Thursday, July 29, 2021

"Luv Guv" Robert Bentley repeatedly uses the word "trust" in offering advice about vaccinations, though he betrayed the trust of Alabamians -- and his wife

"Luv Guv" Bentley and Rebekah Caldwell Mason

Former Alabama governor Robert Bentley has weighed in on America's COVID-vaccination problem and decided individuals should take medical advice from professionals they trust, according to a report at Yellow Hammer News (YH). This comes from a man whose wife of 50 years could not trust him around another woman.

As for medical professionals to trust, they do not include Dr. Anthony Fauci, widely considered the nation's foremost expert on infectious diseases -- but still seen as a bogeyman among pro-Trump Republicans. Trying to play to the Trumpie audience, Governor? Pretty clever, especially for a guy who resigned from office in disgrace, complete with a mugshot.

Finally, Bentley dives into a litany of things he would do if in charge during the pandemic. And that raises one question: How would a Gov. Bentley find time for all of this while also allowing time to feel up senior adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason? Only so much time in the day, "Luv Guv." From the YH report:

If former Gov. Robert Bentley were in charge of Alabama’s COVID-19 response, he would put an emphasis on working with local officials, especially with regards to any efforts to raise the state’s vaccination rate.

During an interview with Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5, Bentley, a board-certified dermatologist who continues to practice in Tuscaloosa, acknowledged the “complicated” nature of the pandemic but also cautioned against blaming those that remain unvaccinated.

However, he also encouraged vaccinations, adding individuals should base any medical decisions on those that they trust.

You would think a guy who already has betrayed the trust of Alabamians -- and his wife -- might resist daydreaming about being in charge again. But not Bentley:

“It’s very complicated, and I understand that,” he said. “I’m not trying to tell somebody else how I would do things. But I do have ideas on how I would handle it. First, I wouldn’t blame the unvaccinated because you can’t pit one side against the other. It’s not a blame situation. Look, I deal with patients who have to make decisions on whether or not they want a cancer removed, or this or that. And they have to make the decision. But you just have to give them good advice, and they have to trust whoever gives them advice. Now look, you can’t give this advice to Fox News or CNN or places like that. You really need to listen to people who know what they’re talking about, their physician, primarily. I just think we need leadership on this issue. This is a state issue. It is not a federal issue.”

“If I were governor, I would be out all over the state,” Bentley continued. “I would set up some task forces on a state level. But I would work with the locals, also — especially the local doctors, the local nursing situation, the local doctors’ association and the hospitals. But I would also work with the local officials, and some of the most important ones are county commissioners and mayors and our elected officials out there. So, I would work with them. I would even use the state health department, but I would be in charge of it, not the health department. And then, also, I would even use my national guard if I needed to. But what I would try to do for the people is get their trust, and I would give them good advice, scientific advice on whether or not these things are safe or not. When you read Facebook, or you watch the news, you really don’t get the truth because these people are not interested in the truth. They’re interested in ratings. You need somebody they would trust, and that’s what I would try to do as governor. I would be out all over the state, especially in areas we know there is a spike in this Delta virus.”

How would the "Luv Guv" do this while still tending to Ms. Mason's needs? Those boobs aren't going to massage themselves, you know.

Robert Bentley mugshot
That question will remain unanswered -- thankfully -- in Bentley's dream world. But get this about Dr. Fauci:

Bentley indicated he was a proponent of vaccinations but discouraged listeners from putting too much stock in National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has commanded the lion’s share of the spotlight.

“Again, I would encourage everybody to please get vaccinated — those that are not vaccinated,” he added. “Please look at it. And look at real science on it. Don’t listen to Dr. Fauci, and don’t listen to some of these other people.”

So Bentley is a man of science who could be trusted in a time of crisis, but Dr. Anthony Fauci is not? People should take COVID advice from a dermatologist, but not an infectious-diseases specialist. We long have seen signs that Bentley thinks the public consists mostly of dullards. Looks like that hasn't changed. In fact, this is over the top, even for the "Luv Guv."

