Joan Cain Boles joined Bay Area Legal Services in 1988 and has been the deputy director since 2000. Joan received her bachelor's degree from Southern Illinois University and law degree from The John Marshall Law School, Chicago, in 1982. Joan is past president of the Hillsborough County Homeless Coalition and actively participates in initiatives that benefit low-income persons and communities. Current responsibilities include oversight of client grievance procedure, LEP, and ADA coordinator. Joan is co-chair of the Professionalism and Ethics Committee of the Hillsborough County Bar Association.
J.P. LaCasse came out of retirement to join Bay Area Legal as chief operating officer in November 2009. Prior to retiring, J.P. was in charge of the Canadian, Mexican, and U.S. shipping activities of Canadian Pacific, and Chairman of Lykes Lines Limited. J.P. is active in the community and serves on the firm's Development Council and the Boards of Memorial Hospital and the American Victory Ship Mariners Memorial Museum. He is a Tampa Bay FBI Citizen's Academy Alumni. He is a 1973 graduate of the College of William & Mary School of Law and a member of the Virginia and American Bar Associations.
Alexandra Pullara is the development director for Bay Area Legal Services. She has extensive experience in marketing, public relations, fundraising, and donor relations. She started in 2014 as a marketing specialist and was promoted to development director in July 2019. She graduated from the University of South Florida with a Bachelor’s of Science in Public Relations and went on to provide development support to a nonprofit veterans organization that supports wounded heroes, among other marketing-focused positions. As development director, she uses her expertise to develop the organization's mission, doing her part to provide pathways to justice to those in need.
Dick Woltmann joined Bay Area Legal in 1976 to establish its elder law programs. He became chief executive officer/president in 1980. Before joining the firm, Dick served three years in the Peace Corps in West Africa and one year as a VISTA lawyer in Washington State. Dick is a graduate of the University of Florida Law School and Rollins College. Dick is past chairman emeritus of the Board of Trustees of the National Endowment for Financial Education, president of the Board of Directors of the Carrollwood Village Homeowners Association, and immediate past chair of the HCBA Senior Council Section.
Nery Alonso received her bachelor's degree in Criminology, magna cum laude, from the University of South Florida and her law degree from Stetson University College of Law. Nery is a staff attorney with the Volunteer Lawyers Program and the Centralized Telephone Intake (CTI) Unit, primarily handling cases with family law and housing-related issues. Prior to joining Bay Area Legal, Nery was an AmeriCorps attorney and staff attorney with Three Rivers Legal Services from 2010-2014, where she litigated family law cases.
Laura Ankenbruck has worked with Bay Area Legal since 2007 on the Family Law Team. She represents grandparents and other relatives who are caring for minor children. Laura’s position is primarily funded by the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County and generally involves the handling of child custody, guardianship, and adoption matters. In her prior positions, Laura worked as the program attorney for the Guardian Ad Litem Program in Tampa and on other cases involving child protection issues. Laura has her law degree from DePaul University in Chicago.
Ann Arledge has been an attorney with Bay Area Legal's Family Law Team since 2002. She joined the firm after over 25 years of practice in the private sector, including 15 years in her own firm. She has extensive experience in all areas of family law as well as appellate practice, and has successfully litigated before the Florida Supreme Court and the Second District Court of Appeals. Ann graduated, with honors, from Florida Southern College before receiving her law degree from the University of Florida.
Dawn Marie Bates-Buchanan graduated from Stetson University College of Law in 1998 and holds degrees in sociology, criminology, and child psychology from the University of South Florida. Dawn Marie, an attorney with the Florida Senior Legal Helpline, comes to Bay Area Legal after having been the managing attorney of the Daytona Beach office of Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida, leading its Family Law Section, and then the managing attorney of Gulfcoast Legal Service’s Bradenton office and practicing elder law. Most recently she had her own law firm in Bradenton, specializing in family, animal, civil, consumer, elder law, and bankruptcy.
