Officials must show why attorney Joe Neal's license should remain suspended

Wednesday, Aug 22, 2012 5:02 PM
Last updated Thursday, Aug 23, 2012 1:42 AM
  • Follow Crime & courts

The U.S. Attorney’s Office on Wednesday was given 14 days to create a document specifying why Joe Neal Jr. should remain suspended from practicing law in the Southern District of Georgia.

Joe Neal Jr.  ZACH BOYDEN-HOLMES/FILE
ZACH BOYDEN-HOLMES/FILE
Joe Neal Jr.

The order from U.S. District Judges Dudley Bowen and Randal Hall followed an hourlong hearing in which Neal’s attorney, Tom Withers, argued his client was not granted certain privileges under the rules governing court procedure in the district.

“When we take action depriving a man of his livelihood, is it too much to ask to give him due notice and a list of charges?” Withers asked the court.

The federal judges had issued an order June 22 suspending Neal’s ability to represent clients in the Southern District.

Neal started serving three years’ probation in June after he accepted a plea bargain that reduced a felony rape charge to two misdemeanors: disorderly conduct and possession of marijuana. His guilty plea to the latter charge was recently changed to “no contest” after Neal said he was unaware his driver’s license would be suspended as a result.

He also pleaded guilty to furnishing alcohol to a person under the age of 21.

Neal and his ex-wife, Caroline Neal, were indicted on a charge of rape after a teenage baby sitter accused them of sexually assaulting her in December. Caroline Neal’s rape charge was dropped after she pleaded guilty to the alcohol charge for a sentence of one year of probation.

The judges said Wednes­day that it was not the misdemeanors or probation that concerned them, but the underlying conduct.

Bowen said his concern is whether Neal followed his oath to conduct himself properly and whether the public and members of the federal bar were proud to identify Neal as an officer of the court.

The reason for suspending Neal is not a typical matter of conduct, such as dishonest dealings with a client or a personal matter such as alcoholism affecting the quality of a lawyer’s representation, Bowen said.

“Instead we are dealing with character,” he said.

The judges disagreed with Withers’ contention that Neal was not provided due notice and said his suspension should come as no surprise to someone familiar with the ethical standards expected of attorneys permitted to practice in federal court.

They said, however, that they wanted there to be no question about the fairness of the proceedings, either in the public’s eye or among attorneys of the federal bar, so they gave the U.S. Attorney’s Office two weeks to produce specific allegations of misconduct to which Neal could respond.

A hearing then will be scheduled to reconsider the suspension, which remains in place until then.

Comments (6) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
rmwardsr
525
Points
rmwardsr 08/22/12 - 08:49 pm
2
0
Looks like Mr. Neal lost his

Looks like Mr. Neal lost his head over a little tail......

palmetto1008
9782
Points
palmetto1008 08/22/12 - 10:20 pm
0
3
The only thing the man should
Unpublished

The only thing the man should have been charged with is sleaziness or stupidity. Neither of which is a violation of criminal law in the state of Georgia.

Dixieman
14392
Points
Dixieman 08/22/12 - 11:06 pm
0
1
I said this before

Don't know why US Attorneys office should be involved; judges have inherent power to disbar or suspend attorneys practicing before them without getting a prosecutor involved. BUT - and it is a huge BUT - judges should NOT do this without giving the attorney notice of the reasons for disbarment (charges), notice in advance and an opportunity to respond and be heard. This was not done here and that was an abuse of judicial power. Glad to see they are cleaning up their act.
This does not mean I approve of anything Mr. Neal did.

corgimom
31234
Points
corgimom 08/23/12 - 04:38 am
0
0
I cannot imagine anyone

I cannot imagine anyone hiring him to be their attorney.

On the other hand, birds of a feather, flock together.

Riverman1
82265
Points
Riverman1 08/23/12 - 04:44 am
2
0
So he didn't lose his

So he didn't lose his driver's license even though that's the law and now he will be given back his license to practice in the federal courts. Instead of arresting the Thirty Second Man we should have just apologized to him and told him to have fun.

Little Lamb
45282
Points
Little Lamb 08/23/12 - 08:25 am
0
0
Reasons

Okay, let me get this straight. Joe Neal pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct; he pleaded nolo contendre to possession of marijuana; he pleaded guilty to furnishing alcohol to a person under the age of 21.

Those sound like sufficient reasons for keeping him from conducting business in the federal courthouse.

Dixieman
14392
Points
Dixieman 08/23/12 - 12:59 pm
0
0
This is his personal life.

Shabby and ugly, but he still might be a fine attorney. I don't like punishing people professionally for what they do on their own time. Anyway, he will probably be disbarred in GA and SC soon, and once the state bar does that disqualification in Federal courts is automatic.

rmwhitley
5542
Points
rmwhitley 08/24/12 - 06:35 pm
0
0
Lawyers.
Unpublished

Break the law, the "brotherhood" will look after their own.

Back to Top

Top headlines

Officers tell of trauma from taking life

Although every experience is different, officers who take a life often experience severe bouts of depression, alcoholism, marital problems, sleepless nights and feelings of being alone in the ...
Search Augusta jobs