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Decision to conduct a joint trial violated constitutional rights of former Drummond exec David Roberson and produced an unfair verdict that should force a new trial

Was it fair for former Drummond Company executive David Roberson to be tried jointly with a Balch & Bingham lawyer -- the very lawyer who had assured Roberson and others at Drummond that their actions leading to the North Birmingham Superfund trial were legal?  The answer is no, says a nonprofit bar association that submitted an amicus curiae brief strongly suggesting the trials of Roberson and Balch lawyer Joel Gilbert should have been severed to avoid the high risk that Roberson would be prejudiced. In fact, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) says the district court's decision to try the case jointly merits a new trial for Roberson. A three-judge panel of the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals seemingly ignored the amicus brief in upholding Roberson's conviction. But Roberson likely will seek an en banc review of the full 11th Circuit. Based on the NACDL brief, he will be armed with a strong argument.

The question at the heart of the NACDL's brief is this: Did Circuit Judge Abdul Kallon err when he  declined to sever Roberson’s trial from that of his attorney co-defendants, despite Roberson’s resulting inability to present a complete advice-of-counsel defense? The association's blunt answer is yes. Here is how the brief frames the argument:

This brief addresses a narrow but vitally important question: when, if ever, a criminal defendant may be tried alongside an attorney on whose advice he relied with respect to the alleged offense. A motion for severance under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 14(a) always requires a careful balancing of competing interests. But joint trials of attorneys and their clients raise unique concerns that weigh heavily in favor of severance. The right to seek and rely on the advice of counsel is fundamental to our system of justice. For that reason, the law has long recognized that a defendant’s good-faith reliance on the advice of counsel may serve as a complete defense to many criminal charges. And the importance of the advice-of-counsel defense has only grown with time, as our world and our legal codes have become increasingly complex. Yet joint trials of attorneys and their clients risk undermining that defense by precluding client-defendants from presenting at trial the advice they obtained from their lawyer co-defendants. Courts should view such joint trials with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Why didn't  Kallon approach a joint trial with skepticism, and why didn't the 11th Circuit panel correct him? That remains baffling. The NACDL brief makes clear why it's baffling. (Some citations omitted for ease of reading.):

The facts of this case vividly illustrate the danger such trials create. David Roberson, a mid-level executive at Drummond, was indicted and tried on charges of federal bribery along with two of Drummond’s attorneys. At trial, the prosecution successfully introduced a portion of a statement Roberson made to investigators admitting his concerns about retaining the consulting services of the state legislator the trio was accused of bribing. But when Roberson sought to introduce the rest of his statement—explaining that he had resolved his concerns by obtaining advice from Drummond’s lawyers—that evidence was excluded to protect his co-defendants’ Confrontation Clause rights. That ruling appropriately sought to safeguard the other defendants’ constitutional rights under Bruton v. United States, 391 U.S. 123 (1968). But it did so at the expense of Roberson’s own constitutional right to present a complete advice-of-counsel defense. Rather than subordinate Roberson’s interests to those of his attorneys, the district court should have granted Roberson a separate trial where his critical exculpatory evidence could be properly explored.

Joint trials of attorneys and their clients will often present such problems. Advice of counsel is a commonly raised defense—and one essential to the smooth functioning of highly regulated fields. But joint trials pose inherent obstacles to asserting the defense successfully: It is particularly likely that attorney and client co-defendants will have irreconcilable defenses, or that exculpatory evidence for one defendant will inculpate another and be rendered inadmissible because of the resulting prejudice. And because trials of this sort are often lengthy—perhaps implicating corporate activities governed by complex laws and regulations—there is a significant risk that prejudice against a defendant will manifest well into the trial. Accordingly, courts should exercise special care when considering the fundamental fairness of trials implicating the attorney-client relationship. By their nature, such trials present heightened risks of prejudice and inefficiency that should tip the balance in favor of prompt severance.

