Wednesday, September 30, 2020

A second Balch Bingham partner steps down from a major position -- this time in Mississippi -- following the Burt Newsome vehicle crash in Shelby County

Burt Newsome crash scene

For the second time in roughly a week, a partner at the Balch Bingham law firm has stepped down from a prominent position. First, it was Mike Bowers resigning as head of the firm's Atlanta office. Now, it's Lucien Smith stepping down as chairman of the Mississippi Republican Party. Both exits come in the wake of a suspicious vehicle crash that nearly killed Birmingham attorney Burt Newsome, a recent courtroom adversary for Balch.

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves cited Balch's "entanglements" as one reason for Smith's departure. Do those entanglements include the Newsome crash? That's not clear for now. From a report at

Lucien Smith, a long time Balch Bingham partner, was replaced as Chairman of the Mississippi Republican Party last week.

Mississippi Today reports:

Lucien Smith on Monday announced he’s stepping down as Mississippi Republican Party chairman, with Gov. Tate Reeves backing Coast businessman Frank Bordeaux to replace him.

Numerous Republican sources in July told Mississippi Today that Reeves, as new de facto head of the party in his first term as governor, wanted new leadership

And what polite excuse did spin doctors say was the reason Lucien was tossed aside?

It’s partly because Smith is an attorney at a major law firm that does millions of dollars in business with the state and Reeves believes that is untoward and wanted a chairman with no such entanglements.

"Entanglements" seems like a peculiar term to apply to Balch's business dealings in the Magnolia State:

With Bach’s reputation apparently in shambles, sources wouldn’t even mention the alleged racist firm by name.

Balch Bingham appears to have a bad stench even in Mississippi.

And curiously the business dealings are called “entanglemens.” Is there something the Governor knows that the public does not?


Lucien Smith

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

One of the good guys at Balch Bingham bails out in the wake of Burt Newsome vehicle crash, possibly signaling an exodus of the firm's best and brightest

Burt Newsome crash scene

Is the suspicious vehicle crash that nearly killed Birmingham attorney Burt Newsome reverberating in the upper reaches of the Balch Bingham law firm? The answer appears to be yes, following the resignation last week of Mike Bowers as head of the firm's Atlanta office.

Bowers, a former attorney general of Georgia, has a reputation as a corruption fighter. Did he become uncomfortable at a firm that might be connected to the Newsome crash? We don't have a definitive answer yet, but addresses the issue in a post titled "Former Georgia Attorney General Dumps Balch; Exodus of the Good Begins." From the post:


Former Georgia Attorney General Mike Bowers has quit embattled law firm Balch & Bingham. is reporting he has jumped to Johnson Marlowe.

Two years ago, we wrote about the Dean of Balch’s Atlanta office, writing:

We know about some of the great and honorable partners at Balch & Bingham who truly have been hurt by the alleged unsavory, racist, and criminal conduct by a few bad apples at the firm.

In Atlanta, a controversy has exploded over the high legal fees paid to a law firm to investigate a first-class junket to South Africa.

And who offered the most ethical, most honorable, most insightful observations on the matter? A Balch & Bingham partner….Mike Bowers.

Ban Balch does not see the firm as purely a landing spot for swamp creatures:

    We have always known there are truly inherently good people at Balch.

    In 2017, Bowers and another Balch partner were fighting corruption in Georgia. We wrote:

Two outstanding Balch partners in Atlanta have been fighting alleged self-dealing corruption against an”Atlanta attorney accused of using his position as a special prosecutor to force businesses to forfeit hundreds of thousands of dollars in assets from which he then allegedly drew his fees.”

According to The Daily ReportBalch partners Christopher Anulewicz and Mike Bowers (a former Georgia Attorney General) “contend that [Michael] Lambros uses his special prosecutorial authority and the threat of prosecution to orchestrate the surrender of defendants’ assets and that a court-ordered review of his escrow account records shows that Lambros paid his fees and costs from forfeiture settlements only after they were deposited in his firm escrow account. That, they argued, constituted an illegal contingency fee.”

Unlike their Balch counterparts in Birmingham that lied about the CDLU and then created a secretive Star Chamber to allegedly hide what appears to be unethical or possible criminal acts in the Newsome Conspiracy Case, Anulewicz and Bowers are fighting against corruption and injustice.

Would anyone with a solid moral compass want to stay at Balch?

Now that Balch defenders, stooges, and buffoons have disgraced the law firm even further, sensible partners appear to have had enough.

The exodus of good, experienced, and honorable partners at Balch satellites has begun.

As Balch continues to be left behind with what appears to be an embittered leadership team, inexperienced attorneys, and fewer clients, what will the moral of the story be?

Don’t vow to fight to the death with a sole-practitioner attorney who was almost killed?

Don’t orchestrate an embarrassing campaign that utterly backfired?

Don’t let a humiliating spectacle of uncontrolled stupidity overshadow the wise, the good, and the honorable?

Maybe all of the above.

We wish The Honorable Mike Bowers the best of luck as he says good-bye to Balch.


Mike Bowers

Monday, September 28, 2020

History teaches that shaky ethics are not new for Balch Bingham law firm, but ugliness might have reached an all-time low with the Burt Newsome vehicle crash

Burt Newsome crash scene

The questionable ethics of the Balch Bingham law firm have been unmasked for the public, most prominently in the North Birmingham Superfund bribery case; perhaps most stunningly in the head-on vehicle crash that nearly claimed the life of attorney Burt Newsome, a recent courtroom adversary of Balch and its clients (Alabama Power, Drummond Company).

Evidence from the scene suggests the crash might have been staged, perhaps designed to intimidate, injure, or even kill Newsome. He did, in fact, sustain grave injuries, but is recovering from emergency trauma surgery and has even made a few trips to the office. 

[We invite you to check the crash-scene photo above and note the SUV's wheels are turned sharply right, directly into the driver's compartment of Newsome's vehicle; a similar turn to the left might have missed the Newsome car altogether, or at least, placed the impact on the passenger's compartment, which was vacant. Does this mean the SUV driver meant to hit not only Newsome's car, but the area where Newsome was seated?]

Two big questions: If the incident was staged, who staged it? Why was a Norfolk Southern employee driving the SUV, many miles from the company's local HQ in Irondale? We do not have the answers at this time.

But we do know dubious ethics are not new in Alabama, in general, and for Balch Bingham, in particular. A Selma Times-Journal (STJ) article from June 21, 2005, shows that Balch was part of a political culture that showered gifts on public officials, apparently with the expectation of receiving favors in return. The gift-giving was international in scope, reports the STJ

State officials have taken free trips to Australia, The Bahamas, They've gone hunting for free. And they've been given top-notch tickets to Talladega. 

