as the Outstanding Legal Services Attorney Award, is presented to an attorney who provides exemplary legal service through an agency or other non-profit entity that serves low-income communities.
Johnnie is an experienced consumer defense attorney with over 25 years of legal experience. Her entire professional life has been dedicated to advancing law and policy initiatives that promote public education, health, and economic development causes for socially vulnerable populations. She currently serves as the consumer practice group manager for Legal Aid of North Carolina (LANC). In addition, she is the Senior Managing Attorney of our Economic Justice Initiative. In both roles she oversees and manages LANC’s statewide consumer work.
Prior to working at LANC, Johnnie worked as general counsel to Community Reinvestment Association of North Carolina regarding its fair lending and fair housing work; general counsel to North Carolina Community Development Initiative in support of its community economic development work; and she served as a public policy analyst with the North Carolina Institute of Minority Economic Development. All these advocacy roles fueled her passion to advocate for economically disadvantaged clients and pushed her forward to develop the skills she needed to be a champion for those who were most vulnerable.
Johnnie is a dynamic, passionate, and dedicated Legal Aid attorney. She began her career at LANC in 2004 as the Managing Attorney of the Fayetteville Office, where she served until 2008. In addition to managing a full-time staff regarding their general substantive legal work, she was hired to use her experience and training to advocate on behalf of consumer clients who had become caught in the aftermath challenges of Hurricane Floyd. Many of those clients were still facing a plethora of consumer challenges, of which one of the most pressing was mortgage foreclosure. Too many people were losing their homes and on the precipice of crippling economic instability. She, along with Hazel Mack, the Mortgage Foreclosure Project (MFP) director, helped to develop and implement MFP, which began in Eastern North Carolina and later spread statewide. When Johnnie joined LANC, the mortgage foreclosure crisis that hit the state and nation had been developing for years. In dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Floyd, the MFP team saw the developing foreclosure crisis in NC grow at alarming rates. By 2008, the housing crisis intensified, and Johnnie’s skills were needed full-time as part of the MFP team. Johnnie, along with other members the MFP team, made significant contributions in identifying innovative legal strategies to assist low-income homeowners save their homes. They worked together with attorneys from across the state to defend homeowners facing foreclosure, by developing a loss mitigation/loan modification program, building a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy practice to help homeowners restructure their debts and regain control over their financial futures, and expanding litigation strategies to fight mortgage foreclosures in court and save homes. Incorporating Johnnie’s impassioned approach to consumer representation, the team pursued untested legal theories and broke new ground in the application of NC foreclosure law.
Johnnie’s passion, tenacity, experience, and leadership in advocating for consumers made her a natural fit to be selected to manage the MFP following Hazel Mack’s retirement in 2016. The MFP was recently renamed the Economic Justice Initiative (EJI), as the demand for expanded consumer defense representation necessitated enhanced advocacy beyond mortgage foreclosure work. As the Senior Managing Attorney of EJI, Johnnie leads an elite and highly skilled unit of attorneys and paralegals who provide consumer case management, supervisory assistance, and technical resource support to LANC’s field offices. The EJI team provides research and co-counseling support to local office legal staff with zealous defense of foreclosure and consumer cases; facilitates statewide and regional foreclosure and consumer defense trainings; develops collaborative advocacy frameworks with partnering government and nonprofit agencies to provide consumers with broad access channels for addressing mortgage creditor concerns and threats of foreclosure; provides financial education and program outreach to the client community at-large; and a host of other activities to support low-income consumers.
Although Johnnie has been an excellent leader who has performed remarkable work, she particularly exhibited superb leadership skills when she guided LANC and consumer clients through the rapid changes that affected consumers during the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 unexpectedly shocked our nation and millions of people experienced economic instability. Between January 2020 and May 2020, there were approximately 54,000 pre-foreclosure filings in North Carolina. Numerous LANC clients experienced financial burdens, and many were at risk of facing foreclosure. Johnnie swiftly acted by examining relevant laws including the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) to support homeowners during the pandemic. She also dedicated a tremendous amount of time preparing and distributing educational resources including memoranda, presentations, and email alerts to guide attorneys through laws and agency rules that impacted consumers in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. Johnnie spearheaded detailed, written guidance on areas such as foreclosure moratoria and loss mitigation options including mortgage forbearance and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy. Furthermore, she participated in virtual trainings about COVID-19 impacts on foreclosure, bankruptcy, and other consumer issues. Based upon Johnnie’s splendid work during the pandemic, many LANC clients were able to utilize protections to help them maintain homeownership. By the end of 2020, the number of pre-foreclosure filings exceeded 100,000. The preparatory measures Johnnie employed in response to COVID-19 will be invaluable to the comprehensive advocacy strategies required to go forward with ensuring protections for individuals and families to obtain and maintain economic stability.
Throughout her LANC career, Johnnie made an exemplary contribution to the provision of legal assistance to help meet the needs of low-income consumers in North Carolina. She strongly advocates for consumer rights and she is truly a relentless trailblazer whose leadership and consumer advocacy has protected thousands of consumers in North Carolina.
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Legal Aid of North Carolina is a statewide, nonprofit law firm that provides free legal services in civil matters to low-income people in order to ensure equal access to justice and to remove legal barriers to economic opportunity. Learn more at legalaidnc.org. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
Sean Driscoll, Director of Public Relations, 919-856-2132, firstname.lastname@example.org