 How important are these issues in our criminal-justice system, especially in cases such as the Roberson-Gilbert trial? Answer: extremely important:

The right to seek and rely on the advice of counsel is central to our legal system. That right can be undermined, however, when prosecutors seek to try a criminal defendant and his attorneys at the same trial. A joint trial in these circumstances may—as here—lead to the exclusion of evidence critical to an advice-of-counsel defense. And where such prejudice requires a do-over of a lengthy trial, insisting on a joint trial at the outset may end up hindering rather than promoting judicial efficiency. Thus, while courts must weigh severance motions on a case-by-case basis, in this specific context the balance tips sharply in favor of prompt severance.

The issue boils down to balancing the risk of prejudice in a joint trial with the desire for judicial efficiency. The NACDL argues that such a balancing act, especially in cases such as Roberson-Gilbert,  should almost always tip in favor of avoiding possible prejudice by conducting separate trials:

Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 14 allows courts to “order separate trials of counts, sever the defendants’ trials, or provide any other relief that justice requires” where “joinder of offenses or defendants ... appears to prejudice a defendant or the government.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 14(a). Although joint trials can often “conserve state funds, diminish inconvenience to witnesses and public authorities, and avoid delays,” courts cannot “‘secure greater speed, economy and convenience in the administration of the law at the price of fundamental principles of constitutional liberty.’” Bruton v. United States, 391 U.S. 123, 134, 135 (1968). Accordingly, in considering whether severance is warranted, courts must “balance the right of defendants to a fair trial, absent the prejudice inherent in a joint trial, against the interests of judicial economy and efficiency.” United States v. Gonzalez, 804 F.2d 691, 694 (11th Cir. 1986). Such balancing occurs on a case-by-case basis, as “[t]he risk of prejudice will vary with the facts in each case.” Zafiro v. United States, 506 U.S. 534, 539 (1993). “‘Ultimately, the test is whether the defendant received a fair trial’”—that is, whether the trial achieved “[f]undamental fairness.” Gonzalez, 804 F.2d at 695, 696.

Undue prejudice may occur where “a joint trial would compromise a specific trial right of one of the defendants, or prevent the jury from making a reliable judgment about guilt or innocence.” That prejudice may take many forms, but two are particularly relevant here. First, a joint trial may cause unfair prejudice “when evidence that the jury should not consider against a defendant and that would not be admissible if a defendant were tried alone is admitted against a codefendant.” Second, a defendant may be prejudiced where “essential exculpatory evidence that would be available to a defendant tried alone [is] unavailable in a joint trial.” The Supreme Court addressed the first type of prejudice in Bruton. That case involved the admission of a non-testifying co-defendant’s confession that also inculpated the defendant. The Court held that admitting such a statement violated the defendant’s Sixth Amendment confrontation rights, because the co-defendant’s right against self-incrimination rendered the statement immune from cross-examination. In so holding, the Court rejected the argument that the prejudice could be cured by a “sufficiently clear” jury instruction “to disregard” the statement’s reference to the defendant. Accordingly, “where two defendants are tried jointly, the pretrial confession of one [non-testifying defendant] cannot be admitted against the other.” Richardson v. Marsh, 481 U.S. 200, 206 (1987).

To comply with that rule, the defendants can be tried separately. See United States v. Avery, 760 F.2d 1219, 1223 (11th Cir. 1985) (introduction of statement by “non-testifying co-defendant that implicates another co-defendant can present the compelling prejudice that requires a severance”), abrogated on other grounds by United States v. Lane, 474 U.S. 438, 449 (1986). Or the prosecution can refrain from using the co-defendant’s statement at all. Or, as the Supreme Court explained in Richardson, the statement may be redacted “to eliminate not only the defendant’s name, but any reference to his or her existence.” 481 U.S. at 211 (emphasis added). A redaction that still implicates the defendant, despite not naming her directly, will not suffice. See Gray v. Maryland, 523 U.S. 185, 195 (1998).

