Thursday, October 14, 2021

Alabama-connected Ali Alexander, organizer of a rally that turned into assault on U.S. Capitol, faces subpoena from House committee investigating Jan. 6

Ali Alexander
 

The Congressional Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol has issued a subpoena for Alabama-connected right-wing extremist Ali (Akbar) Alexander.  From a report at Politico:

The Jan. 6 select committee on Thursday (10/7) subpoenaed Ali Alexander, a key figure behind the “Stop the Steal” movement that aided former President Donald Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election.

The subpoena, one of three issued Thursday by the House panel investigating the Capitol attack, targets a divisive hard-line conservative who had regular communication with Trump allies, including some congressional Republicans, in the crucial weeks after President Joe Biden's win.

“The rally on the Capitol grounds on January 6th, like the rally near the White House that day, immediately preceded the violent attack on the seat of our democracy,” Chair Bennie Thompson said in a statement on the committee's third round of subpoenas, referring to the "Stop the Steal"-sponsored event that metastasized into a riot.

“Over the course of that day, demonstrations escalated to violence and protestors became rioters. The Select Committee needs to understand all the details about the events that came before the attack, including who was involved in planning and funding them. We expect these witnesses to cooperate fully with our probe.”


The subpoenas go well beyond Alexander, who has a criminal record and once was known as Ali Akbar:

In addition to Alexander, the subpoenas target Nathan Martin, another organizer of the pre-insurrection rally, and the Stop the Steal organization. A previous round of 11 subpoenas targeted other Trump allies who helped organize various events in the run-up to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. And four close Trump associates — including former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows — are facing a  subpoena deadline to turn over documents to the committee.

Martin and Alexander have two weeks, until Oct. 21, to respond to the panel’s demand for documents. The committee set an Oct. 28 deposition for Martin and a Oct. 29 deposition for Alexander, while the group Stop the Steal has one week to produce documents.

Martin confirmed receipt of the subpoena but declined to comment.

Alexander said in a since-deleted video that he worked with Reps. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) and Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) to attempt to use Congress’ Jan. 6 session certifying Biden’s victory as a chance to pressure lawmakers to overturn the electoral results.

“We four schemed up to put maximum pressure on Congress while they were voting,” Alexander said in the video.

Alexander reportedly has been in hiding since Jan. 6, so it is unknown if he actually will appear before the committee:

 It’s unclear if any of the subpoena recipients intend to comply with the committee’s orders.

Trump has directed Meadows and other close aides to defy the committee’s demands, a likely precursor to an intense legal battle to force them to cooperate. Trump himself intends to block the National Archives from sending his former White House’s records to the committee, which promises to ignite another significant court fight.

Some watchdog and civil rights groups had raised concerns about the panel’s plans to seek information from those related to organizing the rallies. The Project on Government Oversight sent a letter to the committee on Tuesday urging them to use caution with individuals’ private data.

“While claims of election fraud were baseless and have seriously undermined public faith in our democracy, false and grossly offensive speech is still constitutionally protected. Accordingly, we urge the committee to be especially cautious in its demands for records that could implicate First Amendment rights or set precedent for future demands that chill First Amendment-protected activities,” wrote POGO executive director Danielle Brian.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

New clerk Crystal Clanton has a history of posting racist statements, making one wonder if Bill Pryor, her boss-to-be, even believes in equal justice for all

Crystal Clanton (right), with Clarence and Ginni Thomas

U.S. 11th Circuit Judge Bill Pryor, from Alabama, has hired a law clerk with a documented history of making hateful statements about Black people via text messages. But a columnist for The Washington Post (WaPo) suggests such comments likely would disqualify the new hire, Crystal Clanton, from even entering law school or joining a bar association, much less receiving a prestigious federal clerkship. Writes WaPo's Ruth Marcus (subscription required for full article):

Indeed, there is a reasonable question about whether someone who has expressed these views and not apologized should be admitted to law school, let alone the bar; after all, state bars generally require evidence of good moral character.

In Virginia, where Clanton attends law school, that includes any “conduct that reflects adversely upon the character or fitness of an applicant,” although in making that assessment bar officials take into account the applicant’s age at the time of the conduct and “evidence of rehabilitation.”

Did Pryor know of Clanton’s texts before he hired her? Do her comments concern him? If not, why not? I put those questions to Pryor by email. I haven’t heard back.

The whole story is ugly, but it probably says more about Pryor than it does about Clanton, Marcus writes:

And this is the truly worrisome part of the Clanton story: that a sitting federal judge is credentialing someone with this kind of hateful statement in her background, and perhaps grooming her for a post that’s even more important, a Supreme Court clerkship.

It gives me no pleasure to focus on Clanton, who did not respond to requests for comment. I have daughters her age, one of whom happens to be in law school. We all do stupid things when we are young, and some of us do terrible things. We should allow some space for repentance and forgiveness.

But there is no evidence of repentance here, and her reported comments are astonishing in their savagery. This is not a case of a racial slur directed in anger at a single individual — not that such conduct would be in any way acceptable. This is even worse: animus expressed toward an entire race.

Nor was this an isolated outburst. The year after the New Yorker story, the website Mediaite, reporting on Clanton’s hiring by Ginni Thomas, described a Snapchat message featuring “a photo of a man who appears to be Arab and a caption written by Clanton that reads, ‘Just thinking about ways to do another 9/11.’”

Someone who writes such things would not be hired in my private-sector workplace or most others, unless I miss my guess. Moreover, judicial clerkships are federal positions, paid for by taxpayer dollars, where dispensing equal justice under the law is job one.

And federal judges are called on to interpret and enforce the law impartially. Ask yourself: How do Black litigants — or Black lawyers — with cases before Pryor have confidence of a fair ruling in their cases with a clerk with Clanton’s record waiting in chambers? How do litigants in employment discrimination or voting rights cases have confidence that they will be treated equally in his court?

Marcus correctly notes that "dispensing equal justice under the law is job one" for the federal judiciary -- at least it's supposed to be. But Pryor's hiring of Crystal Clanton makes one wonder if he even believes in equal justice or seeks to apply it.

No wonder he is avoiding questions from journalists.