Joanne Bello began her law career as a staff attorney in Bay Area Legal's New Port Richey office from 1998-2003, where she worked with seniors. In 2003 Joanne left to build a very successful law practice specializing in estate, probate, real estate, and social security disability law. In 2015, Joanne re-joined the firm on its Florida Senior Legal Helpline. Joanne earned her law degree in 1997 from City University’s New York School of Law. She received a bachelor's from Syracuse University and a master's from Long Island University, both in education. Joanne is admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court.
Ceres Bharath, better known as Nikki, is the LSC compliance attorney at Bay Area Legal. Prior to joining the firm, she was a pro bono volunteer with the Volunteer Lawyers Program. Throughout her career, Nikki has focused on immigration law, with a concentration on obtaining immigrant juvenile visas for unaccompanied minor children. She received her bachelor's in English, cum laude, from the University of Florida in 2008 and received her law degree from Florida International University College of Law in 2013.
Peter Bradshaw came to Bay Area Legal in 2018 after serving as an assistant public defender in both the 6th and 13th Judicial Circuits. He currently works in the Plant City office, representing victims of domestic violence. Peter completed his law degree at Stetson College of Law in 2012 and his bachelor's degree in Physics from Old Dominion University in 2007.
Lisa Lawrence Brody joined Bay Area Legal in December 2004 as the team leader of the St. Petersburg office, where her previous experience as a legal services attorney and extensive background in the area of housing law continue to guide the St. Petersburg office. Lisa graduated from the University of Oregon School of Law in 1995 after obtaining a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Oregon. In 2010, Lisa also obtained a certificate in Nonprofit Leadership and Management from the University of Tampa. Currently, Lisa is very active in her local community and in the legal services community.
Jennifer Broomfield is a staff attorney with the Florida Veterans Legal Helpline. She's a graduate of Brooklyn Law School and Hunter College School of Social. She has worked as an assistant attorney general for the State of Florida, Department of Children and Families, and as Branch UPL Counsel for The Florida Bar, where she was responsible for civilly prosecuting respondents accused of engaging in the unlicensed practice of law. Jenn has an extensive work history with the veteran population. She was the first national program manager for the Department of Veterans Affairs Intimate Partner Violence Assistance Program. Jenn has also worked as a Veterans Justice outreach specialist in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she accompanied homeless veterans to Homeless Court. Jenn also developed the Veterans Civil Justice Initiative Project, which resulted in a monthly volunteer attorney legal clinic for veterans as the Albuquerque VA Hospital.
Calli Burnett is a Team ABLE attorney. She previously advocated for Chicago students to receive the special education services they need and deserve in order to stay in school. She also represented victims of domestic violence in divorces and the best interests of children in guardianship matters. Calli received her law degree and masters in education policy from Loyola University Chicago. She served as a Teach for America member in Tulsa, Oklahoma, leading some 40 preschoolers to make growth in reading, number sense, and social-emotional aspects. Calli is a member of multiple bar associations and is passionate about expanding access to quality legal representation.
Ellen Cheek first began to focus on elder law issues in 1975 as a staff attorney for Senior Advocates, a unit of the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County, California. Since December 2005, she has been a staff attorney for Bay Area Legal's Florida Senior Legal Helpline. Ellen is also the Florida Elder Justice Coordinator and the co-chair of the Florida Bar Elder Law Section’s Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation Committee. An honors graduate of Mount Holyoke College and the University of Santa Clara School of Law, Ellen is licensed to practice in Florida (active), California, and the District of Columbia.
Mitzi Chen is a staff attorney with the Family Law Team. Mitzi earned a bachelor's degree from the City University of New York. In 2002 she obtained her law degree from Albany Law School. She moved to Daytona Beach, Florida, and worked for Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida, where her practice was concentrated in the areas of dissolution of marriage and domestic violence. In 2005 Mitzi relocated to Tampa and joined Bay Area Legal, and assists victims of domestic violence obtain injunctions.