Another kind of prejudice can occur where being tried with others prevents a defendant from presenting “essential exculpatory evidence” of his own. That situation calls for severance because it compromises a defendant’s constitutional right to advance a complete defense. “Whether rooted directly in the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment or in the Compulsory Process or Confrontation Clauses of the Sixth Amendment, the Constitution guarantees criminal defendants a meaningful opportunity to present a complete defense. Holmes v. South Carolina, 547 U.S. 319, 324 (2006).

That right finds expression in (among other places) the “rule of completeness” embodied in Federal Rule of Evidence 106. See United States v. Kerley, 784 F.3d 327, 341-42 (6th Cir. 2015) (analyzing right to present a defense in light of rule of completeness). “Under that long-standing rule, ‘the opponent, against whom a part of an utterance has been put in, may in his turn complement it by putting in the remainder, in order to secure for the tribunal a complete understanding of the total tenor and effect of the utterance.’” United States v. Burns, 162 F.3d 840, 852-53 (5th Cir. 1998). Thus, when the prosecution seeks to offer inculpatory parts of a defendant’s prior statement, the defendant generally is entitled to introduce related exculpatory portions of the same statement. See United States v. Range, 94 F.3d 614, 621 (11th Cir. 1996) (applying “fairness standard”).

Roberson was not afforded this opportunity, and that's where a constitutional violation enters the picture. In short, he was denied the "fairness standard":

In a joint trial, however, efforts to safeguard one defendant’s confrontation rights under Bruton can impermissibly impede another defendant’s right to offer exculpatory evidence. This “‘reverse Bruton’ problem” occurs where “redacting [a] defendant’s own pretrial statement to exclude references to a codefendant in a joint trial” may “den[y] the [defendant a] chance to present a complete defense.” 1A Charles A. Wright et al., Federal Practice and Procedure §224 (4th ed. rev. 2018). For example, redactions mandated by Bruton might “‘effectively distor[t] the meaning of the statement’” or exclude information that is “‘substantially exculpatory’” of a defendant. (“strict compliance with Bruton may at times violate the evidentiary rule of completeness”). In such situations, the proper solution is not to subordinate one defendant’s rights to the other’s, but to afford each a separate and fair trial.

The Roberson-Gilbert trial was not separate, and as a result, it certainly was not fair. The questions now: Will the full 11th Circuit look the other way in the face of such gross injustice? If so, what does that say about the 11th Circuit?

In essence, the NACDL notes, a defendant such as Roberson -- when tried with an attorney who has provided him counsel -- runs the risk of being found "guilty by association":

Beyond the specific context of an advice-of-counsel defense, joint trials of attorneys and clients also raise a heightened risk of prejudice due to inherent differences in their statures. As one court explained, “common sense tells us that an attorney, like a public official, lives in the public eye and thus may well be held to a higher standard of conduct by [a] jury regardless of any cautionary instructions.” United States v. Tsanges, 582 F. Supp. 237, 241 (S.D. Ohio 1984). Trying attorney and non-attorney defendants together raises an impermissible risk that “the jury might also hold the [non-attorney] defendants to this higher standard because of their association with” the attorney defendant. Accordingly, despite “the burden ... plac[ed] upon the Government and the judicial system by ordering separate trials,” it will often be that “justice requires severance.” 

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Trump's reported shouting match with chairman of joint chiefs suggests former president was clueless, and his legal advisers were not about to offer guidance

Donald Trump and Gen. Mark Milley (Axios)

Why was Donald Trump such a failure as U.S. president? That seems to be a reasonable question as the country tries to dig out from a deadly pandemic and the resulting shattered economy -- both problems that Trump did precious little to prevent or solve.

A recent item at Axios suggests this as an answer to our question: Trump had no clue how to do the job, and he surrounded himself with advisers who were too timid to provide him guidance, perhaps because they knew he was unguidable. The Axios piece revolves around Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who became a right-wing bogeyman after his testimony before Congress on Critical Race Theory. From the article, under the headline "Trump's situation room shouting match":

Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, repeatedly blew up at President Trump over how to handle last summer's racial-justice protests, The Wall Street Journal's Michael Bender writes in his forthcoming book, "Frankly, We Did Win This Election."

