FRLS Board Meeting Notice

The next Board Meeting for Florida Rural Legal Services will be held on Saturday, March 14, 2020, the meeting will begin at 10:30am @ the FRLS office in Fort Pierce, 121 North 2nd Street, Fourth Floor, Fort Pierce, Florida 34950. Attendance is not mandatory.

Please let me know ASAP if you plan to attend in person, so that I can have a head count for food and space.

Board packet to follow in separate email this week.




FRLS is proud to announce its new Board of Directors Chairman, Joshua K. Brown. Josh is a lifelong Polk County resident. Since becoming a member of the Florida Bar in 2003, Josh’s entire legal career has been spent with Peterson & Myers.  While his practice has always been concentrated in Polk County, Josh has litigated cases in state and federal courts throughout the State of Florida. Josh obtained his Bachelor’s Degree right here in Lakeland at Florida Southern College. He went on to pursue his law degree at the University of Miami School of Law, where he graduated Magna Cum Laude and was awarded the School’s prestigious Order of the Coif.


In addition to being a member of the Florida Bar, Josh has been admitted to the U.S. District Courts for the Northern, Middle, and Southern Districts of Florida and the Eleventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. He has served as a Guardian ad Litem volunteer for abused and neglected children for ten years, and he frequently represents pro bono clients as a volunteer attorney for Florida Rural Legal Services. For years, Josh has coached his kids’ youth sports teams in soccer, baseball, and basketball.


Peterson  and Myers has been committed to assisting the most vulnerable citizens in central Florida including older persons, veterans and victims of abuse and financial exploitation.  The attorneys at Peterson & Myers are deeply committed to the communities in which they live and work. Many of our attorneys were born or raised in Central Florida. As active participants in various programs and organizations, members of the firm have risen to leadership positions and have personal relationships with many other community leaders.






Florida Rural Legal Services selects Jaffe S. Pickett
as next Executive Director

LAKELAND, Fla. – August 1, 2019 – Florida Rural Legal Services (FRLS) has selected Jaffe S. Pickett, a longtime legal services attorney and executive with a passion for service, as its next Executive Director.

Ms. Pickett will serve as Executive Director, bringing a wealth of knowledge in the operation of Legal Services, having been employed with Legal Services Alabama since 2005. Ms. Pickett served as Deputy Director of Legal Services Alabama since 2018 and as its Director of Development since 2013. Prior to those roles Ms. Pickett served as the Director of Training, Call Center Director and Director of Alabama’s first Elder Law Helpline. She was hired at Legal Services of Alabama in 2005 specializing in Elder Law and working with the Central Alabama Aging Consortium in the Montgomery Office. She was named Legal Services of Alabama Employee of the Year in 2009, the same year she joined its Executive Leadership Team. She is a graduate of Troy University, cum laude, and Louisiana State University School of Law where she received both a degree in Civil Law Studies and a Juris Doctorate.

In her words, “This Executive Director selection allows me to combine my strengths in strategic partnerships and resource development and extensive background in planning and organizational operations from years executive level management to benefit Florida Rural Legal Services. I am excited about the future of FRLS and so proud of the exceptional services in place at FRLS. I am excited to join the board and staff in our program advocacy and community education, working together towards our vision of an inclusive justice system, where every person, regardless of their economic status, has equal access to legal representation. I look forward to years of expanded services and partnerships that will benefit our client communities and fulfil our mission of empowering and restoring dignity to low-income individuals, groups, and communities by providing them with equal access to justice.”

Ms. Pickett was selected as a member of the Alabama State Bar Leadership Forum in 2013 and appointed to serve on the Board of Trustees (Middle District) for the State Bar Lawyer Referral Service (2014-2017) and the Pro Bono Public Service Committee (2014-2018). She was appointed to the Alabama WINGS Steering Committee in 2017 and serves on the Board of Directors of the Central Alabama Alliance, Resource & Advocacy Center. Ms. Pickett authored a guidebook on Rural Economic Development Projects for legal aid and other community organizations in 2019 and has presented at numerous regional and national conferences including the Equal Justice Conference (EJC) and the National Legal Aid and Defenders Association (NLADA).

Ms. Pickett also served as Interim Executive Director of Legal Services of Alabama in 2016 and 2017 and oversaw its partnerships and collaborations, disaster work, grants, donations, external and internal communications, publications and marketing.