Balch reported spending $5,197 on hunting trips for Jim Sullivan, president of the Alabama Public Service Commission (PSC), to the Five Star Plantation hunting club at Kellyton in Coosa County. The PSC regulates Balch client Alabama Power, but Sullivan denied the trips had anything to do with Alabama Power. 

History tells us that Balch long has played along the edge of ethical boundaries. But just how low will the present-day firm -- with its historic ties to segregationist Gov. George Wallace -- go? If all the facts on the Newome crash become known, we might have a disturbing answer.

George Wallace

Thursday, September 24, 2020

As attorney Burt Newsome recovers from injuries in suspicious head-on vehicle crash, the ghost of George Wallace hangs over embattled Balch Bingham law firm

The late Schulyer Baker Sr., an early partner at the Balch Bingham law firm, was a noted insider with segregationist Gov. George Wallace. How much of an insider was Baker, whose son Schuyler Allen Baker Jr. now is general counsel at Balch as it wrestles with a number of controversies related to race? [The most recent controversy, going beyond race, involves the suspicious vehicle crash that nearly claimed the life of attorney Burt Newsome and reportedly has stunned the Birmingham legal and business communities.]

 Newspaper archives indicate Balch Bingham has played rough for years. According to a July 1964 article at The Anniston Star, Baker Sr. was the go-to guy when Wallace wanted to make sure Birmingham businessman Elton B. Stephens Sr. (founder of EBSCO Industries) landed a state textbooks contract.

That meant canceling the textbook-depository contract of Paul Malone (from Northport), who had held it for seven years, and shifting it to Stephens, a close friend of Wallace. Baker was the aide Wallace chose to make that happen.

Malone was not happy with the outcome, claiming he was the victim of politics. He told the press he had discussed with Wallace the possible sale of the depository to Stephens but felt Stephens' offer was too low. Wallace's response? "We'll wait and see what happens?" This is what happened: Thanks largely to Schuyler Baker, Malone saw the contract swept out from under him. Wrote The Star:

On Oct. 1, the State Board of Education (featuring four new Wallace appointees) canceled Malone's contract and eventually awarded a new contract to Stephens. 

Malone also told reporters that a Birmingham attorney, Schuyler Baker, who represented Stephens in the proposed sale of the depository business, told him in a telephone conversation that Wallace would cancel the contract unless Malone agreed to sell the property. Contacted in Birmingham, Baker denied it.

Malone showed newsmen copies of registered letters to and from Baker during the negotiations. Malone obtained an injunction to block the contract cancellation, but the Alabama Supreme Court overturned it, and the education board promptly awarded a new contract to Stephens.

Moving to the present day and controversies swirling around Balch, they might have recently increased by one when attorney Burt Newsome -- after court skirmishes with Balch and its clients, Alabama Power and Dummond Company -- was injured in a car crash that showed signs of being intentionally set up. 

Was Newsome the target of a hit? The Birmingham legal and business communities are "stunned and in disbelief" after the Newsome crash, according to a report at

Burt Newsome has been discharged from the hospital and is making a steady recovery. The Iron Man has even gone to his office, defying those who may have hoped he was permanently silenced or crippled.

Leading activists, business leaders, lawyers, and judicial branch employees in Alabama are stunned and in disbelief that Burt Newsome was almost killed.

Newsome has received a flurry of support and “get well” messages from colleagues and lawyers, but not a peep, not a squeak from Balch or their henchmen.

Was Newsome a victim once again? Many think so.


Burt Newsome crash scene.


Wednesday, September 23, 2020

In an age of hyper-partisanship, famed journalist Bob Woodward is catching unfair heat for holding back Trump's quotes re: coronavirus for "Rage" book


Bob Woodward is taking unfair heat for holding back President Trump's quotes about the coronavirus for the famed journalist's book Rage (released last week) at a time when America's "ethical lens" seems to be foggy, according to a legal-ethics expert at Western Michigan University. Writes Victoria Vuletich

“People seek simple solutions to complex problems.”  So goes the adage.  The furor over Bob Woodward withholding the President’s early knowledge of how deadly and contagious the Coronavirus is proves the adage, and more importantly, illustrates the extent to which America has discarded its ethical lens.

Yes, had Woodward disclosed the President’s statements earlier than last week, lives “might” have been saved, and surely this is a compelling ethical and moral issue.  But ethics issues always involve a balance of competing interests, and it was Woodward, alone, who had to wrestle with them. 

        Woodward stated that he needed to determine whether the President’s statements about Covid-19          were true. In an age where misinformation, misleading commentary and outright falsehoods are           peddled as “news,” Woodward took time to practice integrity and honesty. Woodward refused to         print something that would have easily generated much publicity for his forthcoming book until he         could confirm its truth. Isn’t that what we need and want from those who seek to influence our             opinion? He surely had his reputation, built over decades, in mind too. Should he risk his voice             of credibility and authority by printing something whose accuracy he questioned? 

Would earlier release of the Trump quotes -- if even possible, given Woodward's book contract -- have made much difference? Vuletich has doubts:

An equally significant factor in the calculation is the context of the time. Representative Louie Gohmert contracted coronavirus after refusing to wear a face mask, stating: “I can't help but think that if I hadn't been wearing a mask so much in the last 10 days or so, I really wonder if I would have gotten it.”  Representative Tom Rice was the first national legislator to report having the coronavirus, indicating that he had no regrets about not wearing a mask: “My understanding is that a mask doesn't really protect you as much as it protects other people.”  Would these two men have believed what Woodward said in March?  Would the President’s base have believed Woodward in March?  Not likely.  A significant percentage of the President’s supporters would have accepted the President’s public statements and labeled Woodward’s tapes as “fake.”This says something about America’s ethical lens.

America has become a nation where we view most complex issues through a political lens.  We seek easy solutions to complex problems because the ugly hyper-partisanship of our current political process exhausts our willingness and appetite to engage in even the moderate analysis required to deal with the complex issues of our time. We align ourselves with a party, throw money at it and expect it “to fix things” without our engagement and involvement. 

Why look to simple, partisan answers to tough questions? Because it doesn't cost us much:

Viewing our nation’s issues solely through a political lens allows us to escape our ethical and moral responsibility. We avoid the painful task of having to ceaselessly reflect on the intersection of our personal moral values with the actions and policies taken by those we elect. We grasp at suggestions that “things can stay the same” or that “issues can easily be addressed without great cost” despite living in a time of unprecedented economic restructuring and global climate change, which bring unavoidable and painful consequences. 

Most frighteningly, donning only the political lens allows us to dehumanize the opinions, values, and fears of half of our neighbors, co-workers, friends and even family members.   We silently believe: “If only our side can win, everything will be o.k.”  But we know life does not work this way and never has - unless you desire civil war and an impotent government.

