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Former judge honored for pro bono work during Law Day luncheon

Retired Judge Raymond McNeal standing in front of CLSMF building in Ocala – photo credit to Doug Engle/ Ocala Star-Banner

Marion County lawyers last year worked more than 600 pro bono hours through Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida. Roughly equivalent to 25 around-the-clock days, that totals nearly nearly $160,000 worth of work by Community Legal Services’ accounting.

That accomplishment drew praise Friday at the Marion County Bar Association’s Law Day Luncheon. The annual event, held this year at the Golden Ocala Golf and Equestrian Club, brings together judges, lawyers and representatives of the local civic community for an afternoon meal. In addition to a keynote address, handled this year by defense attorney Mark O’Mara, attendees also recognize a local Florida Bar member’s outstanding pro bono outreach (doing legal work for free) through the Richard D. Custureri Pro Bono Service Award.

Retired Circuit Judge Raymond McNeal this year accepted that award from representatives of Community Legal Services. Since retiring in 2007, McNeal has been active with the organization and with his church’s homeless program. Melding these two interests, he also is working with Community Legal Services to establish a homeless legal advice clinic.

In his brief address upon accepting the award, McNeal called on those in the local legal community to likewise leverage their resources and talents to meet a demand that far exceeds Community Legal Service’s capabilities.

“If all 300 lawyers in Marion County do their part, we can make a difference in the lives of the people,” he said.

Kimberly Sanchez, of Community Legal Services, said in her introduction that about 25 percent of Marion County residents would financially qualify for services through the organization. To put that in context, she used the example of a four-person family living on $30,000 a year.

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