Two Lawyers and MidPenn Legal Services to Be Recognized for Outstanding Pro Bono Service by the Pennsylvania Bar Foundation

HARRISBURG (May 12, 2021) — The Pennsylvania Bar Foundation selected lawyers Donald F. Smith, a volunteer attorney at MidPenn Legal Services in Reading, and Diana K. Ingersoll, a staff attorney at MidPenn Legal Services in Altoona, as well as Ingersoll’s employer MidPenn Legal Services for 2021 Louis J. Goffman Awards.

The Goffman Award is named for a late Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA) president and recognizes individuals and organizations committed to outstanding pro bono service.

Donald F. Smith

After stepping down as executive director of the Berks County Bar Association in 2018, Smith focused his energy on starting up the Eviction Prevention Pilot Program at MidPenn Legal Services’ Reading Office as a volunteer attorney. Since September 2020, Smith has volunteered more than 100 hours and provided legal counsel in more than 200 landlord-tenant cases. In addition, he spent many hours studying landlord-tenant law, meeting with community stakeholders to secure funding and recruiting volunteer attorneys to provide pro bono legal representation to tenants facing eviction.

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, a greater urgency emerged for providing tenants with a lifeline. Smith’s pilot program received enough funding from the federal CARES Act and other pandemic-related relief programs to get it started. Smith regularly explains to tenants and landlords the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention moratorium on evictions, the rights afforded to tenants under the moratorium and the process for applying for pandemic-related rental assistance. Smith was also successful in adding notices regarding rental assistance information and the legal help available to landlord­tenant court filings.

Since Smith has started the Eviction Prevention Pilot Program, tenants rarely miss court appearances and judgments against tenants have dropped about 78%. Approximately, 10 attorneys are volunteering their time for the program currently.

Prior to working at the Berks County Bar Association, Smith was a shareholder practicing workers’ compensation defense at Liever, Hyman & Potter PC and a law clerk at the Court of Common Pleas of Berks County. He graduated from Penn State Dickinson School of Law and Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania.

Smith is a member of the PBA House of Delegates, co-vice chair of the Legal Services to the Public Committee and a member of the PABAR-PAC board of directors.

Diana K. Ingersoll

Since 1988, Ingersoll has been a tireless advocate for the poor and disadvantaged residents of Blair County needing pro bono assistance, both in representation and in requesting funding for the county’s legal services program.

Due to the potential for discord, the court regularly seeks Ingersoll’s opinion in the scheduling and handling of protection from abuse (PFA) cases. Until recently, she was the primary attorney representing PFA petitioners weekly in scheduled PFA court. She is well known and highly regarded by her PFA court colleagues for her candor, fairness and knowledge.

Ingersoll also routinely provides support to other attorneys who handle pro bono matters, providing guidance on available services or programs which may be of benefit to a client and to whom to contact.

Prior to its affiliation with MidPenn Legal Services, Ingersoll was the executive director of Blair County Legal Services. She is a member of the PBA and a former president of the Blair County Bar Association.

Ingersoll graduated from University of Pittsburgh School of Law.

The Pennsylvania Bar Foundation, the charitable affiliate of the Pennsylvania Bar Association, improves the public’s understanding of the law and its appreciation of democracy and strives to ensure that citizens, particularly Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable, have full access to our legal system. The foundation accomplishes its mission by making grants, seeking financial support from individuals and organizations both within and outside of the legal community, and encouraging bar members to donate their time, talent and expertise in service to the public.