Would some of us have made a different call on timing than Woodward? Perhaps. Woodward did not confirm the President’s statements until May, long after the virus was already raging. Perhaps Woodward waited so long because he thought the harm was already done. But we must recognize and respect that he was wrestling with a complex issue that involved competing values, interests and social context.

Vuletich does see hopeful signs:

Encouragingly, the George Floyd protests represented a moment when America embraced its ethical responsibility. Ethical citizens from across the political spectrum demonstrated peacefully because they recognized George Floyd’s vulnerability and worth as a human being and responded, many out of a sense of epiphany. Individuals looked inside themselves, willing to change their previous assumptions and perspectives. Real change is slowly underway because of this collective embrace of moral and ethical responsibility.

It is human nature to seek simple solutions to complex problems.  If we fail to personally take responsibility for the ethical complexity of our political beliefs and systems, we will find ourselves as a society at the other end of this spectrum of human nature:    “. . . in the big lie, there is always a certain force of credibility.” An adage expressed by Adolph Hitler in Mein Kampf.  We are believing many small lies.  Let’s stop, before we become willing to believe a big one.

Monday, September 21, 2020

In a case about a relatively mundane matter -- the extension of traffic stops -- Ruth Bader Ginsburg showed why she was a champion for everyday folks

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

The next time you experience a traffic stop, you should know that the officer cannot extend the stop beyond the time it takes to tend to traffic matters -- unless he has reasonable suspicion of criminal activity related to your vehicle. In other words, he must follow strict guidelines, set down by the nation's highest court, if he wants the stop to stay within the law. For that, we largely can thank Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Since her death was announced last Friday, Ginsburg has been mourned by those on the left -- and others who care deeply about civil rights. Her name also has become part of a political parlor game driven by bipartisan speculation about who will replace her on the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS). That's too bad because Ginsburg should be remembered as an example of the good that can come when someone with a sharp mind, a good heart, and the ability to write with clarity and conviction helps shape our nation's laws and values. 

Ginsburg was known for standing up for the powerless against the powerful -- as usually is the case in a traffic stop.  A classic example was a case styled Rodriguez v. United States (2014). It was not a monumental case for which Ginsburg long will be remembered, but her majority opinion showed her clear-minded, balanced thinking on an everyday issue that affects millions of Americans. We spotlighted the case in an April 2015 post:

In Rodriguez v. United States, SCOTUS found that a stop prolonged beyond the time for an officer to complete his traffic-based inquiries is "unlawful," especially where there is no reasonable suspicion of any criminal activity connected to the vehicle. The majority opinion, written by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, says even a brief extension of a stop, once a citation or warning is given and traffic-related documents are returned, runs afoul of the constitutional right to be free from unreasonable seizures. . . . 

The Rodriguez ruling does not change the law as it relates to [many traffic stops]. It just affirms a legal precedent under slightly different facts than the high court has addressed before. . . .

What element did Rodriguez add to the equation? A Nebraska officer had prolonged a traffic stop of Dennys Rodriguez in order to walk a drug-sniffing dog around the car. Given that it was unclear whether the officer had reasonable suspicion of a crime, SCOTUS found that extension of the stop violated the Fourth Amendment.

 The Rodriguez ruling drives home a legal principle that already had been clear in  numerous other cases. Here, in the words of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is the fundamental finding in Rodriguez (citations omitted):

Authority for the seizure ends when tasks tied to the traffic infraction are—or reasonably should have been completed. The Fourth Amendment may tolerate certain unrelated investigations that do not lengthen the roadside detention . . . but a traffic stop “become[s] unlawful if it is prolonged beyond the time reasonably required to complete th[e] mission” of issuing a warning ticket. . . .

The Government’s argument that an officer who completes all traffic-related tasks expeditiously should earn extra time to pursue an unrelated criminal investigation is unpersuasive, for a traffic stop “prolonged beyond” the time in fact needed for the officer to complete his traffic-based inquiries is “unlawful. . . . ” The critical question is not whether the dog sniff occurs before or after the officer issues a ticket, but whether conducting the sniff adds time to the stop.

    Notice how Ginsburg states -- gently, but firmly -- that the government's arguments for extended            stops were so much dog poop. Why did Rodriguez matter? Ginsburg makes it clear:

We granted certiorari to resolve a division among lower courts on the question whether police routinely may extend an otherwise-completed traffic stop, absent reasonable suspicion, in order to conduct a dog sniff. . . . Without additional reasonable suspicion, the officer must allow the seized person to depart once the purpose of the stop has concluded.

    Perhaps more than anything, Rodriguez shows just how much Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be missed.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

The SUV driver who hit attorney Burt Newsome in head-on crash that caused grave injuries works for Norfolk Southern, which has ties to Balch Bingham


The SUV driver who hit attorney Burt Newsome in a a head-on vehicle crash, which required Newsome to have  emergency trauma surgery, works for the Norfolk Southern railroad company. What does that tell us about the crash? Publisher K.B. Forbes connects some dots in a post at The post is titled "Norfolk Southern, Balch, and the Head-On Crash Into Burt Newsome":

The accident report of the mysterious car wreck that almost took the life of Iron Man Burt Newsome appears to confirm that the driver of an SUV, who made a left turn in front of Newsome instead of yielding to oncoming traffic, apparently made an abrupt right turn shortly thereafter, hitting Newsome head-on.

The photo above appears to confirm the fact, raising the question: Was Iron Man Newsome the victim of a possible crime? 

Could the crash have been a true accident? Forbes doesn't seem to be buying it:

           In Alabama, they say there are no such things as coincidences.

In 2018, we uncovered that the police officer who participated in the alleged staged arrest of Burt Newsome was the son of a long-time Alabama Power executive and Balch Bingham client.

In July, we were warned by law enforcement, as an entity and as individuals, to take precautions after Balch defenders began an orchestrated campaign to attack us, the CDLU, and Burt Newsome. The orchestrated campaign became a humiliating spectacle of uncontrolled stupidity by Balch defenders.

What about those connected dots?

         The driver of the vehicle that struck Newsome is an employee of Norfolk Southern, the railroad           company that hauls coal among other items.

Norfolk Southern, Alabama Power, Balch & Bingham, and Drummond are all members of the Alabama Coal Association, Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, and Business Council of Alabama.

Now investigators are looking closely at these ties and drilling down.

And yes, Norfolk Southern does have direct ties to Balch’s shenanigans.

Weeks ago, on August 25, 2020, the residents of Vincent, Alabama, united together and gave a resounding defeat to Balch Bingham stooges who had rammed through a polluting rock quarry after an alleged “whites-only” land grab a decade ago.

