A 93-year-old widow living on a fixed income and raising her great-grandson would likely have been evicted from her ancestral home had it not been for the pro bono work of two attorneys from Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll, LLP.

Timothy F. McCormack, a partner in the firm's Litigation Department, and Michelle M. McGeogh, a litigation associate, were honored with a $1,000 prize at Ballard Spahr's 12th Annual Pro Bono Awards this week. They promptly donated it to the Domestic Violence Center of Howard County.

The pair were honored for their work on behalf of a woman who was facing eviction from the Catonsville home her family owned for more than 100 years. An investigation by a social worker who was trying to help the family save money uncovered a tangled ownership situation in which a neighbor held a "ground rent" on her home. A ground rent is a financing device by which a prior owner received a sum of money and, in exchange, subsequent owners make payments in perpetuity to the ground rent holder. In this case, the widow was required to pay $30 a year. She missed three payments, and the neighbor foreclosed on the home.

Foreclosure notices were never sent to the widow because the neighbor's attorney told the court she was dead. Mr. McCormack and Ms. McGeogh were able to ensure that the woman was paid for her interest in the property. She has since moved in with family in Pennsylvania.

"It was a privilege to work on this case and help someone who otherwise might have fallen through the cracks," Mr. McCormack said. "This economy can bring out the worst in people, but it can be inspiring, too. Helping this client was particularly rewarding for us."

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