To make the story even more alarming, much of it seems to run through U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife, Ginni. Writes Marcus:

For a graduating law student, a clerkship with a federal appeals court judge is a glittering credential. With the right judge, it can be a steppingstone to the most sought-after credential of all, a clerkship at the Supreme Court itself. One of those reliable “feeder” judges is William H. Pryor Jr., chief judge of the 11th Circuit and on Donald Trump’s original shortlist for the Supreme Court.

Pryor has just selected his next crop of law clerks, including Crystal Clanton of the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University, a development first reported by the legal website Above the Law.

Clanton, 26, is Pryor’s first clerk from Scalia, according to a list published by the school, but she is notable for another reason: racist comments she appears to have made years ago when working for the conservative youth group Turning Point USA.

I hate black people. Like f--- them all … I hate blacks. End of story,” Clanton, then the group’s national field director, wrote in a text message to a fellow Turning Point employee unearthed by the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer in 2017. (Her version was unexpurgated.)

In an email to Mayer then, Clanton wrote, “I have no recollection of these messages and they do not reflect what I believe or who I am and the same was true when I was a teenager.” It’s not clear how old Clanton was when she wrote the text.

Clanton left Turning Point right after Mayer’s story appeared, and ended up working for conservative activist Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, whom she had met while at Turning Point.

Pryor has sent on law clerks to every conservative justice except Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., and most of those have worked for Thomas, who over the years has selected an astonishing 13 Pryor clerks.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Daily Dot data analysis indicates right-wing extremist Ali Alexander is running for cover, but his efforts might be futile in the wake of massive hack at Epik

Ali Alexander (YouTube)

Part Two

Right-wing extremist Ali (Akbar) Alexander and his allies have made it a habit to harass and threaten progressive voices in Alabama, where he has a base of operations that includes Montgomery lawyer Baron Coleman. Two of the favorite targets for Alexander & Co. have been attorney/activist/whistle blower Dana Jill Simpson and yours truly. Simpson has stated that she suspects Alexander or his allies have been involved in a number of alarming attacks against her, including a fire on her property.

Could a massive hack of the website-hosting firm Epik lead to revelations about Alexander's activities in Alabama -- and elsewhere, given that he was organizer of the Stop the Steal rally that turned into the Jan. 6  assault on the U.S. Capitol? The answer is "maybe" -- partly because it could take months or even years for tech experts to sift through the data. (See Part One.)

Alexander reportedly has been in hiding since Jan. 6, but he might be running scared, according to an article at dailydot.com, under the headline "After the Capitol riot, ‘Stop the Steal’ organizer Ali Alexander was scrambling to hide his digital footprint":

Just days after supporters of former President Donald Trump violently stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, Ali Alexander, one of the primary organizers of the rally that day, appeared to be busy, attempting to hide his ties to dozens and dozens of websites calling the 2020 election stolen.

Domains tied to Alexander that pushed Stop the Steal, which the Daily Dot reviewed, including ones he publicly posted on as himself, were scrambled in the wake of the riot to hide ownership. But hacked documents show they trace right back to Ali and an anonymize service from the web hosting company Epik.

In the run-up to the failed insurrection, which was sparked by weeks of false allegations regarding widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election, Alexander had positioned himself as the movement’s de facto leader with his “Stop the Steal” campaign.

At a Dec. 19 rally in Arizona that he spoke at, Alexander made his intentions for Jan. 6 clear: He and his legion of followers would do whatever was necessary to stop Congress from certifying the electoral votes of President Joe Biden’s victory.

According to the Washington Post and Daily Beast, Alexander was already working with far-right Republican legislators to plan the Jan. 6 rally.

“We’re going to convince them to not certify the vote on Jan. 6 by marching hundreds of thousands, if not millions of patriots, to sit their butts in D.C. and close that city down, right?” Alexander said that December day. “And if we have to explore options after that…”

How did Alexander, with his well-documented criminal record, become a national figure in the GOP, which used to be known as the law-and-order party? Perhaps it is a case of "the right thug, at the right time":

Alexander has been a prominent backchannel in Republican politics for nearly two decades. He’s also pled guilty to felony charges under a previous name, when he was known as Ali Akbar. He’s been friendly with far-right operatives like Laura Loomer and Jacob Wohl. He also has ties to Roger Stone, who is under investigation for his role in fomenting the Capitol riot. At the time of the Capitol riot, Alexander had almost a quarter of a million Twitter followers.

On the night before the riot, Alexander was filmed chanting “Victory or Death” to an enthusiastic crowd. He’d also dubbed himself an official co-ordinator of the Jan. 6 event, and was filmed on a roof during the rally glowing about its success.

Has Alexander been anxious to take credit for his role in launching the deadly Jan. 6 attacks? Not exactly, reports Daily Dot

When the dust finally settled on Jan. 6, Alexander had already seemed to start an effort to obfuscate his ties to the movement. With five deaths, hundreds of injuries, and extensive damage to the Capitol, the conspiracy theorist would find himself facing permanent suspensions across social media before eventually going into hiding.

As the national outrage over the riot intensified, work appeared to be happening behind the scenes. On Jan. 15, just nine days after the failed insurrection, Alexander, or someone working with him, took steps to anonymize his personal information on the registrations for more than 100 domains. Nearly half of those domains are directly related to Stop the Steal. Domains such as stopthestealmovement.com, stopthestealnews.com, and stopthestealupdates.com were all scrambled in the wake of the riot.

Alexander had opted to entrust his web addresses with the domain registrar company Epik, which offers a domain privacy feature known as “Anonymize.” The decision would, theoretically, keep the public from discovering which domains he owned.

Yet on Sept. 13, the hacking collective Anonymous announced that it had pilfered a decade’s worth of data from Epik, a company known best for hosting extremist websites. Although the company initially claimed to be unaware of a breach, Epik CEO Rob Monster later said in a bizarre, four-hour-long video conference that hackers had obtained a backup of its data.

Released online in a torrent, the 180-gigabyte data cache included, among other things, domain registrations and account credentials as well as the personal details of individuals who had registered some of the internet’s most notorious far-right domains.

Has the hack left Alexander vulnerable? From Daily Dot:

Analysis of the data by the Daily Dot was able to link an email tied to Alexander to 122 separate domains. On Jan. 15, the far-right figure received an email to a ProtonMail address thanking him for setting up an Anonymize account.