According to news reports from 2014, the Arkwright District of Vincent was ready to be listed on the National Historic Register, but Balch and their client, White Rock Quarries, fought back.

And who was one of the key landowners to object to the historic listing?

Norfolk Southern.

From a 2014 article at the Trussville Tribune

“The park service determined that Arkwright was eligible to be listed, but the majority of the landowners objected. So therefore it could not be listed as anything other than eligible,” Wofford said.

The landowners in question are CSX Railroad, Norfolk Southern Railroad, Vandiver Steel Fabrication and two private homeowners.

“White Rock Quarries, a non-owner, was represented by attorney Jim Noles of Balch and Bingham located in Birmingham, Alabama, who represented himself as counsel for CSX Railroad and Norfolk Southern Railroad, as well,” [Vincent  activist Anne] Gibbons wrote.

Numerous efforts to reach Noles for a comment went unanswered.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Fatal police shooting of Ryan Stokes in Kansas City provides evidence that Donald Trump is packing federal courts with incompetent, right-wing hacks

Ryan Stokes and his daughter

How do we know a Trump-appointed appellate judge  got it wrong when he wrote an opinion that led to a Kansas City, MO, police officer receiving immunity from lawsuit after fatally shooting an unarmed black man in the back? The judge in question is David Stras, appointed in 2017 to the U.S. Eighth Circuit  Court of Appeals, and Stras' own words tell us he wrongfully forced a lower-court judge to grant immuniy via summary judgment to officer William Thompson in the 2013 shooting of Ryan Stokes.

The Stokes family filed a lawsuit for excessive force and wrongful death on behalf of Ryan Stokes' infant daughter, in a case styled N.S., et al v. Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners, et al (8th Cir., 2019).As a matter of law, the lawsuit should have gone to settlement or trial, but a three-judge panel's unlawful grant of immunity -- with Stras writing the opinion -- short-circuited any chance the Stokes family had of receiving even a sliver of justice.

U.S. Judge David Stras
How gross was the Stras panel's butchery of the N.S. case? To arrive at an answer to that question, we first need to consider the proper steps for considering summary judgment, as spelled out in case law and Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP). Here are three key elements:

(1) The evidence of the nonmovant (the Stokes family, in this case) is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby Inc., 477 U.S. 242 (1986).

(2) Summary judgment is appropriate where there is no genuine issue of material fact, and “the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex Corp v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986).

(3) In passing upon a motion for summary judgment, the court is required to view the facts in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion and to give to that party the benefit of reasonable inferences to be drawn from underlying facts. Robert Johnson Grain Co. v. Chem. Interchange Co., 541 F. 2d 207 - Court of Appeals (8th Circuit, 1976). Adickes v. SH Kress and Co., 398 US 144 
 (Supreme Court 1970).
Did the Stras panel follow these straightforward provisions of summary-judgment law? Not even close. Let's consider Stras' own words from the N.S. opinion:

Some evidence supports Thompson's account. The police discovered a handgun on the driver's seat of the car, which could mean that Stokes was armed when he entered the parking lot but then tossed the gun into the car. And witnesses who saw Stokes running said that he appeared to be "holding up his pants as he ran," which is arguably consistent with Thompson's perception that Stokes was holding a gun. Finally, Thompson's partner claims to have heard Thompson order Stokes to "get on the ground."

Other evidence supports the family's account. No one besides Thompson observed Stokes with a gun, nor was any gun found on or near his body. The car's owner, who was Stokes's friend, claimed that the gun recovered from the car belonged to him and that it had been there all night. Moreover, some officers did not recall hearing Thompson shout anything during the encounter, and at least one officer thought Stokes was trying to surrender when Thompson shot him.

Stras admits right up front that the evidence is mixed, with some of it favoring Officer Thompson's account, and some favoring the Stokes family's account. As the non-moving party, the Stokes family was entitled to have their factual allegations believed and "all justifiable inferences drawn in their favor." So, how could the Stras panel essentially force the trial court to grant summary judgment against them?

In Stras' own words, there were "multiple genuine issues of material fact," so summary judgment could not lawfully be granted. Why did the panel force summary judgment anyway?

In laying out the evidence above, the panel was required " to view the facts in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion (the Stokes family) and to give to that party the benefit of reasonable inferences to be drawn from underlying facts." So, why did the panel do just the opposite, viewing all facts in favor of the moving party, Officer Thompson?

Our review of the N.S. case is sobering, to say the least. Does it add to the evidence that the rule of law is crumbling in the United States, as we have spotlighted in a series of recent posts? Does it suggest Trump is packing federal courts with partisan, incompetent hacks? We think it suggests both.

Cynthia Short, an attorney for the Stokes family, says they intend to appeal the grant of summary judgment.

On a personal level, the N.S. case provides insight about one of several cheat jobs Mrs. Schnauzer and I have experienced in federal court. It also stirs memories of our encounters with violent cops, including the unlawful eviction here in Missouri, which ended with Greene County deputies breaking my wife Carol's arm.

 The bottom line: We have encountered multiple federal judges who are even more hideously corrupt than Trump pick David Stras.

(To be continued)

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Federal courts uphold Sarah Palin's rights to discovery and a jury trial in defamation suit against New York Times while denying me identical rights in UAB case

Are you more likely to get a fair shake in federal court if you are a celebrity politician of the conservative variety? Recent news reports suggest the answer is yes. Do federal courts apply the law evenly and fairly across different regions of the country? The same news reports suggest the answer is no.
Those seem to be the two take-home lessons from the latest news on Sarah Palin's defamation lawsuit against The New York Times. The bottom line: Sarah Palin's rights matter more than the identical rights of an everyday American.

Who is the specific everyday American in this instance? It's me, your humble blogger. Am I unhappy about Sarah Palin's rights being upheld while my rights -- the exact same ones -- have been trampled? You're darned right I am. At the risk of tossing journalistic decorum out the window, you might say I'm pissed. But I intend to pursue whatever legal means are available to rectify the situation -- although I have no idea, at the moment, what those might be, or if they even exist.

What rights are we talking about here? They are biggies -- the right to discovery and the right to a jury trial. They are central to any civil litigation you are likely to encounter. How was I denied those rights? When I sued UAB (the University of Alabama Board of Trustees) for wrongful termination and First Amendment violations, U.S. District Judge William M. Acker Jr. (now deceased) dismissed my case at summary judgment without allowing any discovery. All kinds of procedural and case law says that cannot be done. But Acker did it, cheating me out of rights that are supposed to be foundational, to which every plaintiff is entitled once he clears motion-to-dismiss hurdles.