Trump wanted to invoke the Insurrection Act and put Milley in charge of a scorched-earth military campaign to suppress protests that had spiraled into riots in several cities.

Milley — now a GOP villain for his testimony . . . on critical race theory — pushed back, Bender writes in a passage we're reporting here for the first time:

Seated in the Situation Room with [Attorney General Bill] Barr, Milley, and [Secretary of Defense Mark] Esper, Trump exaggerated claims about the violence and alarmed officials ... by announcing he’d just put Milley "in charge."
Privately, Milley confronted Trump about his role. He was an adviser, and not in command. But Trump had had enough.
 "I said you're in f---ing charge!" Trump shouted at him.
 "Well, I'm not in charge!" Milley yelled back. 
"You can't f---ing talk to me like that!" Trump said. ...
 "Goddamnit," Milley said to others. "There's a room full of lawyers here. Will someone inform him of my legal responsibilities?"

The crux of the matter? Trump wanted to appoint Milley to a role he legally could not hold. An exasperated Milley, hoping one of the lawyers in the room would set Trump straight, got zero help. Is this how the Trump Administration let COVID-19 get out of control? Did public-health experts refuse to offer guidance -- or give up on even trying? Did they realize such a conversation would require reasoning with the president, and they knew that trying to reason with Trump was an exercise in futility?

The former president's response to the Milley flap was typically Trumpian:

Asked for a response, Trump told Jonathan Swan through an aide: "This is totally fake news, it never ever happened. I'm not a fan of Gen. Milley, but I never had an argument with him and the whole thing is false. He never talked back to me. Michael Bender never asked me about it and it's totally fake news."

  • Trump later added: "If Gen. Milley had yelled at me, I would have fired him."

Bender told Swan: "I asked the former president for his side of this particular argument in a written question — as he requested — along with other queries included in my thorough fact-checking process. He did not reply.”

In a followup book excerpt, Axios provide more evidence that Gen. Mark Milley, in my view, should be designated a postmodern American hero. From the second Axios report:

The new book by The Wall Street Journal's Michael Bender — Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost — pinpoints the moment that the relationship between former President Trump and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley began to disintegrate.

  • It came last year during a fiery Oval Office confrontation over Milley's public apology for appearing in a photo op with Trump at St. John's Church:
"Why did you apologize?" Trump asked him. "That’s weak."
"Not where I come from," Milley said. "It had nothing to do with you. It had to do with me and the uniform and the apolitical tradition of the United States military."
"I don’t understand that," Trump said. "It sounds like you're ashamed of your president."
"I don’t expect you to understand," Milley said.

Milley had the courage to set Trump back on his heels, and in doing so, showed the principles upon which the U.S. military is based -- that it doesn't partake in political games. But that's not all. The report shows that Trump's own high-level staffers did not respect him -- and they hated their jobs:

Bender reports that former White House chief of staff John Kelly warned Milley not to accept Trump's offer to become Joint Chiefs chairman in December 2018: "I would get as far away from this f------ place as I f------ could."

Monday, July 26, 2021

As the Missouri Ozarks struggle under the Delta variant and a wave of COVID cases, the county fair, likely packed with unvaccinated visitors, will go on

Ozark Empire Fair


Mercy Hospital Springfield, the largest health-care provider in the Missouri Ozarks (where we live) has hit its all-time high for COVID-19 cases. But the local county fair, which has the potential to be a super-spreader event, is scheduled to go on. That's the kind of nonsensical decision-making that could cause a rational person to wonder if we ever will beat back the coronavirus pandemic -- in Missouri, or anywhere else. The grim situation in our neck of the woods was the subject of a lead story over the weekend at CNN:

Amy Tignor remembers the crowds that attended the Ozark Empire Fair's rides, concerts and livestock shows in past years.