Rebecca Cohn joined Team ABLE as a staff attorney in August 2019 after working for four years as an assistant public defender in Palm Beach County, Florida. Upon graduation from the University of Virginia School of Law in 2013, she was awarded the Mortimer Kaplan Public Interest Award for her leadership, integrity, and service to others. Rebecca is also a world explorer. After graduating from the College of William and Mary, she spent a year volunteering as a second-grade teacher in American Samoa, and before starting her current position at the firm she spent a year traveling through 46 countries across six continents.
Tiffany Coleman is a staff attorney in the St. Petersburg office. Tiffany graduated from the University of Central Florida with a bachelor's degree in English and a minor in health services administration. She obtained her law degree at Florida Coastal School of Law. Tiffany is the staff attorney for the Medical-Legal Partnership with Community Health Centers of Pinellas under a grant from the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg. She addresses the legal needs of patients that are directly correlated to chronic medical issues that impact the overall health of the patients.
Melissa Craig came to Bay Area Legal in 2013 as an intern and was promoted to a staff attorney position in 2014. Melissa was a member of the Fair Housing team until 2018 when she joined the Senior Advocacy Unit. Melissa is assigned to our Senior Home Ownership Protection Program (SHOPP). The SHOPP program provides advocacy and representation to seniors who are in danger of losing their homes. Melissa earned her law degree from Florida State University College in 2013 after obtaining a bachelor's in history from the University of South Florida. She is admitted to the Federal Court in the Middle District of Florida.
Nicole M. Del Rio is a staff attorney with Team ABLE. She primarily focuses on defending tenants in housing matters, including subsidized housing. Nicole also co-manages the Social Services Navigator Program, where social work interns address clients’ social needs. She maintains involvement in multiple voluntary bar organizations, including HAWL, the HCBA YLD, and the ABA YLD. Nicole graduated, as a first-generation student, with a bachelor’s degree in legal studies from the University of Central Florida and earned her law degree from Florida International University College of Law. Nicole speaks her native language, Spanish, fluently.
Tom DiFiore manages Team ABLE (Advocates for Basic Legal Equality). Team ABLE focuses on housing, consumer, employment and public benefits law. Tom earned a bachelor's degree from Georgetown University before graduating from the National Law Center at George Washington University. He came to Bay Area Legal in 1990. Tom has lead Team ABLE for over ten years. Team ABLE’s primary mission is preserving housing and maintaining income for our most needy citizens.
Bill Eble joined the Dade City office as a staff attorney in March 2018. He earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Notre Dame in 1976 and his law degree at the University of Miami in 1979. He arrived in Dade City in 1981, served as an assistant public defender for 15 years, and spent the last 21 years in private practice. Bill is pleased that Bay Area Legal has extended the opportunity to represent victims of crime in injunctions, family, and other civil law matters, as well as others without the financial resources to retain legal counsel.
Jeff Eckert is a part-time staff attorney in the Medical-Legal Partnership (MLP) program with Bay Pines VA Medical Center and Stetson's Veterans Law Institute. He has a bachelor's degree in social work and a master's degree in education from the University of South Florida. Prior to becoming an attorney, Jeff was a special education teacher in Manatee and Sarasota counties. Jeff has a special education and special needs planning practice in Sarasota and serves on the board of Family Network on Disabilities (FND) Manasota.
Christy Ferioli is a staff attorney on the Family Law team. Christy graduated from Stanford Law School in 2012. She began her public interest career as an EJW AmeriCorps fellow in the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles's Veterans Justice Center. Subsequently, she worked as a staff attorney in Public Counsel's Children's Rights Project and clerked for the Honorable James S. Moody, Jr. in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida. Christy has experience representing clients in a broad range of legal matters, including public benefits, family, education, and consumer law.
David Gomez is the Family Forms Clinic coordinator for the Volunteer Lawyers Program at the 13th Judicial Circuit Courthouse. He was previously a volunteer and intern with the Family Law group and the Volunteer Lawyers Program. As a result, David was the recipient of the William F. Blews Pro Bono Award from the Stetson University College of Law. He earned his bachelor's degree in political science from the University of South Florida in 2016 and received his law degree from the Stetson University College of Law in 2019.