In a roundabout way, the trial judge in Palin's case did the same thing as Acker. From a recent report at Politico:

A federal judge has ordered a jury trial in former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s libel suit against The New York Times over an editorial linking her to the 2011 Arizona shooting rampage that seriously wounded then-Rep. Gabby Giffords and killed six others.

In the latest round of litigation in the case, U.S. District Court Judge Jed Rakoff rejected separate motions in which The Times and Palin claimed they should prevail based on the existing evidence and depositions in the case.

In a ruling issued Friday evening, Rakoff said the issues were not as clear-cut as either party suggested, so the matter will have to be decided by a jury. He set Feb. 1, 2021, as a target for a trial to open in the case, but noted that the date could be delayed as courts continue to struggle with in-person proceedings amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The initial version of the 2017 Times editorial said it was “clear” that the 2011 shooting was linked to a map Palin’s political action committee released that included crosshairs over Giffords’ Tucson district. However, no such link has ever been established. The shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, was found to be mentally ill and was sentenced to life in prison in 2012.
How do Palin's case and my UAB case intersect? From Politico:

The Times corrected that language the morning after the editorial was first published online, but Palin sued, claiming that then-editorial page editor James Bennet knew or should have known the claim was false because when he served as editor of the Atlantic magazine it published numerous articles indicating that no link between the crosshairs map and the shooting had been established.

Rakoff threw out the case in 2017 after an unusual early hearing in which Bennet testified that he was responsible for the error and simply forgot about the earlier articles.

But a federal appeals court revived the suit last year, ruling that the unorthodox procedure Rakoff used violated Palin’s rights under federal court rules to pursue evidence and testimony about the episode before a definitive ruling on her suit.

Where do the two cases diverge? As you can see, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals came to Palin's rescue, upholding her right to seek discovery. The 11th Circuit, based in Atlanta, provided no such rescue for me. It upheld Acker, in an unpublished opinion, even though he plainly violated circuit precedent, as stated in a case styled Snook v. Trust Company of Georgia, 859 F. 2d 865 (11th Cir., 1988):

This court has often noted that summary judgment should not be granted until the party opposing the motion has had an adequate opportunity for discovery. . . . The party opposing a motion for summary judgment has a right to challenge the affidavits and other factual materials submitted in support of the motion by conducting sufficient discovery so as to enable him to determine whether he can furnish opposing affidavits. . . . Generally summary judgment is inappropriate when the party opposing the motion has been unable to obtain responses to his discovery requests.

Do I have any options other than to bend over and take it? My best answer at the moment is maybe. If the actions of Acker and the 11th Circuit amount to fraud on the court, my research indicates their orders would be void and open to attack via independent actions without time constraints.
That probably is a tricky route for any litigant to take, but my legal fight with the University of Alabama might still have life. 

Aside from what happens in my case, here is the big picture: You can file a lawsuit in the Southeast and have the law applied (misapplied, actually) one way; another person can file a complaint in the Northeast and have the law -- on identical issues -- applied another way (correctly). That's not how a Constitutional system based on due process and equal protection is supposed to work. It's a sign our justice system might be broken even worse than some of us thought.

One hardly can escape the conclusion that the 11th Circuit is filled with a bunch of miscreants for judges, out of step with the Second Circuit and the plainly written law. That should be a concern for all Americans, especially those living in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida -- where the 11th Circuit reigns.

Monday, September 14, 2020

With a titanium rod in his leg, "Iron Man" Burt Newsome vows from his hospital bed to hold Drummond, Balch, and Alabama Power accountable


Birmingham attorney Burt Newsome appears to have come through emergency surgery well and is on a challenging road to recovery after being the victim of a head-on vehicle crash that shows signs of being deliberately set up, according to a report at Publisher K.B. Forbes, writing under the headline "From Hospital Bed, Iron Man Newsome Vows “Pursuit of Justice,” reports:

Eight years ago, Burt Newsome, an innocent lawyer minding his own business who had no issues with Balch Bingham was allegedly targeted, falsely arrested and defamed by the once-prestigious, silk-stocking law firm in an alleged attempt to steal his business servicing banks.

His unwavering tenacity to pursue justice against the odds, against the bullies at Balch has made him a hero in the legal community who have had enough of the consistent abuse of the judicial and political system by Balch stooges.

On Sunday, from his hospital bed recovering from reconstructive surgery of his shattered leg and other serious injuries, Newsome vowed the pursuit of justice not only for himself and his family, but for his client, ex-Drummond executive David Roberson.

If anyone, senior partners at Balch should be to blame for this eight-year odyssey that has crippled the firm.

Alan Rogers (pictured above, left), the former Managing Partner at Balch, allegedly scoffed at settling the Newsome Conspiracy Case for $150,000 back in 2015.

Stan Blanton (pictured above, center), current Managing Partner at Balch, appears to have intentionally ignored our phone calls and emails, even after Balch’s sister-wife Southern Company requested that we, the CDLU, reach out to him. Blanton has yet to apologize to the North Birmingham African-American community about convicted felon and ex-Balch partner Joel I. Gilbert’s criminal conduct.

Schuyler Allen Baker, Jr. (pictured above, right), General Counsel at Balch and son of staunch segregationist and former Balch partner, appears to have let his ego and rage drive an illogical path of sheer stupidity that has cost the firm millions.

Culminating in a horrific head-on collision that nearly killed him, Newsome underwent reconstructive surgery Friday morning that put a titanium rod in his leg.

Ironically, hours later in Lee County, Alabama, former Alabama Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard reported to jail for his prison term.

Once the most powerful and feared politician in the state, Hubbard used every legal trick in an attempt to circumvent his conviction. His efforts failed.

Even Hubbard’s friends and political allies on the Alabama Supreme Court had enough and affirmed the rule of law and justice.

 Was the vehicle crash driven by Newsome's court skirmishes with corporate titans Drummond Company, Alabama Power, and Balch Bingham? That is one of many questions swirling around the crash. A police report on the incident is expected to be released by the Shelby County Sheriff's Office in a few days, and that should answer some questions, which include:

*  Who was the driver of the SUV that hit Newsome?

* if the SUV hit Newsome intentionally, who put the driver up to it?

* Was this attempted murder?

* If so, what kind of penalties -- both civil and criminal -- could face those who are found to be responsible?

Here is more from K.B. Forbes:

Now with a titanium leg, “Iron Man” Newsome will continue his fight, with heightened security and safety protection, to hold Balch, Alabama Power, and Drummond Company accountable.

Physicians are amazed and impressed with Newsome’s progress and recovery.

Newsome is driven; even after walking near the Valley of Death, he will not be silenced or intimidated.

Rogers, Blanton, and Baker underestimated Newsome, and even their closest allies look like they are questioning Balch’s foolishness.

Now investigators will look deep into the car wreck that almost claimed Newsome’s life.