About Florida Rural Legal Services
Florida Rural Legal Services (FRLS) is a nonprofit that empowers low-income individuals, groups, and communities by providing them with access to justice through legal advice, representation, and advocacy. Founded in 1966, the organization has 70 staff members and seven offices in 13 counties to help clients with legal problems involving civil rights, consumer, employment, public benefits, economic stability, housing, elder, farm worker and other areas of the law. Each year, FRLS handles thousands of cases and continues to evolve in the quality and scope of services provided. To learn more about us, please visit:



FRLS’ Drive to Work Program highlighted in the Florida Bar’s Professional publication!

Florida Rural Legal Services’ Drive To Work Program

Advocates in Florida are also attacking the issue of driver’s license suspensions for indigent debtors. Specifically, Florida Rural Legal Services, Inc. (FRLS), a provider of legal services to low-income individuals, assists low income individuals restore their driver’s licenses through a grant from The Florida Bar Foundation. Erika J. Cruz and Lisa Dos Santos, attorneys at FRLS’ Drive to Work Program, work to resolve their clients’ unpaid court debt with the goal of full license restoration. Resolution of suspensions for non-payment of court debt can take place directly with the Clerks’ offices or by filing motions to recall the debt from collections agencies and allow the unpaid court

Florida Rural Legal Services Professionalism Newsletter



FRLS LITC helped resolve 2 cases at USTC Settlement Day in Tampa and after reducing each taxpayer’s’ liability by several thousand dollars

On September 18, 2019, the Office of Chief Counsel for the IRS in Tampa partnered with local LITC’s to offer taxpayers an opportunity to settle cases currently in United States Tax Court. LITC’s from Bay Area Legal Services, Gulfcoast Legal Services and Florida Rural Legal Services, Inc., were present and negotiated favorable settlements for multiple taxpayers saving them thousands of dollars. For example, in one case, our LITC was able to negotiate relief of the substantial understatement penalty for a taxpayer, saving the taxpayer 20% of the total balance owed, which was equivalent to several thousand dollars in savings for the taxpayer. Other cases which received assistance at Settlement Day involved innocent spouse requests, claiming improper credits, and under-reporting of income. Attorneys from the Office of Chief Counsel for the IRS were available and willing to provide feedback on the spot as to settlement offers made by LITC’s on behalf of taxpayers. A representative from IRS Appeals was also present to provide feedback and assistance. Settlement Days are an excellent opportunity for taxpayers already in US Tax Court or contemplating filing a petition to try to obtain favorable outcomes for their tax disputes. During Settlement Day, taxpayers meet with LITC and pro bono tax attorneys to discuss their federal tax matter, receive free counsel and advice, and, if they desire, present an offer of settlement (based on the advice they receive) to the Office of Chief Counsel for the IRS. The US Tax Court encourages taxpayers who have filed petitions to attend Settlement Day to attempt resolution in good faith. Another Settlement Day may be scheduled in early 2020, date TBD.



Congratulations to Colin Abbott  and FRLS on a successful Immigration procedural hearing!


Florida Rural Legal Services Staff Attorney, Colin Abbott, had a hearing before an immigration officer in Tampa related to a pending green card application his client had with her abusive ex having filed the I-130 petition. Mr. Abbot fought to prevent a denial of the underlying green card application.


At the hearing, Mr. Abbott asked the officer to adjudicate only the existing I-130 and requested it be denied based on the absence of the abusive husband and included in his request the option that the officer not deny the Green card application (which is done now systemically) and instead send it to the VAWA National Visa Center to be a part of the pending VAWA. Mr. Colin’s argued that the I-485 is the beneficiary’s application is not related to the I-130 petition which may have been abandoned if a VAWA petition was also filed.


The immigration Officer agreed with Mr. Abbott’s argument and thus denied the I-130 from the abuser petitioner and forwarded the existing green card application which was a victory for our client who no longer needs to file a new green card petition, pay the I-485 fees again, or provide supporting evidence.  Mr. Abbot is confident of the likelihood that the green card will be approved as well.


To support our domestic violence prevention and immigration work please visit:



September 26, 2018

Dear Voices community,

The Voices team is pleased to alert you to a simple-yet-powerful new resource, a 70-second animated explanation of why civil legal aid is necessary to ensure fairness in the justice system.

Kudos to the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation for creating the original version, and a big thank-you to the Kresge Foundation for providing support to make a universal version that we all can use to better explain what civil legal aid is, and why it is so important.

You can find the video on Vimeo by clicking on the image below. It is also available on the Voices website.


(Click on the image to view the video.)