“Dear Ali A,” the email begins. “Thank you for signing up with us. Your new account has been setup and you can now login to our client area . . .

By searching through the hacked data for the ProtonMail address used to register the account, the Daily Dot was able to locate Alexander’s Anonymize profile. The data includes Alexander’s username and hashed password as well as a phone number and address. The address appears to be that of a UPS store in Texas. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram previously tied that UPS address to Alexander.

The Daily Dot made repeated attempts to reach Alexander over the phone number and email address found in the breach but did not receive a reply by press time.

The account creation date listed under Alexander’s account information, Jan. 15, matches the date of the email that says he signed up for the Anonymize service.

The account for Alexander was assigned a unique ID, that would take the place of his actual name on his public domain registrars. The Daily Dot is not disclosing Alexander’s ID.

As for the ugly events Simpson and i have experienced, apparently at the hands of Akbar and/or his associates, we addressed those in a Sept. 2 post:

Closer to home, Alexander has bragged about his ties to the Alabama legal world, perhaps through his friendship with Baron Coleman, who once practiced with Alabama State Bar official Tripp Vickers.

Simpson and I know what it's like to be the target of Alexander and his right-wing goons. Alexander once threatened  to sue me for reporting accurately and fairly about a letter  Simpson wrote to Obama re-election counsel Robert Bauer in 2012. My wife received notice of the lawsuit threat shortly after my "arrest for blogging" in October 2013. Was that a coincidence, considering that Alexander's NBC buddies were in a blogging frenzy when word broke of my incarceration. Does that mean they know who caused the unlawful loss of my freedom, the loss of our Birmingham home via wrongful foreclosure, and perhaps my wife's severely broken arm in 2015 at the hands of deputies in Missouri (where we now live)? Let's just say we haven't ruled out Alexander and NBC's knowledge of, and perhaps involvement with, any or all of those events.

Simpson has experienced all kinds of unsettling incidents related to her house, vehicle, and property -- some involving fire. She has stated publicly that she suspects Akbar and/or his colleagues' involvement in at least some of these evens.From a November 2018 LS post

Simpson's interactions with the right-wing crazies go back several years, to the beginnings of the Don Siegelman case:

The NBC, as we call them, came to my attention when they harassed and told false stories about Siegelman activists. The NBC is a vicious group. What is such a hoot is that is how I first learned about crazy Steve Bannon's bunch. I started getting a master's degree in philosophy and religion, and the nuts in the National Bloggers Club started following me around in D.C. and California. The idiots were making a film for Andrew Breitbart and were trying to falsely claim I was a ring leader in Anonymous, as they were friends of mine, and that I was dating a guy who they believed was in Anonymous. The dimwits offered me all kinds of things to say I was part of it, through him.


Simpson knows these creepy wingers can get both scary and personal. She also says they are behind -- at least in part -- some of the abuse (false arrest and imprisonment, theft of house) that has been directed at my wife, Carol, and me. . . . Says Simpson:

Even as late as 2013 they were threatening me and called my boyfriend (now husband) trying to advise him not to marry me, telling him I was going to jail. The GOP National Blogger bunch in 2014, due to me having a neck injury, worked with their Alabama State Bar buddy, Tripp Vickers, and his former law partner,  Baron Coleman and a federal judge to try to set me up -- when in all likelihood it was them who set my office yard on fire and burned up my car and my shed with all my files in it. They spent months trying to frame me with all kinds of things. They were not successful. I might add, in my opinion, they were responsible for what happened to Shuler as well -- as some of their members bragged about it at their Web sites and were working with Rob Riley who first used a #MeToo deal in the Doug Jones-Roy Moore race.

Alexander also has threatened legal action against Simpson. Consider this from one of his online comments:

Jill Simpson should lawyer up buddy. Tell her not to worry about coming to Texas. I can come to Alabama. I'll dine with the Governor and then spend the afternoon cashing in favors with Alabama lawyers.

This raises some questions that hit close to home: The governor at the time was Robert Bentley, who I helped bring down by breaking the story about his extramarital activities with senior aide Rebekah Caldwell Mason. And what kind of favors was Alexander cashing in with Alabama lawyers? Is this a reference to the Alabama State Bar? What implications might this have for Carol and me, given that Missouri deputies  shattered her arm during an unlawful eviction that occurred about the time I was breaking the Bentley story? We will ponder that question in a future post.

Meanwhile, we note that Alexander and Coleman have a history of making sport of others' legal misfortunes. Consider this repartee under the LS headline"Tweet suggests Ali Akbar and attorney Baron Coleman know who's behind my arrest and our foreclosure

 

Akbar starts the festivities by tweeting about Matt Osborne, the editor of Breitbart Unmasked, and me--with a reference to a $3.5-million default judgment against me in the (Jessica Garrison case). The default judgment, by law, is void and due to be overturned, and that process is ongoing.

Removing extraneous comments from a couple of other folks, here is the conversation between Akbar and Coleman:

Akbar: Matt Osborne sure helped Roger Shuler out. Hahaha. $3.5 M libel mishap. Idiots flock together.

Coleman: The last three year's of that guy's life is a fine example of what not to do.

Akbar: His whole existence.

Coleman: He's judgment-proof, has nothing. No reason to bother fighting it. $1 might as well be $10 million to him.

In the wake of the Epik hack, Akbar and Coleman might not find legal difficulties so amusing.

Monday, October 11, 2021

U.S. Judge Bill Pryor hires a law clerk who has expressed a hatred for black people, and then refuses to discuss his reasons for making such a dubious move

Bill Pryor

Federal judge Bill Pryor, once considered a prime candidate to be nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS), has hired a law clerk who has expressed a hatred for black people. The story originated with the widely read blog Above the Law, and al.com columnist Kyle Whitmire deserves props for breaking it on Pryor's home turf in Alabama. Writes Whitmire, under the headline "What have you done, Bill Pryor?"

When I called the former Alabama Attorney General, now the chief judge on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, he made it quickly clear he wouldn’t have anything to say on the record about his new law clerk.

That’s a shame. Because he needs to explain.

Last week, the legal blog Above the Law first reported Pryor’s new hire. The headline did most of the talking. “Law School Student Famous For Saying ‘I HATE BLACK PEOPLE’ Now Has Prestigious Federal Clerkship.”

