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Jim Kowalski

Jacksonville Area Legal Aid
President & CEO
Jacksonville, Florida
James A. Kowalski, Jr. was named the Executive Director (now President and CEO) of Jacksonville Area Legal Aid in December 2012. Prior to taking the post at JALA, he was a civil trial attorney based in Jacksonville, Florida, specializing in consumer protection litigation, including wrongful foreclosure and consumer fraud, complex personal injury, wrongful death, and premises liability litigation. He has earned a rating of AV (Preeminent). Mr. Kowalski is licensed to practice law in Florida and California and has lived and worked in the Jacksonville area since moving to Florida from Northern California in 1989, after graduating from the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of San Francisco School of Law. Mr. Kowalski served as an Assistant State Attorney from 1989-1996, acting as Division Chief (County Court; Public Corruption Unit) and Senior Trial Attorney in the Special Assault/Sex Crimes and ROC (Repeat Offender Court) Divisions; he was also a member of the on-call homicide team.

After leaving the State Attorney’s Office in 1996, Mr. Kowalski specialized in litigation and handled matters involving consumer protection, including wrongful foreclosure and consumer fraud, complex personal injury, wrongful death, and premises liability litigation. He has tried more than 65 criminal and civil jury trials to verdict.

Mr. Kowalski has presented numerous lectures in the area of consumer fraud and housing, including presentations on mortgage foreclosure and debt collection litigation and on issues relating to crime victimization, including the use of victim impact testimony in death penalty cases. He is a member of the National Association of Consumer Advocates (where he currently serves on the Strategic Planning and Membership committees), the Child Protection Team (CPT) Advisory Council, has served on the board of Compassionate Families, Inc., a Jacksonville non-profit dedicated to assisting the families of homicide victims, and is the past vice-chair of the Mayor’s Victim’s Assistance Advisory Council (VAAC). He is a recipient of the Jacksonville Legal Aid Pro Bono award for 2006 and 2008, the St. Johns County Legal Aid Pro Bono award for 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012, and the Florida Bar President’s Pro Bono Service Award in 2009 and 2011, for service rendered in the Fourth and Seventh Judicial Circuits.

Mr. Kowalski recently finished consecutive one-year terms (2014-2015 and 2015-2016) as President of the Project Director’s Association, which includes the directors of the civil legal aid programs in Florida.

In December 2010, Mr. Kowalski testified before the United States House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary on the topic of “Foreclosed Justice: Causes and Effects of the Foreclosure Crisis.” He also testified before the Florida Senate Committee on Banking and Insurance in 2010, and testified at length before the Florida Supreme Court Task Force on Residential Mortgage Foreclosure Cases in 2009.

In 2011, Mr. Kowalski was named “Consumer Protection Lawyer of the Year” by the Consumer Protection Law Committee of the Florida Bar and was recognized at the Florida Bar’s Annual Conference “For outstanding work protecting the legal rights of Floridians facing foreclosure and helping fellow practitioners of consumer law.” He is the recipient of the 2014 Peter E. Haas Public Service Award from the University of California, Berkeley, for his advancement of legal rights “…for the most vulnerable members of the community, ranging from adults and children who have suffered from a violent crime to those who have been victims of predatory lending and collection practices.” In June 2016, Mr. Kowalski received the Florida Bar Foundation President’s Award for Excellence, in part, for his “…unwavering commitment to improving the delivery of legal aid throughout the state…”

In November 2014, Mr. Kowalski was selected by Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga as one of 27 inaugural members of the Florida
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