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Tampa Bay Lawyers to Receive Awards from Florida Bar

Florida Bar | Pro Bono Awards | Lawyers

They will be honored for their work with poor and indigent clients.

TAMPA BAY – Three Tampa Bay area lawyers are among 21 attorney statewide who will be recognized by the Florida Bar for their work with poor and indigent clients.

The three – Danialle Riggins, Erica K. Smith, and Jo Ann Palchak – will be honored during a 3:30 p.m. ceremony Jan. 25 at the Supreme Court of Florida. Watch it live at

Established in 1981, the Florida Bar President’s Pro Bono Service Awards are intended to encourage lawyers to volunteer free legal services to the poor by recognizing those who make public service commitments and to raise public awareness of the substantial volunteer services provided by Florida lawyers to those who cannot afford legal fees. Florida Bar President Michael J. Higer will present the 2018 awards.

The awards recognize pro bono service in each of Florida’s 20 judicial circuits as well as service by one Florida Bar member practicing outside the state of Florida. They are presented annually in conjunction with the Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service Award, which is given by the chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court. Awards recognizing pro bono contributions also will be presented in the categories of Distinguished Judicial Service, Distinguished Federal Judicial Service, Law Firm Commendation, Voluntary Bar Association and Young Lawyers Division.

In the most recent 12 months reported, Florida lawyers provided more than 1.5 million hours of pro bono services to those in need and more than $5.5 million to legal aid organizations.

Here are the 2018 Tampa Bay honorees:

Danialle Riggins, Fifth Judicial Circuit (Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion and Sumter counties)

Riggins said she does pro bono because “people matter.” Her commitment to pro bono service dates to her years at the Florida A&M University College of Law, during which she worked as a law clerk with Withlacoochee Area Legal Services (the predecessor of Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida). Since earning her J.D. and being admitted to the Bar in 2005, Riggins has provided pro bono legal services to low-income residents of Marion County. She participates in Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida’s landlord-tenant legal advice clinic, providing more than 100 hours of free legal services per year. Riggins was instrumental in helping CLSMF establish the landlord-tenant legal advice clinic, which is held monthly at the Marion County Courthouse. She also participates in community legal education events, making tenants aware of their rights and responsibilities. In 2008, she opened Riggins Law Firm, P.A., in Ocala, where she specializes in employment law, family law, landlord-tenant matters and real property.

Erica K. Smith, Sixth Judicial Circuit (Pasco and Pinellas counties)

Smith has been an invaluable volunteer with the Community Law Program in St. Petersburg, as well a guardian ad litem. She also is active in her legal and local communities, all while being a shareholder at Fisher & Sauls, P.A., in St. Petersburg. It’s a daunting workload, but then Smith has faced bigger obstacles. In her senior year of college, Smith was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Though facing an uncertain future, she applied to the Stetson College of Law, was accepted, and joined the honors program. However, the illness forced her to drop out for a year. Still, she returned and, in 2007 received her J.D. In her first year as a lawyer, Smith joined the guardian ad litem program and became a GAL to two teen mothers. She also served as a visiting GAL, making monthly visits to 12 children. When the program had difficulty finding a volunteer to take a case involving five children, Smith jumped in. She has been involved in about 20 cases involving children in the dependency court system who were abused, abandoned or neglected.

Jo Ann Palchak, 13th Judicial Circuit (Hillsborough County)

In her almost 12 years of practice, Palchak has donated about 5,500 hours of pro bono service. Palchak offered pro bono services while she was still at Stetson University College of Law, working with the immigration office of Gulf Coast Legal Services. She also donated research materials on gender crime to the International Criminal Tribunals of Rwanda and Yugoslavia. Palchak earned her J.D. in 2005, and after working as a law clerk and assistant public defender, she entered private practice in 2008. She now has her own firm, Jo Ann Palchak, P.A., in Tampa. Since entering private practice, she has contributed at least 200 hours of pro bono service every year, topping 1,000 in some years. She handled one case from the Innocence Project for more than eight years; has served as attorney ad litem to children through Crossroads for Florida Kids and through direct appointment; joined other lawyers in bringing a federal lawsuit to ensure the rights of migrant workers; and represented a federal inmate who was being denied AIDS medication.

Photo shows, from left, Danialle Riggins, Erica K. Smith and Jo Ann Palchak.

The Florida Bar | Lawyers | Pro Bono | Danialle Riggins | Erica K. Smith | Jo Ann Palchak |

Tampa Bay Lawyers to Receive Awards from Florida Bar
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Tampa Bay Lawyers to Receive Awards from Florida Bar
They will be honored for their work with poor and indigent clients.
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