It is a shame that Pryor does not feel the need to answer questions about such a hire, but that has been his standard reaction when faced with news coverage that likely makes him uncomfortable. That was his tactic when Legal Schnauzer exposed his ties to 1990s gay pornography at badpuppy.com. On that occasion, Pryor at least trotted out a former law clerk to issue a statement on his behalf. This time, he is in full lockdown mode, perhaps because he knows this is an even bigger embarrassment for federal courts than the gay-porn story -- absolutely calling into question whether his judgment is suitable for a spot on the federal bench.

Perhaps this latest episode should not be a surprise, given that Pryor is an acolyte of former U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who was denied a federal judgeship because of alleged racist statements from his past. How bad does this look for the 11th Circuit, and the three states (Alabama, Georgia, and Florida) it covers? It looks dreadful, even for a court with a history of issuing rulings that run contrary to governing law, including its own, and SCOTUS, precedent. Why does Pryor's latest gaffe matter -- a lot? Kyle Whitmire does a nice job of explaining:

For starters, the new clerk in question isn’t just some law school student. Her name is Crystal Clanton, and she used to be the national field director for Turning Point USA, a controversial activist group for conservative youth, led by Charlie Kirk.

Four years ago, New Yorker staff writer Jane Mayer looked at how Turning Point was having problems with racial bias within its ranks. It was in that story that Mayer reported the text message that made Clanton famous, from screenshots provided to her by a source.

“i hate black people. Like fuck them all ... I hate blacks. End of story,” Mayer reported one of the texts saying.

Clanton told Mayer she didn’t remember the text message and that it didn’t reflect who she was.

Kirk said the situation had been dealt with after he had become aware of it.

“Turning Point assessed the situation and took decisive action within 72 hours of being made aware of the issue,” said Kirk, the Turning Point leader who has since come under attack for calling George Floyd a “scumbag.

What that decisive action had been Kirk, didn’t say, but Clanton left Turning Point at the same time.

Not long after her departure from Turning Point, Clanton went to work for Ginni Thomas, wife of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. It was a friendship and connection that began before she left Turning Point, and former Turning Point employees complained to Mayer that it created conflicts for the organization.

In other words, racism creates problems for those on the right. Now, Bill Pryor has allowed this ugly story to get even uglier. And Pryor is not the story's only tie to Alabama. Writes Whitmire:

Since then, Clanton has attended the Antonin Scalia School of Law at George Mason University. She will then clerk in Birmingham for U.S. District Judge Corey Maze, a Trump appointee previously hired by Pryor in the Alabama Attorney General’s office. After that she will clerk for Pryor.

Here’s the thing. I don’t especially believe in cancel culture, especially for the young. It’s entirely possible that someone weaponized Clanton’s worst moment against her to even a score. Maybe she’s changed. Maybe she’s learned. Maybe her talents are so tremendous they outshine a youthful mistake. All that’s possible, and I told Judge Pryor to give her my number since I didn’t have hers. I’d like to hear her story.

But this isn’t about Clanton. This is about Judge Pryor.

And it’s about the system he and Clanton inhabit.

In short, Pryor and Maze have opened a cornucopia of career opportunities for a young woman who has expressed hatred for a significant chunk of the U.S. population. And that is particularly troubling when you consider a major portion of cases heard in federal courts involve civil rights, such as claims of employment discrimination and police misconduct -- both of which often involve black people as victims. As a law clerk, Clanton will not be a mere bystander, as Whitmire notes:

Clerkships for federal judges aren’t coffee-fetching internships for resume padding. They are launchpads for legal careers — shortcuts into ivory tower law firms, stepping stones that can lead to the bench itself one day.

It’s a gateway. Pryor is a gatekeeper. And when you let one person through that gate, you inevitably leave someone else locked on the outside. There are thousands of well-qualified candidates for a job like that every year.

And Pryor picked the one with at least one documented instance of saying racist stuff.

The story here isn’t about what Clanton did or didn’t say in a text. It’s about what her hire says to all those folks left on the other side of the gate. That it’s all about who you know, not what you know. That knowing the right people or going to the right law school means more than what comes up when someone Googles your name.

Perhaps most important for an appellate court judge, it’s about who gets second chances.

As a name on every Republican president’s shortlist for the U.S. Supreme Court, Pryor needs to explain. Perhaps, one day, a U.S. Senator will ask him to answer these questions.

For now, his silence will have to speak for him.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Balch & Bingham law firm steps in doo-doo again, creating a foul-smelling mess that could lead rainmaking partner, and others, to race for the exits

 

A rainmaking partner at Birmingham's Balch & Bingham law firm, and perhaps others, might be looking to hit the exits in the wake of the firm's latest encounter with doo-doo, the kind that sticks relentlessly to the shoes and seems to create an everlasting stench, according to a report at banbalch.com. Writes Publisher K.B. Forbes, under the headline "Will Balch’s Three-Headed Partner and Others Jump Ship?"

Get this: Balch & Bingham partner Christian B. Waddell serves as counsel to three different Mississippi state-sanctioned entities and agencies and has been involved as underwriting counsel for almost $1 billion in bonds and notes. Waddell has procured millions in contracts and has been, regardless of the cronyism, a money-making success.

Now everything appears to be at risk because of his association to the alleged racist and embattled law firm Balch & Bingham, and the investigative report of The Washington Post.

The Post report, which surely drew national attention, comes on the heels of several other debacles at Balch. We thought it could not get worse than having a former attorney accused of child-sex charges. But an expose in The Washington Post? That could be worse, almost as bad as responding to a knock at the door, and hearing a deep male voice say, "I'm Mike Wallace, from 60 Minutes" (especially since Wallace has been dead for more than nine years). Writes Forbes:

From the Mississippi rental assistance debacle to the alleged elderly exploitation scandal, from the criminal arrest of an ex-Balch attorney for alleged child solicitation to the never-ending but abhorrent Newsome Conspiracy Case, Balch is at a crossroads.

And when did Balch’s walls begin to collapse?

The late Schuyler Allen Baker, Jr., a long-time partner and General Counsel at Balch, foolishly vowed to fight the Newsome Conspiracy Case to the death.

