Lefferts L. Mabie, Jr.
Lefferts L. Mabie, Jr. (known to friends and colleagues as “Leff”) was born in Bronxville, New York to Lefferts L. Mabie Sr. and Margarete Cronjaeger Mabie in 1925. The family relocated to Lakeland, Florida, where Leff graduated from high school in 1941 at the age of 15.
He spent the next two years at the University of Florida (UF), where he worked his way through college as a semi-professional billiards player and led the UF Billiards Team to win the 1943 Association of College Unions International Championship.
Later that year, Leff joined the U.S. Army Air Corps, where he qualified as a pilot, instilling within him a lifelong enthusiasm for aviation. During his time in the service, Leff went on to fly 25 missions with the “Mighty Eighth” over Fortress Europe. After returning home, he married Marianne Munson Smith, with whom he had two children (a daughter Margarete and a son Lefferts L. Mabie, III). He re-enrolled at UF, earning his law degree in 1948.
In 1950, Leff contracted polio, leaving him partially disabled. The aftermath of the disease did not slow him down. Although he was no longer able to participate in more active types of recreation, he managed to continue flying while maintaining a thriving solo legal practice. His expertise in the law and his reputation for fairness earned him a position as County Judge for Hardee County – a job he retained until stepping down in 1965 to join the Pensacola law firm of Levin & Askew, which eventually became known as Levin Middlebrooks Mabie Thomas Mayes & Mitchell, as of the time of Leff's death.
Leff's career as a lawyer was remarkable, where his legacy includes being considered the father of bad faith insurance litigation in the state of Florida. He received multiple million-dollar jury verdicts, during a time when such verdicts were rare. He served as the president of the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers, now called Florida Justice Association (FJA). He received the Perry Nichols Award, the highest honor bestowed by the FJA, and was listed in the publication Best Lawyers in America.
As a trial lawyer, Leff was willing to take on the cases nobody else wanted, particularly when his client was considered the underdog. He was not afraid of engaging in a legal battle in which the odds were against him. His experiences during the war and recovering from polio also gave him a keen understanding into the frailty of the human psyche, which made him a very powerful advocate before juries.
Leff was also generous with his time mentoring and advising younger, less experienced colleagues. Louis K. Rosenbloum, an attorney who spent two decades at the firm, once stated, “As a lawyer, Leff was charismatic, brilliant and imaginative...as a person, he was warm-hearted and generous, always willing to share his insights into the practice of law and life in general.”
Lefferts L. Mabie Jr. passed away in March 1996 at the age of 70.