In the meantime, Iron Man will enjoy time with his four beautiful children and wife, while returning to work more determined than ever.

Friday, September 11, 2020

B'ham lawyer Burt Newsome --in court battles with Drummond, Balch, and Alabama Power -- is injured in vehicle crash that appeared to be intentionally set up

Burt Newsome

Birmingham attorney Burt Newsome, who is in court skirmishes with several of Alabama's corporate and legal titans -- Drummond Company, Alabama Power, Balch and Bingham -- is scheduled for emergency surgery today after being hit in a vehicle crash that, sources say, appeared to be intentionally caused.

Newsome was driving yesterday afternoon in "The Narrows" area of old U.S. 280 in Shelby County when he attempted to turn left on a green light. A large SUV from the other direction came straight toward  Newsome's Volkswagen Jetta, causing him to swerve in an effort to avoid contact. The other driver was able to maneuver the SUV into a position where he could hit Newsome head on.

Was this an attempted murder? It's too early to provide a definitive answer, but law enforcement is investigating, and Newsome reportedly is calling for an independent investigation of Drummond, Alabama Power, and Balch.

From a report on the crash at, under the headline "Breaking News: Newsome Gravely Injured; FBI Probe Demanded":

Burt Newsome, one of the leading banking lawyers in Alabama who has successfully challenged and humiliated Balch Bingham after he allegedly was targeted, falsely arrested, and defamed by a conspiracy allegedly spearheaded by a Balch partner, was gravely injured in a mysterious auto accident Thursday afternoon.

The incident comes hours after Legal Schnauzer published an article linking Balch to a Wallace-era highway scandal that involved the Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, Robert Shelton.

The late Schuyler A. Baker, Sr. was at one time a top attorney at Balch Bingham, and also a staunch segregationist who was part of racist Governor George Wallace’s inner circle. He was mentioned in The New York Times article about the highway scandal.

His son, Schuyler Allen Baker, Jr., is currently General Counsel at Balch and has been at the firm since 1974. Schuyler, Jr. vowed to fight Burt Newsome and the Newsome Conspiracy Case to the death.

The mysterious and near-death accident comes exactly two weeks after a hearing on ex-Drummond Executive David Roberson’s $75-million lawsuit against Drummond Company and Balch  Bingham. Newsome is representing Roberson.

According to sources, Newsome spent six hours with leading trauma physicians after sustaining numerous and severe injuries; and he will undergo extensive surgery early Friday morning.


Newsome's legal battles started when Balch officials allegedly framed him for a crime and distributed his mugshot to various clients in an effort to steal his lucrative bank-servicing practice. Newsome represents former Drummond executive Dave Roberson in a $75-million lawsuit related to the North Birmingham Superfund bribery scandal, in which two Balch partners were indicted.

The vehicle crash comes near the end of a week in which and Legal Schnauzer have reported on Balch's connections to the George Wallace administration, segregation, and a Wallace-era highway-funds scandal that reportedly involved Robert Shelton, imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

It also comes after a recent hearing in the Roberson lawsuit, which did not appear to go well for the defendants, sources say.      

Ban Balch publisher K.B. Forbes asks the pivotal question: Was the vehicle crash intentional?

We remind our readers that Newsome’s family was threatened with a “permanent vacation” when a package with luggage and clothing was sent to them in 2018 following the targeted break-in of his wife’s car. Newsome is the father of four children.

The accident also comes just two months after Balch Bingham buffoons attempted to smear us, the CDLU, and Newsome.

The orchestrated efforts by Balch defenders, including hiring a “burn down Hoover” rabble-rouser who was later arrested by three different law enforcement agencies, has completely and utterly backfired.

An email was dispatched late Thursday night to the FBI asking for a probe of the accident, Balch Bingham, their sister-wife Alabama Power, and Drummond Company to see if they were involved in any of the events targeting Newsome, his family, and his life.

We pray for the Newsome Family during this difficult time.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

The late Schuyler Baker Sr., a top partner at Balch Bingham, had ties to Wallace-era highway scandal, which also connected to Ku Klux Klan grand wizard

An early partner in the Balch Bingham law firm and a "founding father" of what now is the BBVA bank-holding company was connected to a highway-funds scandal during the administration of segregationist Gov. George Wallace -- with federal money allegedly going to an engineering firm that employed the imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan -- according to a news report from the 1960s.

The late Schuyler Baker Sr. a Birmingham attorney and longstanding ally of Wallace, was among prominent Alabamians mentioned in the report. His son, Schuyler Allen Baker Jr., now is general counsel at Balch Bingham, during a period when the law firm has been embroiled in several controversies related to race and apparent oppression of black Alabamians -- perhaps most notably in the North Birmingham Superfund bribery scandal, which involved indictments of two Balch partners.

Robert Shelton, Ku Klux Klan
At the heart of the 1960s scandal was a letter from the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads stating it had information that consulting engineers on federal highway projects in Alabama were required to hire friends of the administration as agents.

According to an Alabama Journal article dated Sept. 11, 1964, one of the engineering concerns mentioned in the report was Dixie Engineering, and one of its employees was Robert Shelton, imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. From the Alabama Journal:
A report of the preliminary investigation accompanied the letter. It listed several widely known Alabama figures, who, it claimed, had been listed by Highway Department records as agents designated to represent some of the consulting engineering firms.
Among them were McDowell Lee, secretary of the Senate and a close friend of Wallace; Gordon Persons Jr., son of the former governor; Schuyler Baker, Birmingham attorney and close associate of Wallace; and former state Rep. Pete Gilmer of Marion Junction, a former agriculture commissioner.
George Wallace
Other persons identified in the report were C.T. Fitzpatrick, a Montgomery businessman and friend of the governor; J.F. Rea, a Montgomery railroad engineer; and Joe Miller, a Birmingham civil engineer. . . The lengthy report also identified the imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, Robert Shelton, as an employee of one of the engineering concerns -- Dixie Engineering -- along with Lee.
 How did all of this raise concerns with federal officials? The Journal explained:
According to the letter from the head of the Federal Highway Administration, Rex M. Whitton, the results of a preliminary investigation by the Bureau indicate a violation of its rules against the hiring of outside agents in order to get engineering contracts. As a result, Whitton said the federal government may be prompted to suspend approval of existing contracts and may take administrative action to recover money already paid to Alabama.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

No wonder civil-rights leaders are firing lasers at Birmingham's BBVA USA and Balch Bingham; both firms have strong historical ties to segregation

Civil-rights leaders are blasting the BBVA USA bank-holding company and the Balch Bingham law firm. And it's little wonder, given that both Birmingham-based entities have ties to segregation, according to a report at Ban Balch publisher K.B. Forbes, under the headline "Abomination! Balch Partner and BBVA “Founding Father” was a Staunch Segregationist , writes:

Atoning for the sins of their founding fathers, BBVA is now under enormous pressure to cut ties with the embattled and alleged racist law firm Balch Bingham.