Some possible uses for the video include posting to your organization’s Facebook page, adding a link to your email signature block, uploading it to your YouTube or Vimeo channel, tweeting about it, sharing the link with your supporters so they can share it on their social media accounts and throughout their networks, and embedding the video on your organization’s website. (Embed code is available by clicking the “Share” button on this page:

***channel 5 news coverage of the event ***FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


FORT PIERCE – August 16, 2018 – “Boys to Men Empowerment Summit”

City Commissioner Reggie Sessions in collaboration with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Saint Lucie County launched its second Boys-to-Men Empowerment Summit on Saturday, August 11, 2018 at the Percy Peek Gymnasium, welcoming 140 young men ages 10 to 22.

“The Boys-to-Men Summit is focused on providing education, advice, mentorship and guidance to young men on decision-making, raising the bar on our standards, and conflict resolution. This initiative is to help our young men become men, to reduce gang violence, improve graduation rates, and educate these young men on what it means to have a healthy relationship” said Commissioner Reggie Sessions.

The Honorable Judge Daryl Isenhower spoke to the young men about avoiding the pitfalls of crime. Stephen Fromang encouraged the men to stay on the right path. Deputy Chief Kenny Norris educated the youth on avoiding gangs and violence. Deputy Tommie Johnson highlighted information on the Juvenile Justice System: Awareness and Prevention, along with countless other pastors, and community leaders. Attorney Donald Watson was present, along with State Representative Candidate Kim Johnson. The event was a great success and will be offered at various times throughout the year.

Commissioner Sessions emphasizes that the event would not have been possible without event coordinators Jovona I. Parker, Esq. Staff Attorney at Florida Rural Legal Services, Inc. and Deborah Edwards, Recreation Supervisor with City of Melbourne, along with all of the community partners, facilitators and amazing volunteers.

The Summit was made possible thanks to the generosity of local business such as Boys & Girls Clubs of St. Lucie County * Florida Rural Legal Services, Inc.* Treasure Coast Food Bank * St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office * Tropical Recycling * Fort Pierce Utility Authorities * City of Fort Pierce * Hoyt C Murphy Jr. * Dunkin Donuts * AL Johnson & Associates -Jackson Hewitt * Kinfolks .* House of Meats * VIP Urban Fashions * MLB2 Barbershop * Chris Cutz * D Best Barber Shop & Beauty Salon *Treasure Coast Chapter of The Links, Inc.*



June 26 Event Assists Seniors with Legal Needs

“Resourceful Strategies for Older Adults” presented by Florida Rural Legal Services in partnership with Area Agency on Aging for Southwest Florida

Fort Myers, FL (June 12, 2018)— Seniors face an array of unique legal needs, including issues such as advance directives, elder abuse, and probate issues. To help Southwest Florida seniors and their caregivers better understand their legal options, Florida Rural Legal Services is presenting a half-day workshop, “Resourceful Strategies for Older Adults,” on Tuesday, June 26. The event is presented in coordination with the Area Agency on Aging for Southwest Florida (AAASWFL) and is funded through the Florida Department of Elder Affairs.

The June 26 workshop will be held from 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. at the Riverside Community Center in Fort Myers (3061 Riverside Dr.). Seniors and caregivers interested in attending should reserve a seat by calling Florida Rural Legal Services at 239-334-4554.

The event will assist FRLS and AAASWFL in identifying and addressing the legal needs of vulnerable seniors in Southwest Florida.

“We will discuss topics that are important to Southwest Florida’s older adults,” explains Lorraine Barker, paralegal at FRLS. “These include bankruptcy, divorce, domestic abuse, advance directives, nursing homes, and financial obligations after the death of a spouse.”

Florida Rural Legal Services is a nonprofit law firm that provides civil legal advice, representation and education for people with limited incomes, including elders and migrant workers. FRLS provides free services to those that qualify.  More information is available on the firm’s website:

The Area Agency on Aging for Southwest Florida is a nonprofit organization serving Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Glades, Hendry, Lee and Sarasota Counties. AAASWFL is the state’s designated Aging and Disability Resource Center for Southwest Florida.  The organization is committed to helping adults ages 60 and over and people with disabilities to live with independence and dignity in their own homes and communities. More information is available at or by calling the toll-free Elder Helpline at 966-413-5337 (866-41-ELDER)

Area Agency on Aging for Southwest Florida, Inc.

Helpline: 1-866-413-5337

Charlotte I Collier I DeSoto I Glades I Hendry I Lee I Sarasota



Tampa, FL, June 4, 2018  – Senior Connection Center is encouraging individuals to wear purple on June 15th in recognition of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD).