Jeff Grabel has been an attorney with the Dade City office since 1998 and serves as its managing attorney. Jeff earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Florida and graduated from Stetson University College of Law in 1992. The Dade City office handles a broad range of cases from housing matters to consumer issues but the substantial majority of cases involve family law and domestic violence. Jeff is the treasurer for the East Pasco Bar Association and is a member of the Pasco County Domestic Violence Task Force serving on the Judicial Subcommittee.
Taylor Greenberg is a 2018 Equal Justice Works Fellow sponsored by Greenberg Traurig LLP and The Florida Bar Foundation. Her fellowship project is to provide representation to teenagers in group home foster care, to create a task force to improve outcomes, and to train attorneys across Florida on the unique model of representation she designed. Taylor received her law degree from Stetson University College of Law in 2018 with a concentration in social justice advocacy and is the founder of Child Advocates of Stetson Law. She also received a bachelor's degree in English literature, magna cum laude, from Florida State University in 2014.
Valory Greenfield obtained her bachelor's degree, with high honors, from the University of Florida where she majored in sociology. She received her law degree from the University of Miami School of Law and is a member of The Florida Bar. Val was a staff attorney, and later department head, in the public benefits unit at Legal Services of Greater Miami for 11 years. Thereafter she served for 19 years as a senior staff attorney at Florida Legal Services providing training, consultation, and litigation support to statewide advocates in public benefits. She joined the Florida Senior Legal Helpline at Bay Area Legal in 2015.
Mary Haberland manages the Centralized Telephone Intake Unit at Bay Area Legal. She came to the firm in 1985 as a Reginald Heber Smith Community Law Fellow. Mary earned a business degree from the University of Wisconsin before graduating from the University of Nebraska College of Law. She has held a number of management positions within our firm and has been a presenter at state and national conferences. In 2002 Mary created the firm's Legal Aid Line, our five-county telephone intake program. She also developed the Florida Senior Legal Helpline, a free statewide legal advice and referral helpline for elderly Floridians.
Cherilyn Hansen joined Bay Area Legal as an Equal Justice Works fellow sponsored by the Florida Bar Foundation and Greenberg Traurig, LLP. She works to ensure that homeless veterans have access to the legal system through community outreach and direct client representation. Prior to her fellowship, Cherilyn received a bachelor's degree from the University of South Florida majoring in Anthropology, a master's degree in international affairs from The George Washington University, and law degree from Stetson Law. Her goal is to create partnerships to find veterans who need legal services that can often help them stay out of poverty. This includes helping veterans and their families to navigate the complex VA system.
Jim Hengelbrok is the team leader of the Tampa Family Law Team. After graduating from Xavier University and the University of Notre Dame Law School, he started with Bay Area Legal Services in 1980. Jim has practiced family law, primarily on behalf of domestic violence victims, for over 25 years. Jim speaks Spanish and assists many immigrant victims of family violence. He was one of the founders of the Family Justice Center of Hillsborough County, which served many thousands of abuse victims from 2006 through 2013.
Jennifer L. Hodges is a staff attorney in the New Port Richey office. She went to law school with the desire to help victims of domestic violence and participated in the Family Law Externship which allowed her to assist victims in preparing applications for injunctions and attend ex parte appearances under the supervision of licensed attorneys. Jennifer has practiced in the area of family law since the beginning of her career in 2003, representing parents in divorce, custody, child support, neglect/dependency, and termination of parental rights proceedings. She received her law degree from Pace University School of Law in 2002.
Patrick Hogan is a staff attorney in the New Port Richey office having worked previously in St. Petersburg with the Community Law Program. A Notre Dame Law School graduate, Patrick built a successful law practice for more than a decade handling housing, probate, guardianship, bankruptcy, real estate, litigation, and other matters. He is a member of the Florida Institute of CPAs, and has served since 2013 as a director of the Florida Prepaid College Board or its direct-support organization Florida ABLE (ABLE United). Patrick has volunteered for years as a guardian ad litem, teen court judge, and housing authority hearing officer.
