|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.