Schuyler A. Baker, Sr. (pictured above inside the red circle) was a top partner at Balch when it was called Balch, Bingham, Baker, Hawthorne, Williams and Ward.

Baker was a founding father of the predecessor of BBVA Bank, called Central Bank and Trust, when the financial institution was founded on March 2, 1964.

Baker's connections can be traced straight to the most famous name in Alabama political history:

Baker was also a close personal friend, campaign manager, and staunch ally of Governor George Wallace, the segregationist and racist governor of Alabama.

According to news reports, Schuyler Allen Baker, Sr. even provided his own tie to the Governor on his first day in office on January 15, 1963, after a moving snafu had Wallace show up without a tie.

Baker was in the Governor’s inner circle and a defender of his racist policies supporting the segregation and exclusion of African-Americans.

When the U.S. government sued Governor Wallace to force the admission of African-Americans into the University of Alabama in 1963, Governor Wallace was defended and represented by Schuyler Baker, Sr. and several other attorneys who sought an injunction.

Days after the decision to allow African-Americans to attend the University of Alabama, Governor Wallace stood in the schoolhouse door on June 11, 1963, forcing President John F. Kennedy to federalize the Alabama National Guard.

Baker hardly was a casual Wallace backer:

Baker’s support for Wallace and segregation was long and deep.

On February 28, 1968, when Governor Wallace was running for U.S. President as the candidate of the American Independent Party, espousing his pro-segregationist policies, he announced a fundraising effort to collect 750 signatures to get on the ballot in Nebraska.

UPI reported at the time:

Presidential candidate George Wallace will address the Nebraska state convention of his American Party Monday in Omaha, his headquarters announced Tuesday. To get Wallace on the Nebraska ballot, 750 persons must attend the convention and sign a roster and agreement to participate in the formation of the party, a spokesman said.

The Wallace headquarters said fundraising for the campaign was being intensified and a second committee has been formed in Alabama to collect funds. Named to the new committee, called the Presidential Finance Committee for Special Contributions, were Robert Wilder of Dadeville, chairman; C.T. Fitzpatrick, Montgomery; Alvin Blackwell, Huntsville; State Sen. Jack Giles, Huntsville, Noel Dowling, Dothan; Schuyler Baker, Birmingham and Hugh Parker, Gadsden.

Events would turn ugly in Nebraska:

And what happened at and after that state convention in 1968? A race riot, and three-days of mayhem.

As the Omaha World Herald recalls:

The chaos of 1968 had casualties. Three days of unrest following the Wallace visit left:

* One 16-year-old shot dead by a 23-year-old off-duty Omaha police officer using a shotgun.

* 17 people injured.

* 55 people arrested.

* 32 buildings and 44 cars damaged.

* Nine buildings burglarized or looted.

Damage was extensive at schools…. Buses and firetrucks had been hit by bricks. Eight windows were broken at the Civic Auditorium. Police overtime added up. There was a social toll: Distrust deepened between Omaha police and black Omahans. White flight took hold. Businesses fled North 24th Street.

Balch's ugly past has repercussions in the present. Writes Forbes:

Baker, who died in 1990, was “Of Counsel” at Balch his latter years.

His son, Schuyler Allen Baker, Jr. is now the General Counsel at Balch Bingham who foolishly vowed to fight to the death in the Newsome Conspiracy Case and lied about us, the CDLU, in a court filing.

Institutional racism is real and Balch Bingham’s alleged racist, deplorable, and unsavory conduct now appears to have a legacy, a history.

Balch refuses to apologize to the North Birmingham African-American community for their partner’s criminal conduct. Balch refuses to put the Newsome Conspiracy Case behind them. Balch refuses to acknowledge they owed a duty to tell David Roberson the truth.

BBVA and other clients must see those refusals as part of a pattern of conduct unbecoming of a modern, inclusive, global law firm and do what so many others have done: terminate the firm!

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Civil-rights leader blasts B'ham-based banking firm for talking a big game on race while maintaining ties to Balch Bingham and its ugly actions toward blacks


A Florida-based civil-rights leader has blasted banking giant BBVA USA for maintaining ties to Birmingham law firm Balch Bingham, despite its recent history of dubious actions related to race -- including playing a leading role in the North Birmingham Superfund bribery scandal.  In a post titled "Terminate Balch Now! Civil Rights Leader Rips BBVA for “Desecrating the Memory of George Floyd, publisher K.B. Forbes writes:

Civil Rights leader Ernesto Pichardo dispatched a scathing letter to [Javier] Rodriguez Soler, President and CEO of BBVA USA, for not terminating the alleged racist law firm Balch & Bingham.

“Over two months ago we called on you to immediately terminate alleged racist law firm Balch & Bingham as BBVA’s outside lawyers. You have done nothing,” Pichardo wrote.

In 1993, Pichardo won a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court decision for religious freedom and Civil Rights after his Afro-Caribbean faith came under attack due to blatant intolerance and discrimination by racists and religious bigots.

“Desecrating the memory of George Floyd for public relations purposes, BBVA ought to be ashamed to ‘stand in solidarity’ with a law firm that has been involved in alleged racist misconduct, targeting poor African-American children, allegedly disenfranchising African-American voters, and suppressing African-Americans in North Birmingham, Alabama from having their toxic property tested by the EPA,” Pichardo stated. 

The CEO of BBVA USA has talked a good game on race, but he apparently has been short on action:

BBVA’s Rodriguez Soler announced in early June that the bank would “stand in solidarity” and “side-by-side” with the Black community after the murder of George Floyd.

Yet BBVA did not terminate Balch & Bingham even though the bank was provided with a detailed 14-page report, including details about a Balch partner who was convicted of money laundering and bribery in the North Birmingham Bribery Scandal that suppressed African-Americans.

Pichardo asks Rodriguez Soler, “Why won’t BBVA truly take a bold stand against racism? Were your words from June just public relations fluff?”

Pichardo has been a member of the Board of Directors of the CDLU since 2003.

In his letter, Pichardo describes how the community of Vincent, Alabama, united against Balch & Bingham political stooges and voted them out by a landslide late last month.

Pichardo closes his letter to Rodriguez Soler vowing, “We will continue the fight against racism and intolerance, and we will hold you and BBVA accountable for allegedly ‘standing in solidarity’ with alleged racist vendors.”