Elaine Holmes represents domestic violence clients in West Pasco County. She became a lawyer in 1977 and has Martindale-Hubbell’s AV rating. Elaine came to Bay Area Legal in 2007 for public interest law, which she finds richly rewarding. Before that, Elaine was in private practice specializing in real property, nonprofit entities, and government law. Elaine was recognized by the West Pasco Domestic Violence Task Force in 2008 and 2010. She is past Treasurer and board member of the West Pasco Bar Association. Elaine earned a psychology degree from Florida State University before earning her law degree from Florida State University College of Law.
Jena Hudson received her bachelor's degree, cum laude, from Rollins College and her law degree from Stetson University College of Law. Jena is the Pro Bono Manager for the Volunteer Lawyers Program. She previously worked on the Family Law Team, the Centralized Telephone Intake Unit and the Senior Advocacy Unit. Jena served on the Board of Directors for the Hillsborough Association for Women Lawyers from 2007 to 2017 and held several leadership positions, including vice president of membership and secretary. Jena was selected as one of Florida Trend’s Legal Elite Government & Non-Profit Attorneys from 2011-2016, and 2019.
Janie Inverso is a part-time staff attorney with the Fair Housing project. She assesses cases for Fair Housing merit, files complaints with HUD, participates in conciliation and settlement negotiations, and provides outreach and training. Prior to joining Bay Area Legal, Janie worked for Gulfcoast Legal Services as a family law staff attorney and title III program director. She earned a bachelor's degree, magna cum laude, from Barry Univesity and a law degree from Western New England College School of Law.
Alyse Kauget is a staff attorney with the Centralized Telephone Intake Unit. She joined Bay Area Legal in July 2008. Alyse graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelor's degree in English and psychology. She earned her law degree from Touro College, Jacob D. Fuschberg Law Center in New York. Before joining the firm, Alyse was employed in private practice handling probate and foreclosure matters. She also has worked as a staff attorney for Gulfcoast Legal Services.
Raeseen Kennedy is a staff attorney in the New Port Richey office, where she assists victims of domestic violence. Raeseen graduated from the University of West Florida with a bachelor's degree in legal studies and journalism. She received her law degree from Western Michigan University Cooley Law School. While in law school, she interned for The Honorable Judge Tracy Sheehan of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit. Raeseen joined Bay Area Legal in June 2017 as a volunteer and was promoted to a staff attorney position in 2018.
Otto Luis-Jorge is the Lawyers Helping Kids staff attorney in the Plant City and Ruskin offices. Previously he assisted low-income individuals in immigration matters by helping them to obtain various immigration benefits. Otto's focus was on helping refugees, Cubans, Haitians, asylees, TPS, VAWA, NACARA, and T and U visa applicants, representing clients before CBP, EOIR, ICE, and USCIS. He also had practiced in the substantive areas of family, corporate, elder, transactional, and criminal law. Otto received his bachelor's in English and English literature from the University of North Florida and his law degree from Florida Coastal School of Law.
C. Martin "Marty" Lawyer, III is the most-experienced attorney at Bay Area Legal. Marty received his bachelor's degree from Brown University in 1963 and his law degree from Vanderbilt University in 1970. Marty has provided representation in every conceivable type of civil legal case and has appeared in federal and state courts and administrative agencies at all levels. Substantively, Marty specializes in housing law. Functionally, Marty is a trial and appellate attorney. Marty was lead counsel in the national landmark case of Basco v. Machin, 514 F.3d 1177 (11th Cir. 2008).
Dorothea Lee is a staff attorney with the Centralized Telephone Intake Unit (CTI), primarily handling cases with private and subsidized housing or consumer-related issues for the Legal Aid Line and Florida Senior Legal Helpline. From 2006 to mid-2011, Dorothea was a staff attorney with Bay Area Legal's St. Petersburg office, where she advised CTI clients about a variety of legal issues, and provided representation in housing-related cases. Dorothea has a degree in Business Administration from the University of South Florida, a law degree from Stetson University College of Law, and a Master of Divinity degree from Emory University.