An innocent competitor minding his own business, Burt Newsome was targeted, wrongly arrested, and defamed in a conspiracy allegedly headed by an ex-Balch partner now selling mattresses.

Newsome has been fighting Balch vigorously, even exhausting all legal avenues before eventually proceeding with a federal RICO and Civil Rights lawsuit.

Some Balch partners reportedly are angry that the firm's leadership has allowed a bad situation to deteriorate to a level that can leave reputations in tatters:

Schuyler Allen Baker, Jr. died last year. He obviously never thought or dreamt that things would escalate and deteriorate as they sadly have.

Our understanding from outside sources is that some Balch partners, across Balch’s footprint, are furious that the firm continues to throw gasoline on a case that should have been settled years ago.

Even Waddell allegedly is not pleased with the unneeded publicity and scrutiny. Is he, like former Balch partner William Stiers ready to jump ship?

We wouldn’t be surprised if Waddell and others ended up at Butler Snow or another reputable law firm in the near future.

Who can blame them or all three-heads?

Could things get worse before they get better for Balch? As banbalch.com reported on Saturday, The Washington Post already has shined a white-hot spotlight on Balch's three-headed partner:

If there is any kind of “strong track record,” greasing the political wheels through long-time inside connections and keeping the contract process closed sounds more accurate.

As the Post points out:

Chris Waddell, a Balch attorney, already served as MHC’s counsel, and Balch had just wrapped up work on another MHC aid program at the end of 2020. The board voted unanimously in a Feb. 10 meeting to hire Balch to help create RAMP. “As such, there was no request for proposals,” Spivey [MHC’s Executive Director] wrote in an email to The Post.

Present at the housing corporation’s Feb. 10 board meeting, according to the minutes, were Balch partners Waddell and Lucien Smith. Smith is the former chief of staff to Gov. Phil Bryant (R), for whom Reeves served as lieutenant governor before being elected to succeed Bryant in 2019. Smith also served as chair of the state’s Republican Party until last September.

Shameful! The counsel of MHC, Chris Waddell, a Balch partner and well-connected Balch partner Lucien Smith are present at an MHC board meeting (obviously closed to the public) when Balch receives a no-bid $3.8 million contract from Waddell’s own client using federal funds.

So who is Waddell? Balch’s website states:

Chris Waddell focuses on affordable housing, economic development and public finance.  As counsel to Mississippi Home Corporation (the state’s housing finance agency), he has experience navigating both state and federal housing laws with particular expertise in Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTCs), and single and multi-family development finance. As counsel to the Mississippi Development Bank, he frequently works with local governments seeking access to capital markets. He also represents the Mississippi Business Finance Corporation, a public corporation created by statute to encourage economic and industrial development in the state.

Three counsel roles at three Mississippi state government-funded entities means Balch is indeed entrenched.

How many contracts has Balch received from these and other affiliated entities or agencies?

Investigators need to probe, audit, and hold the contractual cronies accountable.

Goverment-made millionaires should not abuse their advisory roles to fatten-up their own wallets with no-bid, behind closed-doors, million-dollar contracts.

Now that federal funds are involved, the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of the Treasury and those in charge of CARES Act funds need to take a deep, forensic look at Balch and their government and political cronies.

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Study linking measles vaccine to autism long has been discredited, but it helps drive an anti-vaccine movement that can prove deadly in the age of COVID

Dr. Andrew Wakefield
 

America's anti-vaccination movement likely has its roots in the notion that the measles vaccine can cause autism -- and that myth grew from a long-debunked study, by a long-discredited scientist. But a significant chunk of Americans apparently still believe in the myth, and it causes them to resist COVID-19 vaccines that can be life-saving. From a report at Salon, under the headline "Millions of Americans view being anti-vaccination as a part of their social identity":

Pre-pandemic, the modern incarnation of the general anti-vaccination movement was spurred by a 1998 paper from the medical journal The Lancet which linked autism to the measles vaccine. That paper was later thoroughly discredited by scientists, denounced by The Lancet and retracted by 10 of its 12 co-authors. Its lead author, Andrew Wakefield, lost his medical license in the United Kingdom for ethical violations. Despite this, many parents would read pseudoscientific literature inspired by Wakefield's paper and conclude that it was dangerous to vaccinate their children.

That does not sound like a study worth following. But it has managed to worm itself into the fabric of American -- and in the shadow of COVID, such a myth can be deadly. How does this happen? Salon's Matthew Rozsa explains:

In a new paper published for the journal Politics, Groups, and Identities, researchers found that 22 percent of Americans actively identify themselves as anti-vaccination, with 14 percent saying they are "sometimes" part of the movement and 8 percent saying this is "always" the case. 

These self-described anti-vaxxers "embrace" the label of anti-vaxxer "as a form of social identity," the authors write.

"We also find that people who score highly on our [anti-vaxx social identification] measure tend to be less trusting of scientific experts and more individualistic," they noted. 

The study is a stark reminder that vaccine-hostile attitudes are not a fringe view, but are possessed by a substantial portion of the U.S . population, many of whom have come to consider the label a formative part of their identity. As daily COVID-19 vaccination rates have begun to decline, the cohort of self-identified anti-vaccination Americans are contributing to the delayed march towards herd immunity in the United States.

This can have a profound impact on public health -- and it comes with deeply planted roots in partisan politics:

Indeed, widespread refusal to get vaccinated is a major reason why experts doubt the number of Americans who vaccinate themselves from the deadly disease will reach 70 percent, the rough number needed to reach herd immunity. Currently, slightly more than 47 percent of Americans are vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2.

Texas A&M University School of Public Health assistant professor Timothy Callaghan said in a university press release that "the fact that 22 percent of Americans at least sometimes identify as anti-vaxxers was much higher than expected and demonstrates the scope of the challenge in vaccinating the population against COVID-19 and other vaccine-preventable diseases."

Callaghan's concern reflects a growing challenge for public health experts, who have now to contend with the myriad ways in which basic public health advice has become politicized. Indeed, a March 2021 study, which revealed the extent to which partisan politics have influenced attitudes towards vaccination, found that Republican men were the most likely to be COVID-19 anti-vaxxers (49 percent) — followed by Republican-identifying women (34 percent), Democratic women (14 percent) and Democratic men (6 percent). The same study revealed that 40 percent of white non-college educated men and 38 percent of white evangelicals — groups that both lean conservative — said they would refuse a coronavirus vaccine if it was offered to them.