A resident of Springfield, Missouri, since 2005 and the owner of a local brewery, Tignor said nothing could "drag her there" this year, even though she's fully vaccinated. 
"As you're sitting in a crowd, six out of the 10 people around you probably haven't been vaccinated," Tignor told CNN. "And that just seems like a risk that I'm not willing to take."
Springfield, where the Ozark Empire Fair will be held July 29 to Aug. 7, is in Greene County, one of the state's Covid hot spots.
Mercy Hospital in Springfield recorded 148 positive Covid-19 cases as of Thursday, an all-time high, said Sonya Kullmann, spokesperson for the hospital. Greene County currently has 4,663 active cases as of Friday morning, according to its website.
The uptick in cases is caused by the fast-spreading Delta variant; 95% of those cases were in unvaccinated people, Kullmann said. 
Greene County, with a completed vaccination rate of about 35%, has declared a local emergency. Missouri Gov. Mike Parson sent additional life support ambulances and medical staff to the area in preparation of rising cases.
Mrs. Schnauzer and I feel exactly like Amy Tignor, and we are alarmed that many in our community do not seem to take the pandemic seriously -- and are not willing to get vaccine shots that are free, effective, and readily available. But hey, they will turn out for the county fair:
But the fair, which will feature food, a Ferris wheel and an exotic petting zoo — marketed on its website as "summer's biggest party" — will not be canceled.
"Amusements around the country go on every day with way bigger attendance, in a lot more confined space than what we offer," Aaron Owen, general manager of the fair, told CNN. "I've worried about it all, I know (the Delta variant) is real. But farmers and agriculture folks put their livelihood at stake on this. There's lots of factors that we have to take into consideration."

Here is something Aaron Owen does not seem to grasp: Farmers and agriculture folks who contract COVID-19 among the heavily unvaccinated crowds at the fair, won't need a livelihood -- because they probably will be dead:

The fair's planning committee, separate from city and county leadership, plans to have Covid-19 precautions in place, Owen said. These include social distancing and hand washing stations throughout the park.
He said people won't be required to wear face masks, though the fair website had outdated Covid-19 guidance with mask mandates that are no longer in place. The page was last updated in April. 
Owen said he sold 70,000 tickets in 2020 and says he believes that there was no evidence of Covid spread, based on conversations he had with some vendors after the fair. More vendors will be in attendance this year than last.

A few people connected to the fair, and the greater commuity, seem to understand that the coronavirus is deadly -- and it doesn't mess aground:

Loverboy, a Canadian rock band originally scheduled to play at the fair, has canceled its appearance because of Canadian travel restrictions, according to KYTV.
In the meantime, the city of Springfield has canceled its own annual event, the Birthplace of Route 66 festival. Cora Scott, the city's public information director and an organizer of the festival, said expected attendance would have surpassed 65,000 people, with a parade that would have celebrated the efforts of healthcare workers during the pandemic.
"The Delta variant has basically knocked us on our heels," Scott said. "I was disappointed that our community was not at a point with vaccinations that we could have this celebration." 
In the coming week, Mercy Hospital's data team projects positive cases will rise to around 190, Kullmann said. The hospital has converted six units into Covid-19 care units, she said.

Meanwhile, frontline workers at Mercy struggle to keep up:

"We're stretched at this point," Kullmann said.
Dr. Alex Hover, president of the Missouri State Medical Association, said he credits Springfield for canceling the Route 66 festival, and as a resident of Springfield, he won't be attending the Ozark Empire Fair.
"Hearing from the physicians on (hospital) staff, it's a great strain and the hospitals are certainly at maximum capacity," Hover said. "If the fair goes on and people are going to attend, we would strongly urge that they mask and try to adhere to social distancing as much as possible."