Did you know that every day 10,000 people turn 65 in the US alone? That trend is going to continue for nearly the next 20 years. Our demographics are shifting, and we will soon have more elder people in the US than ever before. At the same time that the population is growing, we know that a startling number of elders face abusive conditions. Every year an estimated 5 million, or 1 in 10, older Americans are victims of elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation. And that’s only part of the picture: Experts believe that for every case of elder abuse or neglect reported, as many as 23.5 cases go unreported.

WEAAD serves as a call-to-action for individuals, organizations, and communities to raise awareness about abuse, neglect, and exploitation of elders. The International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations (UN) launched the first World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) on June 15, 2006 in an effort to unite communities around the world in raising awareness about elder abuse. WEAAD is in support of the UN’s International Plan of Action acknowledging the significance of elder abuse as a public health and human rights issue.

If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Patricia Henderson at 813-676-5609 or email at

Florida Rural Legal Services Launches Drive to Work Initiative to Help Poor Residents Whose Driver Licenses Were Suspended or Revoked


LAKELAND, Fla. – February 28, 2018 – Florida Rural Legal Services (FRLS) has started a new initiative to help low-income residents of South Central Florida get their driver licenses restored after they were suspended or revoked simply because they were too poor to pay financial obligations to the courts.

FRLS’s new Drive to Work Project is focusing on providing education, advice, direct representation in assisting individuals deprived of lawful transportation needed to get to and from work, medical appointments, care for sick or disabled family members, and take their children to after-school activities.

The project is funded by a  grant from Florida Bar Foundation and will pay for two full-time attorneys and one part-time legal professional who will work with low-income residents  and individuals touched by the criminal justice system residing in the 10th and 19th Judicial circuit  including Polk, Highlands, Hardee, St. Lucie, Martin, Okeechobee and Indian River Counties

Close to 91,000 Florida driver licenses were suspended for failure to pay court-ordered financial obligations in 2015-2016 alone. Florida laws suspending or revoking driver licenses for failure to pay costs and fines has a devastating impact on people with little or no ability to pay.

Through the Drive to Work Project, FRLS will work to improve economic opportunities by assisting people in obtaining affordable payment plans which will allow them to have their driver’s license restored.

FRLS will partner on the project with Southern Legal Counsel in Gainesville, with its 40 years of experience working to make positive, systemic change to achieve social, economic, racial, and environmental justice.

Florida Rural Legal Services Executive Director Resigns

Grissim Walker Appointed As Interim Executive Director


LAKELAND, Fla. – February 19, 2018 – Florida Rural Legal Services (FRLS) is announcing that Donald Isaac has resigned from his position as the organization’s Executive Director, and the organization’s former Board member Grissim Walker has been appointed to serve as Interim Executive Director.

Mr. Isaac has devoted much of his professional legal career at FRLS, a Lakeland-based nonprofit that providing free civil legal assistance to thousands of seniors, people with disabilities, and other low-income people in many areas of the law. Mr. Isaac started out as a clerk in the organization and worked his way up to become staff attorney, senior advocacy director, deputy director, and eventually Executive Director.

“The Board thanks Mr. Isaac for his time and leadership provided to FRLS and wishes him well and only the best in his next endeavors,” said Arthur Schofield, President of FRLS Board of Directors. “Mr. Isaac worked to develop relationships and expand resources in those communities allowing FRLS to supplement its LSC funded activities. Under his leadership, FRLS has provided services to help the most vulnerable individuals and families find their path out of poverty, live independently, and contribute to making our society a better place for all; a commitment and path that will continue for years to come.”

FRLS’s free legal services will continue to operate without change, as the FRLS Board of Directors searches for candidates to fill Mr. Isaac’s position.

Mr. Walker assumes this position with a wealth of knowledge in the operation of FRLS having served on the Board since 2004. He also has years of experience in the area of civil legal assistance, having worked as a staff attorney with Gulfcoast Legal Services, Inc., from 1992 to 1996 and as an associate of Consumer Lawyers of the Suncoast, P.A., a private law firm from 2005 to 2012.  A native of Sarasota, Florida, Mr. Walker is a graduate of Duke University and Florida State University College of Law and holds a Masters of Laws in Tax from the University of Florida.

Mr. Schofield added: “The Board is confident that Mr. Walker will provide the best of leadership guidance to FRLS as the Board works to identify the next Executive Director.”