It should be no surprise that the anti-vaxx movement tends to run hand in hand with support for Donald Trump: 

Another recent study also found that anti-vaccine ideas are most popular among Republicans. Despite the prevalence of anti-vaxxer views, researchers at the nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) found that up to 65% of anti-vaccine misinformation on major social media platforms are being spread by one of a mere dozen individuals and organizations, meaning that misinformation is concentrated in its dissemination.

All of this has some academics shaking their heads, especially considering that Andrew Wakefield's study regarding the measles vaccine and autism has little, if any, basis in fact:

In April, Dr. Kasisomayajula Viswanath, a professor of health communication at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, spoke with Salon's Nicole Karlis about the complex nature of the anti-vaccine movement. Viswanath pointed out that there are many reasons why someone might distrust vaccines, not all of which are linked to partisan politics. Patients from underprivileged backgrounds, for instance, might have previously experienced racism in our health care system and feel an understandable wariness.

"That's very different from a group of people who are outright refusers who say, 'No, this is my freedom,'" Viswanath said. "Personal liberty is one of the biggest drivers."

Friday, October 1, 2021

Balch & Bingham's problematic administration of a fund to prevent COVID-related evictions in the Deep South draws heavy scrutiny from The Washington Post

"Pimps of Mississippi" (banbalch.com)

We wrote in July about the irony (or maybe the oddity) of Birmingham's Balch & Bingham law firm administering a $200-million COVID-19 relief fund, designed to help prevent pandemic-related evictions. That seemed ironic because Balch brags at its Web site about its ability to help landlords execute on evictions and to help lenders collect on debts. In other words, we wrote, "Balch specializes in the kind of law that Mississippians, under the stress of possibly losing their homes,  absolutely do NOT need.

Now we learn, via an article yesterday at The Washington Post, Balch's work on the project might be more than just ironic; it might be flat-out incompetent. From a post at banbalch.com, under the headline "BREAKING NEWS: Balch & Bingham Made Millions While Mississippi Renters Received Nothing": Writes Publisher K.B. Forbes:

The Pimps of Mississippi have made national headlines [yesterday] in The Washington Post. Embattled and alleged racist law law firm Balch & Bingham has reaped millions while renters, many of whom are People of Color, received nothing.

Is a federal or congressional probe next?

The Washington Post reports:

Across America, state distribution of federal cash meant to help people facing eviction during the pandemic has been uneven and slow. But Mississippi’s program has been one of the more problematic. More than seven months after Congress and former president Donald Trump created the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, Mississippi had spent only 11 percent of $186.7 million in first-round funding, according to the Treasury Department, compared with a national average of 32 percent.

Mississippians are clamoring for the funds: 9,000 people applied to the program in August, up nearly 130 percent from the entire period from March 29 to July 31, said Scott Spivey, executive director of the Mississippi Home Corporation (MHC), the state’s quasi-governmental housing agency charged with running the program.

But tenants and local advocates say it can take more than a month to get a response from the program, which is administered in part by Balch & Bingham, a politically connected Alabama law firm. Hired through a no-bid $3.8 million contract by MHC, Balch & Bingham plays a key role in reviewing and scrutinizing aid applications, a process critics say leads to enormous delays.

How bad does this look for Balch? Well, having The Washington Post write an investigative piece about your law firm is not likely to make an attorney's day. Writes Forbes: 

The investigative story rocks the embattled law firm appearing to show high payments for clerical work and what appears to be contradicting statements.  The Washington Post notes:

Balch and MHC agreed to a $3.8 million budget for the firm to help administer the program, including a charge of $135-per-hour for the review of 30,000 applications, according to a March letter from Balch to MHC. In addition to the review of applications, Balch’s role in the rental relief program was meant to include helping draft rules and regulations, “designing and overseeing program administration,” and training staff, according to the letter.

[Balch spokesperson Julie Wall] Khoury described the firm’s role differently, though. She said that nearly 100 Balch attorneys and staff have worked on the program, and that its role is “currently limited to compliance review of applications” and providing legal advice on state and federal guidelines. “Balch & Bingham does not manage the RAMP program, nor do we administer ERA funds,” Khoury said in an email.

Is Forbes buying Khoury's explanation? Not exactly:

Did she just insert a stinky foot into her mouth?

How absurd! Balch may not process the rental assistance disbursements, but, for heaven’s sake, reviewing and determining if the application is worthwhile or not has more to do with the delays than hitting the “send the money” button.

The Washington Post adds:

The flow of billions of federal pandemic relief dollars aimed at curbing economic pain across the country appears to have been particularly lucrative for [Balch & Bingham], as it secured several aid-related contracts over the past 18 months and ultimately scored more than $6 million in fees, according to state procurement records and contract documents provided by MHC. Balch has a line of business representing commercial landlords, according to its website, and a Post review of legal filings shows that Balch represented a lender pursuing foreclosure against a family as recently as 2020 — even as it helped administer a separate federally funded program aimed at preventing foreclosures.

The Pimps of Mississippi: a law firm that forecloses and represents apartment owners now involved in rental and foreclosure assistance.

         Stinks to high heaven!

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Based on deposition testimony, key figure in the Burt Newsome conspiracy case visited a dentist for repairs because he had pulled a crown off his own tooth

 

A man who allegedly took threatening actions against Birmingham attorney Burt Newsome, leading to a criminal menacing charge against Newsome and a case that now is before the U.S. Supreme Court for possible review, was in the vicinity that day for a dental visit because -- wait for it -- he had pulled a crown off his own tooth.

Newsome alleged in a subsequent civil complaint that John F. Bullock's peculiar actions that day were part of a conspiracy, apparently hatched by former Balch & Bingham partner Clark Cooper, to steal a chunk of his banking practice. Bullock, who owns a variety store in Pell City, argued that he and other defendants did not know each other before Newsome filed a lawsuit against them. Newsome produced evidence suggesting the defendants were using burner phones to disguise their communications, but the Jefferson County trial court bought the "we didn't know each other" defense and granted summary judgment or dismissal to the defendants. The Alabama Supreme Court had information about Bullock's bizarre actions regarding his own tooth -- the material is in the public record, as part of Newsome's appellate documents -- but the state high court apparently ignored it, or did not see anything unusual about it, and upheld the trial court's ruling.

