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Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Tricky World of Lawyer-Client Relationships

We have more news today about the sometimes contentious connections between lawyers and clients.

We reported on this subject yesterday, focusing on Alabama attorney/whistleblower Jill Simpson and former Jefferson County Commissioner Gary White.

More news is out today about White and his former attorney, Walter Braswell. In papers filed with U.S. District Court in Birmingham, Braswell says he released White as a client, not the other way around.

Braswell says he had a disagreement with White and his wife, Judy, on the best way to approach White's defense on corruption charges. The Whites wanted to raise allegations of a conspiracy to bring down White, a plot they say involves Commissioner Bettye Fine Collins, U.S. Attorney Alice Martin, and journalists Tom Scarritt and John Archibald of The Birmingham News.

Braswell said he could find no evidence of such a conspiracy. The nature of any investigation Braswell conducted is unclear.

The Whites have stated in court documents that Gary White, a Republican, was prosecuted because he refused to provide false evidence against former Democratic Governor Don Siegelman.

Judy White fired back at Braswell. "The truth is not in Walter Braswell. What he has done will result in his disbarment or, at a minimum, result in his suspension from being able to practice in federal court. He is desperately trying to save his legal career."

Archibald weighs in today with a column titled "Tired Stories of Victimization Lack Evidence." Archibald writes of Siegelman, Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford and other Democrats who say they have been unjustly targeted by a Republican-controlled Justice Department:'

"Even if you buy it, which I don't, where does Gary White fit in? How does a white suburban Republican jump aboard the victim train. . . .

"That's the problem with the victim defense. Evidence."

Actually, Archibald is exhibiting a serious case of selective memory here. Evidence does exist that Gary White was targeted for political reasons, but The Birmingham News ignored it at the time--and Archibald is ignoring it now.

The evidence comes in the form of an affidavit from Judy White, saying her husband was pressured to give false testimony against Siegelman. Scott Horton, of Harper's magazine, reported on the White case and noted that court documents showed U.S. Judge U.W. Clemon was troubled by the allegations in Mrs. White's affidavit.

All of this information, Horton reported, was available in the court file. But did The Birmingham News report it? Nope.

If Archibald and his colleagues want to see evidence, they might try opening their eyes and looking at a few public documents.

The evidence is there.

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