On Friday, November 17, 2023, the Supreme Court of Louisiana issued a disciplinary opinion suspending Mark Jeffrey Neal, an attorney licensed to practice law in Louisiana, following a disciplinary hearing. The suspension was imposed due to Neal’s violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct.
The case is entitled “In the Matter of Mark Jeffrey Neal,” with case no. 2023-B-00344.
The charges cited Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct 8.4(a), 8.4(b) and 8.4(c) which states:
Violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct.
Commission of a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer.
Engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.
The Rules of Professional Conduct can be found here.
The disciplinary proceedings against Neal began in June 2021, when the Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC) filed formal charges against him. The charges alleged that Neal had engaged in a physical altercation with Frederick Cascio, the owner and operator of a restaurant in Monroe, Louisiana, and had asked Cascio to provide false information to the police.
According to the hearing committee’s report, Neal and Cascio had a long-standing friendship, and Neal’s family regularly visited Cascio’s restaurant. In the fall of 2020, Neal asked Cascio to hire his teenage son, Noah, for a part-time job at the restaurant. However, on the evening of September 19, 2020, Cascio believed Noah was more than an hour late for his scheduled shift, and he sent Neal a text message to advise that Noah had not arrived for work and to ask for his son’s phone number.
In response, Neal sent a text message to Cascio that included an abusive, insulting, and racially improper threat to “beat your ass.” Cascio then ended the texting and returned to completing preparations for dinner service. However, Neal burst into the restaurant, grabbed Cascio’s ankles, and pulled him off a table, causing Cascio to fall onto his back and head to the concrete floor. Neal then dragged Cascio into the kitchen area and knelt on his upper chest and neck, repeatedly pounding his head into the floor and threatening to kill him. The attack ended when a female employee intervened and pulled Cascio free from Neal’s grasp.
During the disciplinary investigation, the ODC obtained text messages sent by Neal to Cascio on the day after the event. In the messages, Neal asked Cascio to provide false information to the police and suggested that the attack was a big misunderstanding. Cascio declined to offer the false information to law enforcement.
As a result of the incident, Cascio sustained injuries that required medical treatment, and he initiated a civil claim against Neal. In a resolution of the claim, Neal paid $50,000 in general damages to Cascio and reimbursed him for the $6,186 in medical expenses he incurred.
The hearing committee summarized the relevant testimony at the hearing, including that of Cascio, who verified the facts and discussed his relationship with Neal’s family. Karen Brownfield, a witness to the attack, testified that she observed Neal enter the back door of the restaurant, grab Cascio’s ankles, and pull him off a table. James Honey, a deputy with the Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Office, testified that he interviewed Cascio about the incident and tried to contact Neal for a response before asking for a warrant. Michael Dubos, the attorney hired by Cascio to file a civil claim against Neal, testified that he pursued the claim as an intentional act.
John Wiley, an attorney who has known Neal since law school, offered testimony about Neal’s character and professional abilities. Robert Baldwin, a partner at Neal’s former law firm, represented Neal in the civil claim brought by Cascio. Baldwin stated that a settlement was agreed upon to “buy the peace.”
Neal testified that he had known Cascio for a long time and helped him with various tasks, including notarizing documents and applying for “PPP money.” Neal stated that the text about his son also “irritated” him, and he engaged in “the most disproportionate behavior of my adult life.” He claimed that he was trying to apologize in the text messages he sent to Cascio the following day, rather than change the facts.
The hearing committee found that Neal’s conduct violated the Rules of Professional Conduct and imposed a suspension of his license to practice law. In their decision, the hearing committee noted that Neal’s actions were “egregious” and “demonstrated a lack of respect for the legal system and the rights of others.” They also found that Neal’s efforts to apologize and make amends were not sufficient to mitigate the harm caused by his actions.
The suspension of Neal’s license is effective until further order of the court, and Neal is required to comply with the terms of the suspension and fulfill certain conditions before he can apply for reinstatement.
The Disposition states:
“Upon review of the findings and recommendations of the hearing committee and the disciplinary board, and considering the record, briefs, and oral argument, it is ordered that Mark Jeffrey Neal, Louisiana Bar Roll number 24580, be and he hereby is suspended from the practice of law for a period of one year and one day. It is further ordered that six months of this suspension shall be deferred.”
According to avvo.com, Mr. Neal is a litigation attorney in Monroe, Louisiana. He attended the Louisiana State University, Paul M. Hebert Law Center. He acquired his law license in Louisiana in 1996.
A copy of the original filing can be found here.