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, and Jeff Sessions help give devastating Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Russia a distinct, and ugly, Alabama flavor

Paul Manafort

If you are reading a published report on GOP corruption, you can almost bet it will include references to politicos with ties to Alabama. The recently released Senate Intelligence Committee Report (SICR) on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election is no exception.

In fact, we find at least three Alabama-connected politicos in the SICR narrative. One of them hits close to home for Legal Schnauzer. One hits close to home for a Birmingham-based investigative blog we have spotlighted in numerous recent posts. And a third is, well, the chief evil-doer in the almost 1,000-page SICR. Let's take a look at how this bombshell report connects to Alabama's toxic political culture:

1. Is Roger Stone a hill worth dying on?

The following might be the SICR's single biggest takeaway, as described at Rolling Stone (RS) :

The Senate report directly contradicts a key piece of President Trump’s written testimony as part of Special Counsel Mueller’s criminal investigation.

In his responses to Mueller’s question, Trump claimed he didn’t recall discussing WikiLeaks with his former political adviser Roger Stone and wasn’t aware of Stone having mentioned WikiLeaks. Trump went on to say that he had “no recollection of the specifics of any conversations I had with Mr. Stone between June 1, 2016 and November 8, 2016.”

The Senate’s report flatly contradicts this. “The Committee assesses that Trump did, in fact, speak with Stone about WikiLeaks and with members of his Campaign about Stone’s access to WikiLeaks on multiple occasions,” it states.

Did Trump lie to Mueller, likely committing a federal crime, to protect Roger Stone, a self-described "dirty trickster"? The SICR suggests the answer is yes, per RS:

Trump’s failure to recall any interactions with Stone during the height of the 2016 campaign is also belied by various contacts between Stone and the Trump campaign documented in the Senate report. The report says the Trump campaign learned about the release of the now-infamous Access Hollywood tape an hour before its release. During that time, the report says, Stone told an associate of his, right-wing writer and conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi, to tell WikiLeaks to “drop the Podesta emails immediately,” referring to a trove of emails stolen by Russia from the personal account of Clinton campaign chair John Podesta. WikiLeaks published the Podesta emails only half an hour after the Access Hollywood tape was published.

The report also shows that Stone even helped draft pro-Russia tweets for Trump to use in the summer of 2016. On July 31, 2016, the report says, “Stone then emailed Jessica Macchia, one of Trump’s assistants, eight draft tweets for Trump, under the subject line ‘Tweets Mr. Trump requested last night.’ Many of the draft tweets attacked Clinton for her adversarial posture toward Russia and mentioned a new peace deal with Putin, such as ‘I want a new detente with Russia under Putin.'”

This is the same Roger Stone who used fake Facebook accounts to orchestrate a cyber harassment campaign  against Legal Schnauzer. And yet, the SICR suggests few people were more intimately involved in the effort to help Russia help Trump get elected. How in the world did Stone find time to mess with us?

2. Jeff Sessions says, "Gimme, gimme

If you needed two words to explain Alabama's toxic political culture, "Jeff Sessions" would be a good bet. He's probably done more than any other living human to give the state a "justice system" that is one of the nation's worst. Sessions was Trump's original attorney general and a member of his campaign team, so it was no surprise to see his name appear in the SICR, per this report from CNN:

The Senate report released Tuesday is inconclusive on whether Stone secretly received details from WikiLeaks about planned release. The committee noted top advisers Trump Jr., Kushner, Manafort, Michael Flynn, Corey Lewandowski, Jeff Sessions and Sam Clovis also expressed interest in obtaining the stolen Democratic emails.

This helps explain the importance of, which has caused a stir in the Birmingham legal community by reporting on a string of integrity-challenged actions by the Balch Bingham law firm, long one of Sessions' strongest allies and financial boosters.

3. Paul Manafort: a grave risk to national security

Manafort, former Trump campaign chair, is not from Alabama, but he long has held ties to Jeff Sessions and Russian oligarchs, which might help explain his leading role in the SICR, as described by CNN:

Arguing over whether the report proves collusion (or doesn't) may actually be something of a red herring, however. Especially when you consider that what the report makes very clear is that Trump's campaign chairman was a) working with a Russian intelligence officer b) seeking to share proprietary campaign data with him and c) attempted to sway public opinion about which country actually had meddled in the US election. And that Stone, whose prison sentence was commuted by Trump last month, was designated by the campaign to find out what he could about the information that had been hacked by the Russians and when WikiLeaks planned to release it. And that the two Russians from the infamous Trump Tower meeting had more ties to Russian intelligence than we previously knew. And that Russia continued through this year to muddy the waters about its interference in the 2016 election.

That is most certainly not a "hoax," to borrow the preferred nomenclature of the president. And regardless of whether his campaign actually formally colluded with the Russians, the behavior documented in the Senate Intelligence Committee's report should be deeply, deeply troubling to any Americans -- particularly as we near another national election with a president who continues to downplay the threat of foreign election interference.

That is not the sort of thing that should be overlooked or underplayed, even in a moment when we continue to struggle to get our arms around a pandemic and the Democratic Party formally nominates its national ticket. The integrity of the coming election is at stake and every sign points to the likelihood that Russia is, again, seeking to put its thumb on the scale.

What about Manafort's longstanding ties to Sessions and Russia? We wrote about those in an October 2017 post:

Revelations last week that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort has $60 million of financial connections to a Russian oligarch could shine light on corruption involving some of the biggest names in Alabama politics, according to a prominent whistle blower and opposition researcher.

That's because Alabama GOP luminaries such as Jeff Sessions (Trump attorney general and former U.S. senator), Bob Riley (former governor), and Bill Canary (head of the Business Council of Alabama) have worked with Manafort on a $40 billion-dollar Air Force refueling-tanker deal that was to include the oligarch, Jill Simpson says.

If Special Counsel Robert Mueller digs deeply on the ties between Manafort and Oleg Deripaska, it could lead to Jeff Sessions' office -- and from there to any number of individuals connected to Bill Canary and Bob Riley, Simpson says. Canary already has fallen out of favor with a number of business elites, including executives from Alabama Power, so any ties to the Trump-Russia scandal are not likely to help his standing.

Simpson, who testified before Congress about a Republican plan to conduct a political prosecution against former Democratic Gov. Don Siegelman, said Manafort worked closely with Alabama officials on a proposal that called for the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. (EADS) to build the Air Force tanker, in part, at a planned construction facility in Mobile, Alabama. Deripaska, a billionaire, is part owner of a company that was to provide aluminum for the project.

The Pentagon wound up choosing U.S.-based Boeing over EADS, perhaps in part because of EADS' ties to seedy characters, including the Gaddafi family in Libya and individuals tied to Vladimir Putin in Russia.

Did Manafort's Russia-related problems start with greed and money? We can think of 60 million reasons to say yes.