Caroline Johnson Levine, a staff attorney, litigates in the Senior Advocacy Unit, focusing on real property, probate, and bankruptcy matters. She was previously employed with the Office of the Attorney General Civil Litigation Bureau and also prosecuted criminal cases as an assistant state attorney for 10 years. She serves as an adjunct professor at the Thomas M. Cooley School of Law. Caroline has served on the Florida Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism and is the former chair of the Florida Bar’s Professionalism Committee and the primary author of the Florida Bar’s “Professionalism Expectations” (SC15-944). She now serves on the Florida Bar’s Committee on Professional Ethics. Caroline has served as the president of the Hillsborough Association for Women Lawyers. She was the co-chair of the Hillsborough County Bar Association’s Professionalism and Ethics Committee and has served as the chair of the HCBA Trial & Litigation Section. Caroline earned her law degree from Florida State University College of Law.
Nancy M. Lugo joined Bay Area Legal in 1999. As the attorney coordinator for the Volunteer Lawyers Program's No Place Like Home project, which helps clients obtain clear title to their homes pre-disaster, Nancy is expanding services to four other legal services programs. She managed the Volunteer Lawyers Program and served as circuit pro bono committee administrator from 20011 to 2017. Nancy graduated from St. John’s University School of Law. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Adelphi University. Nancy is a member of the THBA Board, HAWL, the HCBA, the Executive Committee for the Florida PBCA, and is a past Hispanic Services Council Executive Board member.
Linda Mann is the team leader of Bay Area Legal's Ruskin office and director of the firm's Fair Housing program, which works to improve the lives of clients facing housing discrimination. Before being appointed to her present position, Linda spent 13 years as a staff attorney with Team ABLE, during which time she was lead attorney for the firm's veterans services, and homeless outreach and prevention programs. Linda earned her bachelor's degree in business management from Eckerd College and graduated from Southern Illinois University School of Law.
Sarah McIlrath joined Bay Area Legal in 2016 as a staff attorney for the Florida Senior Legal Helpline. Before joining the firm, Sarah worked for legal services organizations in Georgia, Virginia, the District of Columbia, and Hawaii. Sarah graduated, with honors, from the University of Florida, Levin College of Law in 2004 and Agnes Scott College in 2001 and is licensed to practice law in Florida, Georgia, and the District of Columbia.
Carol Moody came to Bay Area Legal in 1991 and manages the Senior Advocacy Unit (SAU). She is an honors graduate of Stetson University College of Law and holds a psychology degree from the University of South Florida and a journalism degree from the University of Florida. Under her leadership, the SAU has received national, state, and local recognition. In 2010, Carol was named as one of Tampa Bay’s “Top Lawyers” by Tampa Bay Magazine, and in 2011 received a “Salt and Pepper” Award from the West Central Florida Area Agency on Aging for her tireless work defending the legal rights of seniors.
Jim Moss is an attorney at Bay Area Legal's St. Petersburg office. He came to the firm in 2003 from Gulfcoast Legal Services where he worked as an attorney for 14 years, primarily in housing-related matters. Before graduating from the Stetson University College of Law, Jim earned a degree in English and journalism from the University of Iowa and served in the United States Navy for three years. Jim provides advice, brief services and direct representation to clients scheduled in the office for housing and consumer law cases, and handles a high volume of intake through the firm's Legal Aid Line.
Erica Munz joined the firm in 2019 as a staff attorney in the Dade City office, focusing primarily on family law. Erica received her bachelor's degree from the University of South Florida, and her law degree and certificate of concentration in elder law from Stetson University College of Law. Erica has been a member of The Florida Bar since 2016, and her prior legal experience includes working as a child welfare assistant state attorney for the Sixth Judicial Circuit Court and in private practice concentrating on guardianship, estate planning, and elder law.