Bullock's actions raise at least two odd questions: (1) Why did he drive from Pell City to see a dentist who happens to share a parking area with Newsome's law practice, which is off Old U.S. 280 -- not far from where the Birmingham and Hoover city limits stretch into Shelby County?; (2) Why did Bullock need to see a dentist that day?

We don't have a clear answer to question No. 1, but the answer to question No. 2, in Bullock's own words, seems clear -- his "dental emergency" was of his own making.

Bullock's appearance in the parking lot came shortly after a Hoover man named Al Seier (now deceased) had parked in a similar fashion, allegedly threatened Newsome over his efforts to collect a debt that Seier's wife owed, and pulled a gun on the attorney, leading to a menacing charge against Seier.

Shaken by those events, Newsome made sure to have a gun available at his office. When he saw Bullock's vehicle parked in a manner similar to Seier's, Newsome became concerned. That concern grew as Newsome approached his car, only to have Bullock quickly open his door and block Newsome's path. The attorney pulled a .22 pistol from his pocket, held it by his side and asked Bullock to move so he could get in his car. Bullock did move, but he went on to file a menacing charge against Newsome.

Was that an act of retaliation for the charge Newsome had brought against Al Seier? Was it part of a scheme to set up Newsome for a criminal charge that could be used to draw banking clients away from his practice?  Clear answers to those questions remain elusive. But a deposition transcript filed with Newsome's appeal indicates Bullock was there to see Dr. Lora Gaxiola for a dental problem that he created. From sworn testimony in the Bullock deposition:

Q: And she (Dr. Gaxiola) is your personal dentist?

A. Correct.

Q. Was there a particular reason why you had an appointment set for that day?

A. I had to have a crown reset.

Q. How long had the crown been giving you problems before you set the appointment?

A. I pulled it off the weekend before when I was out of town.

Q. So it was less than seven days before you made your appointment?

A. Correct.

Q. Were you in pain as a result of that?

A. No.

Q. Were you in discomfort?

A. Huh-uh.

Q. Was that a no?

A. Was that a no?

Q. Yes.

MR. HILL (Bullock's attorney): John, you're going to have to answer yes or no.

THE WITNESS: Okay.

A. No.

  From Dr. Gaxiola's deposition about issues related to Bullock's visit:

 Q. What kind of incident can cause [a crown] to come off? Can a person have it removed with [his] own hand . . . or are there certain foods that they shouldn't eat that will dislodge it, like an apple or things like that?

A. Nothing should make a crown come off.

Q. Okay.

A. When we put them in, we don't tell them -- we don't restrict what kind of eating or anything that they can do. Normally, that's what we tell people.

Q. And I think you have already answered the question, but just to be clear, you don't give any kind of restrictions in terms of what you do ordinarily with any other thing in terms of any activity?

A. Correct, no restrictions.

Q. None at all. Okay.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Epic hack of Epik website-hosting firm provides roughly 10 years of data about the rise of right-wing extremism that led to January 6 attack on U.S. Capitol

(Associated Press)
 

The story of perhaps the most important data breach in U.S. history has erupted over roughly the past two weeks. The tale is in its infancy, so it's too early to say in what direction it might head. But it clearly could provide revelations about Alabama's toxic political and legal culture -- mainly because Montgomery-connected extremist Ali (Akbar) Alexander appears to be a central character. Here are at least three questions the breach could help answer:

(1) Who was behind the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol by apparent supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump?

(2) Who is behind right-wing corruption in Alabama, and beyond, and what forms does it take?

(3) How did one of our two major political parties turn into a haven for those wracked by disinformation, race-based fears and hatred, and disrespect for the rule of law -- becoming essentially a cult of personality, with few (if any) defining governing principles beyond maintaining power, at all costs?  

What is the gist of the story? Here is an explainer from CNN

The hacking collective Anonymous last week claimed to have stolen and leaked reams of data held by Epik, a website hosting firm popular with far-right organizations like the Proud Boys.

The more than 150 gigabytes of data swept up in the breach shine a light on years of online activities from far-right groups, including those who tried to overturn the 2020 presidential election. While researchers are still sifting through the data, Epik has historically provided web hosting services to an array of conspiracy theorists, and for conservative media networks like Parler and Gab. 
The breach also undercuts Epik's pledge to customers that it can safeguard their anonymity, no matter what dangerous conspiracy theories they spread online. For that reason, experts told CNN the hack could have repercussions for how far-right groups organize and try to protect themselves online.

"A breach like this will force some of these actors to find security providers outside of North America to possibly step up their security game," Gabriella Coleman, a professor of anthropology at Harvard University, told CNN. Coleman said the data dump "confirmed a lot of the details of the far-right ecosystem."

Emily Crose, a cybersecurity analyst who studies online extremism, said the breach "will be another factor causing paranoia among far-right communities online." Crose said those groups already feel like they're under surveillance, given their violent attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election

Emma Best, co-founder of Distributed Denial of Secrets, a non-profit that itself has published hacktivist data, said researchers could be poring over the Epik leaks for months for clues into how different people and far-right organizations are linked.
 

How epic was the Epik hack? Reports CNN:

In a statement to CNN on Tuesday night, Epik said the information that Anonymous released included data on 15 million people that was already public.
 
Epik has been a trusted resource for many years and our highest priority will always be security and privacy," the firm said.

A report at The Wasington Post/Seattle Times provides insight on the scope of the hack, calling it "huge":

Extremism researchers and political opponents have treated the leak as a Rosetta Stone to the far right, helping them to decode who has been doing what with whom over several years. Initial revelations have spilled out steadily across Twitter since news of the hack broke last week, often under the hashtag #epikfail, but those studying the material say they will need months and perhaps years to dig through all of it.

“It’s massive. It may be the biggest domain-style leak I’ve seen and, as an extremism researcher, it’s certainly the most interesting,” said Megan Squire, a computer science professor at Elon University who studies right-wing extremism. “It’s an embarrassment of riches — stress on the embarrassment.”

