Who We Are
We are a non-profit that provides free civil legal aid to the most vulnerable residents of Sarasota and Manatee counties.
Why We Exist
We are committed to providing access to justice by making sure the justice system serves the poor and not just those who can afford a lawyer.
Legal Help for the Poor is Necessary
Founded in 1990, two dedicated lawyers practicing in our community created what is now known as Legal Aid Manasota. Recognizing that the needs of those Sarasota and Manatee County residents living in poverty were not being fully met by any other legal provider, they created our non-profit civil law firm to focus solely on our community and serve only our local residents. There are nearly 80,000 residents in Sarasota and Manatee living in poverty. The need is great.
A skilled lawyer is a necessity in court. Complex court proceedings and requirements present major barriers to fair and just results. Legal Aid Manasota provides free civil legal services to low-income residents by partnering with local lawyers. This group of volunteer and staff lawyers helps stabilize homes, health, and families, making our community stronger socially and economically. In 2022 alone, our volunteer attorneys donated 4,000 hours of free legal services valued at $1 million.
Types of Civil Cases
Thousands of our low-income neighbors have come to us for legal advice, representation, and community education classes.
- disabled veterans struggling to maintain a permanent place to call home
- survivors of domestic violence seeking protection from their abusers
- tenants facing wrongful evictions
- disabled individuals facing discrimination
- individuals being denied rightful health benefits.
These are huge issues for a poor person. They are our neighbors. They hold jobs, pay taxes, pay rent, own homes, and have children. Fighting civil disputes without a lawyer means it is likely our neighbors will lose their cases in court.
Facts and Figures
- Opened 1,704 new cases and assisted close to 5,332 people impacted.
- Responded to 25,000 callers and online applicants.
- 2,132 children were helped
- Served 714 disabled individuals
- Served 356 domestic violence victims
- Served 522 seniors
- Served 176 veterans
Our dedicated staff is here to help you navigate through the legal problem you are facing. For your convenience we have three offices located in Sarasota, Bradenton and Venice. The Community Counsel Project is coordinated through our Sarasota branch.
Linda Harradine, Esquire
Linda earned her Bachelor’s degree from SUNY Geneseo and her Master’s degree in Social Work and a Juris Doctor from the University of Buffalo. She has been admitted to practice law in Florida since 1998.
Pamela Fields, Esquire
Pro Bono Coordinator
Pam has her undergraduate degree from University of Minnesota. In 2006 she graduated from Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport Florida and was admitted to practice law in Florida in 2007.
Jaime Del Castillo, Esquire
Staff Attorney – Venice
Jaime graduated from Florida State University in 2007 with a Bachelor of Science. He then went on to graduate from the Florida Coastal School of Law in 2011 and was admitted to the Florida Bar that same year.
Ryan Chapman, Esquire
Staff Attorney – Sarasota
Ryan graduated from Barry University School of Law with his Juris Doctor and was admitted to practice law in the State of Florida in 2010. He attended the University of Central Florida from 2003-2007 as a Lead Scholar graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies with a Minor in Criminal Justice and a Certificate in Security Management.
Janella Leibovitz, Esquire
Staff Attorney - Legal Lifeline for Youth Program
Janella received her undergraduate degree from the University of Florida with a BA in criminology and sociology. She graduated from the University of Florida Fredric G. Levin College of Law with Book Awards in Children’s Law and Trial Practice and was admitted to the Florida Bar in April 2000.
Paralegal – Bradenton
Paralegal – Sarasota
Executive Assistant – Sarasota
Receptionist – Sarasota
Board of Directors
Legal Aid of Manasota receives support, leadership and expertise from our distinguished Board of Directors. Our volunteer board members provide guidance and advice in areas of financial management, governance, and strategic planning to ensure that our organization is effectively reaching its goals and serving the community successfully.
A Note From Our Board Chair
As the board chair of Legal Aid Manasota as well as the elected Public Defender for the 12th Judicial Circuit, I am privileged to have a front row seat in our criminal and civil courts. It’s been my work and passion for over 30 years to remove barriers to justice for the citizens of Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties. The truth is our justice system works better for some than others. If you happen to be poor, there are overwhelming barriers to justice. By law, a defendant in a criminal case, gets a court appointed attorney (usually a public defender) if they can’t afford one. Unfortunately, the defendant in a civil case who cannot afford an attorney, does not have this privilege. If they can’t pay, they don’t get one. For 28 years, Legal Aid Manasota has been the champion of civil justice for low-come residents in Sarasota and Manatee counties. Legal Aid Manasota provides free civil legal services to low-income residents by partnering with local lawyers. It is this group of local pro bono and staff lawyers who helps stabilize homes, health and families, making our community stronger socially and economically.
It’s easy to assume some basic truths about our justice system. It’s easy to assume that everyone who encounters a life-changing problem such as wrongful treatment by a landlord or debt collector, a problem like child custody or being denied healthcare benefits will get a fair process in our civil courts. But for many low-income residents of Sarasota and Manatee counties who cannot afford to hire an attorney, they will lose their cases in civil court, not because they have done something wrong, but because they don’t have the legal information or help they need. Complex court proceedings and requirements present major barriers to fair and just results. A skilled lawyer is a necessity in court.
It is for these reasons that I am proud to serve on the board of Legal Aid Manasota. It is critical to have a civil justice system that works for everyone. Our board, staff and pro bono lawyers are grateful for the support we have received for 28 years. All of us are committed to the mission, strategic direction and financial health of our organization. We strive to maximize the impact of our limited resources. Regrettably, due to a lack of resources, more than 50% of the people who walk through our doors are turned away and don’t receive the legal help they need and deserve. Your support allows more low-income residents to have a fair shake. That works for all of us.
The Honorable Larry Eger, Public Defender
12th Judicial Circuit
2020 Board Officers
Larry Eger, Esq.
Fred Moore, Esq.
2020 Members of the Board of Directors
Edwin M. Boyer, Esq.
Deborah J. Blue, Esq.
Michael Harshman, Esq.
John Patterson, Esq.
Brian L. Trimyer, Esq.