Stephen F. Myers is a 1967 graduate of Florida Presbyterian College (now Eckerd College) and a 1970 graduate of Emory University Law School. He has been a general litigator in Tampa for more than 33 years, with emphasis on personal injury and insurance coverage. He started with Bay Area Legal in October 2009, working part-time in the New Port Richey office. Mr. Myers began working full-time with Team ABLE in the Tampa office in June 2010 and divides his time between foreclosure work with Team ABLE and domestic violence injunction practice with the Family Law Team.
Maria Obradovich became a staff attorney with our Fair Housing team in 2012, and in 2014 she was assigned to our Family Law team. Maria received her bachelor’s degree in business, with honors, from Campbell University, while serving as an active duty member of the U.S. Marine Corps. Maria earned her law degree from Stetson University College of Law. There she was a founding member of the Student Veterans Organization, serving as the Pro Bono Chair. Maria is now an active member of the HCBA’s Military and Veteran’s Affairs Committee and of the Ferguson-White Inn of Court.
Randi Pataky joined Bay Area Legal in 2006 and currently works as a staff attorney for the Central Telephone Intake Unit. She obtained a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from the University of Florida, and then went on to obtain her law degree from the University of Miami School of Law. Before joining the firm, Randi worked for six years at Legal Services of Greater Miami, where she focused on family law and education law.
Nancey Penner, after 20 years as a teacher, received her law degree from the University of Pittsburgh and began her legal career at Florida Rural Legal Services in 1988. She came to Bay Area Legal Services in 1996 as a staff attorney in the Volunteer Lawyers Program. In 1997, she transferred to the Plant City office where she continues to work as a staff attorney. Nancey is a master in the Family Law Inn of Court and the treasurer of the Plant City Bar Association.
Gale Pinkston earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in social work from Florida State University. She graduated from law school in 1984 from the University of Pittsburgh and worked at Vanderbilt University before moving to Tampa in 1991, and accepting a position with Bay Area Legal. Gale spent three years on the family law team before becoming the team leader of the Senior Advocacy Unit. In 1997 Gale transferred to the Plant City office to become its team leader. She is a former officer of the Plant City Bar Association and is the project director for our Low Income Taxpayer Clinic.
Erin D. Rackauskas is a staff attorney with the Volunteer Lawyers Program. Erin earned her bachelor's degree in psychology from Spelman College and graduated from Florida Coastal School of Law. She worked as a new graduate for the Volunteer Lawyers Program before being sworn into the Florida Bar and became a staff attorney thereafter. Erin is the supervising attorney for the Family Forms Clinic and serves as an assisting attorney for the Client Intake Project. She also assists with managing pro bono case files and updates the legal resources used to aid and advise clients for client intake.
Tomoko Ransen is a staff attorney at Bay Area Legal's Ruskin office, primarily aiding domestic violence victims and practicing family law. She previously worked as a staff attorney with Gulfcoast Legal Services in St Petersburg. Tomoko is a graduate of the University of the Ryukyus in Japan (’95, LLB), Florida State University (’11, B.S.), and Stetson University College of Law (’15, J.D.). In 2016, she received the Sixth Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Service Award (student category). In 2017, she was a lapel pin recipient from the Supreme Court of Florida in recognition for her pro bono service.
Dan Reigle a staff attorney in the Tampa office, and has been with Bay Area Legal since 1999. Currently, Dan is working under a grant from the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County serving the civil legal needs of clients of Children’s Board partners. Dan is working in a variety of areas including housing, landlord/tenant, family law, domestic violence, relief from garnishment, and income maintenance. Dan graduated from Beloit College in 1981 with degrees in economics and Spanish. He graduated from law school at Hamline University in 1985.
Jennifer Robinson is a staff attorney with the L. David Shear Children’s Law Center. She has been working in child welfare since 2013 both as an attorney ad litem, representing the expressed interest of children as she does with the L. David Shear Children’s Law Center, and as a DCF attorney in child welfare. She has also done education advocacy for children, and continues to do so, including co-chairing the community collaborative High Quality Early Education for Dependent Youth (HQEEDY). Jennifer earned her bachelor's from American University and her law degree from Florida State University.