Epik, based in the Seattle suburb of Sammamish, has made its name in the internet world by providing critical web services to sites that have run afoul of other companies’ policies against hate speech, misinformation and advocating violence. Its client list is a roll-call of sites known for permitting extreme posts and that have been rejected by other companies for their failure to moderate what their users post.

Online records show those sites have included 8chan, which was dropped by its providers after hosting the manifesto of a gunman who killed 51 Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019; Gab, which was dropped for hosting the anti-Semitic rants of a gunman who killed 11 in a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018; and Parler, which was dropped by Amazon Web Services due to lax moderation related to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

Epik also provides services to a network of sites devoted to extremist QAnon conspiracy theories. Epik briefly hosted the neo-Nazi site Daily Stormer in 2019 after acquiring a cybersecurity company that had provided it with hosting services, but Epik soon canceled that contract, according to news reports. Epik also stopped supporting 8chan after a short period of time, the company has said.

The hack produced roughly 10 years' worth of data about the far right, according to a report at Business Insider.

Epik oficials have said they take data security seriously, but that claim now appears to have been mostly window dressing. From the WaPo/Seattle Times article: 

Since the hack, Epik’s security protocols have been the target of ridicule among researchers, who’ve marveled at the site’s apparent failure to take basic security precautions such as routine encryption that could have protected data about its customers from becoming public.

The files include years of website purchase records, internal company emails and customer account credentials revealing who administers some of the biggest far-right websites. The data includes client names, home addresses, email addresses, phone numbers and passwords left in plain, readable text. The hack even exposed the personal records from Anonymize, a privacy service Epik offered to customers wanting to conceal their identity.

Similar failings by other hacked companies have drawn scrutiny from the Federal Trade Commission, which has probed companies such as dating site Ashley Madison for failing to protect their customers’ private data from hackers. FTC investigations have resulted in settlements imposing financial penalties and more rigorous privacy standards.

Where does Ali Alexander, with his Montgomery-based attorney Baron Coleman, fit into this picture? We will have more on that in an upcoming post. 

(To be continued)

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

The legal world is feeling heat from forest fires sparked by unsavory behavior that would fit right in with Alabama's toxic culture marked by Balch & Bingham


The legal profession tends to avoid serious public scrutiny, but that might be changing, according to a report at banbalch.com. In what should be a surprise to no one, the dubious actions are reminiscent of Alabama's toxic legal/political environment. Writes Publisher K.B. Forbes, in a post titled "Not Above the Law! Balch & Bingham, Perkins Coie, and Arnold & Porter Feel the Blistering Heat":

In 2017, we, the CDLU, dispatched a letter and email to the firm-wide managing partner of Perkins Coie, the law firm that represented the failed presidential campaign of former U.S. Senator and First Lady Hillary Clinton. 

The law firm, closely tied to the Democratic Party, was allegedly behind the circulation of the infamous and unsubstantiated “Steele Dossier” against President Donald J. Trump.

We wrote at the time:

We are writing to you to request an immediate internal investigation of the allegations against Perkins Coie partner Marc E. Elias who allegedly mislead the media and the public about the funding of Fusion GPS. Recent revelations are bothersome. If the allegations are substantiated, Perkins Coie must investigate what other staff or partners were involved in this alleged public deception and hold them accountable. 

Since last year, we have been investigating a sector that has never been under real, tangible scrutiny: the legal profession. We have learned that many unscrupulous and possibly criminal actions, including money laundering and wire fraud, are hidden behind the attorney-client privilege.

                   Like Balch & Bingham, Perkins Coie ignored our request.

The story, however does not end there for Perkins Coie. Writes Forbes: 

Like Balch & Bingham, a criminal indictment was handed down against an esteemed partner at Perkins Coie.

Last Thursday, a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C. indicted Perkins Coie attorney Michael Sussman on a charge of lying to the FBI in 2016 when he allegedly hid the fact that he was working for the Hillary Clinton campaign while pushing for an investigation into supposed ties between the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank, a Russian financial institution.

On Friday, unlike Balch & Bingham’s partner, Sussman resigned from the law firm.

That's not the only trouble percolating in the legal world. Another storm is brewing over opioid-related litigation, which has involved Alabama Republican and Jeff Sessions/Balch & Bingham ally Luther Strange. From banbalch.com:

The indictment comes around the time of more legal bad news out of New York.

There is a “flash flood of misconduct inquiries in opioid litigation across the country” that is “threatening to inflict considerable damage on the professional reputations of its Arnold & Porter attorneys,” according to a report last week from Law360.

New York “Supreme Court Justice Jerry Garguilo … ordered Endo Pharmaceuticals and its attorneys, Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer, to explain at a hearing…why they withheld critical evidence from the New York Attorney General, ” according to Paul Napoli Law Blog.

Lying, withholding evidence, and other unscrupulous conduct is not surprising after four years of observing Balch & Bingham’s alleged misconduct.

Now, Balch is stung by the alleged cover-up of misconduct by alleged pedophile Chase T. Espy, an attorney who worked for Balch for eight years and was arrested in August after allegedly seeking sex with a child online.

Balch foolishly admitted to having abruptly fired Espy a year ago, last September. Weeks before firing the alleged predator who solicited a child online, Balch changed their internal Wi-Fi address, according to sources at Balch.

What was Balch hiding and what will investigators find?

Although Marc Elias eventually left Perkins Coie and started his own law firm, he still collaborates with his former employer and represents the Democratic Party in legal battles.

The alleged unsavory conduct does not end.

In March, the “United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ordered sanctions against Marc Elias and other attorneys at Perkins Coie, an international law firm that provides counsel for the Democratic National Committee, for submitting redundant and misleading supplemental filings in their attempt to re-implement straight-ticket voting in Texas,” according to a statement from the Attorney General of Texas.

Some partners at Balch, Perkins Coie, and Arnold & Porter may foolishly believe they are above the law.

Like the blind and adoring fans of Alabama Power CEO and ex-Balch partner Mark A. Crosswhite, some of the partners may stupidly believe that they, too, are “the most powerful” person in their respective state or practice area.

Go ask Balch’s ex-partner Joel I. Gilbert when he’s ten feet tall.

He’ll be reporting to federal prison in five weeks.