Susan Sandler is the project director of the Judge Don Castor Community Law Center. She joined Bay Area Legal in January 2004. Previously, Susan served as senior general counsel with the Florida Department of Financial Services focusing her practice on government regulation in the areas of banking, securities, finance, cemeteries, unclaimed property, public records, and bankruptcy law. Susan is a graduate of Stetson University College of Law and a summa cum laude graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in business administration.
Alexandra Srsic is the team leader of the Major General Ernest A. and Marilyn Bedke Veterans Law Center and manages the Florida Veterans Legal Helpline. She grew up in Tallahassee and attended Florida State University as an undergraduate and for law school. After graduating, Alexandra briefly worked on the firm’s Fair Housing project. Before rejoining Bay Area Legal in 2013, she worked at Florida Rural Legal Services as a staff attorney and as pro bono coordinator. Alexandra has assisted her clients with a variety of housing matters, consumer issues, and more.
Jason Susalla joined Bay Area Legal in 2009 as an intern working with the Community Counsel program. Jason was hired as a part-time advocate for the Centralized Telephone Intake Unit while maintaining a full-time job as a marine mammal trainer. He has been a full-time attorney at the firm since 2013, first working in the Senior Advocacy Unit. In 2014, Jason moved to the Fair Housing Team where he served clients at risk of discrimination in housing. Jason transferred to the New Port Richey office in 2018, primarily representing survivors of domestic violence. In April 2019, Jason accepted a supervisory position as the disaster relief coordinator of the Disaster Relief Team representing hurricane survivors.
Heather Tager has worked at Bay Area Legal since 1990, first as a paralegal, and after attending Stetson University College of Law, as an attorney for the Senior Advocacy Unit (SAU). While on the SAU, Heather primarily handled housing and relative caregiver cases. Since February 2013, Heather is the managing attorney of the L. David Shear Children’s Law Center, where she represents young children in the child welfare system. Heather received the Hope Cohen Barnett Young Leadership Division Award from the Tampa JCC/Federation, and was awarded recognition for her outstanding service to the elderly from the Hillsborough County Seniors and Law Enforcement Council.
Betty Thomas is a staff attorney with the Florida Veterans Legal Helpline. Betty received a bachelor's degree from the University of South Florida in 2009 and a law degree from Stetson University College of Law in 2012. Prior to joining Bay Area Legal, she was a managing partner of a small law firm focusing on the areas of family law and civil litigation. During her time in private practice, she provided legal assistance to the community through the Hillsborough County Bar Association’s Pro Bono programs.
Virginia Trujillo is a part-time bilingual attorney at Bay Area Legal. She obtained her bachelor's degree in humanities from Florida State University before graduating from St. Thomas University School of Law. Virginia first came to the firm in 1994. She worked with a diverse community out of our Wimauma office. She then spent a few years in private practice, concentrating on real estate issues. She left private practice in 2000 to work in the Homeless Unit at Legal Aid Service of Broward County. Virginia returned to the firm in 2007, and now provides legal assistance to elderly Floridians through our telephone intake programs.
Susan Miles Whitaker joined Bay Area Legal in 1997. Since 2000, she has operated the Legal Information Center – the firm's free self-help program in the George Edgcomb Courthouse. Susan has also written self-help instructions for pro se litigants and is responsible for revising the forms and instructions. Susan is the executive director of the Stann W. Givens Family Law Inn of Tampa. She also serves on the HCBA Family Law Section Executive Council and is Chair of its Public Access Committee. Susan is a graduate of Stetson University College of Law.
Pye N. Young is a staff attorney in the firm's St. Petersburg office. She joined the team in 2019 after maintaining a civil litigation practice for several years. She will specialize in assisting veterans in obtaining the VA services they need, as well as provide general legal counsel on other related matters. Pye received her bachelor's in interdisciplinary social sciences from Florida State University in 2001 and her law degree from Stetson University College of Law in 2005. She is very active in the local community and works as an adjunct professor for the St. Petersburg College paralegal studies program.