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Balch & Bingham sees 27 percent of local attorneys -- and millions in fees -- hit the exits as inexperience and dubious lawyering envelop the embattled firm

Balch & Bingham (Washington Post)

Birmingham's Balch & Bingham law firm, embroiled in race- and environment-related controversy for roughly seven years, is losing attorneys -- and fees -- at a rapid rate, according to a report at Writes Publisher K.B. Forbes, under the headline "Balch Loses 27% of Local Attorneys, Millions in Fees; Alleged Inexperience Plagues Embattled Firm":

After Balch & Bingham partner Joel I. Gilbert was convicted on all six federal criminal counts three years ago, Balch & Bingham clients fled. Top money-making partners jumped ship. Through our efforts, 18 of 18 top lobbying clients dumped the embattled firm.

Balch not only lost millions in lobbying fees, they also lost numerous clients to competitors.

The hemorrhaging was significant. Even Balch legacy partner Jesse S. Vogtle, Jr. after 31 years said adios y hasta la vista amigos!

Now data from the Birmingham Business Journal shows that Balch has lost 27 percent of its local attorneys since 2016.

In 2021, Balch & Bingham lost more than 1 in 4 attorneys in Birmingham as compared to 2016. In 2016, according to the Birmingham Business Journal, Balch had 147 local attorneys in Birmingham. This year, the number has dropped to 108 local attorneys.

Also, Balch has dropped to fourth place in the ranking of the largest law firms in Birmingham.

Where has all of that money and legal talent gone? One answer can be found right in Balch's neighborhood, downtown Birmingham:

As we reported in 2019, the big winner has been Maynard Cooper which has absorbed many of Balch’s former lobbying clients. Now data confirms this: Maynard Cooper saw a 21 percent increase of local attorneys between 2016 and 2021, going from 172 local attorneys to 209.

The death spiral for many law firms is when seasoned, veteran, and experienced partners leave and are replaced with inexperienced, barely-out-of-law-school replacements.

And the media reports about Balch’s alleged inexperience and screw-ups are stunning.

As a TV talking head might say, the "optics" for Balch & Bingham are bad:

Domain Main Wire, a publication that focuses on the fights over domain names and ICANN rulings, wrote on June 28th this stunner about Balch & Bingham which tried to obtain a website for a client, Brime, LLC, with the blaring headline, “Another Bad UDRP Filing”

Brime, LLC filed the UDRP [Uniform Domain-Name Dispute Resolution] against the owner of The company was founded last year and the domain owner registered the domain in 2001. So the case was dead on arrival, and panelist Terry Peppard ruled that the domain wasn’t registered in bad faith. Beyond the dates that doomed this case to failure, the domain is owned by someone named Robert Brime.

A week later Domain Main Wire had a follow-up story:

Brime is a new streaming video platform launching this summer. For some reason, the company thinks it should get domain names registered before it existed. The company uses the domain and tried to secure and through UDRP.

Last week [Domain Main Wire] wrote about how the company lost a cybersquatting dispute against, which was registered twenty years ago. Now it has also lost a challenge against, registered nearly a decade ago.

In this case, the panel found that the Complainant didn’t even show the domain is confusingly similar to a mark in which it has rights. It only has a pending trademark application.

The majority of the panel found that this is a case of reverse domain name hijacking.

Balch & Bingham LLP represented Brime, LLC in both of the UDRPs.

                    Reverse domain name hijacking? Pending trademark application? What                     idiots!

Losing attorneys and fees can't be good for a law firm. But having your competence questioned and your reputation batted around like a tetherball . . . well, that really has to hurt:

Beyond Balch’s alleged unsavory conduct, now Balch’s alleged inexperience, incompetence, and screw-ups have become the running joke in legal circles.

From jokingly called Balch, Bingham, & Bribery to Balch, Bingham, & Buffoons, the once-prestigious silk-stocking law firm appears to be suffering from “brain drain.”

And in the meantime, Brime, LLC should file a complaint against Balch’s alleged legal malpractice and demand a refund for every penny they paid for the alleged incompetent work product.

Finally, how many more attorneys and staff at Balch are ready to exit the embattled and alleged racist law firm to greener and brighter pastures? 1 in 4? 3 in 6?

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Rob Riley, son of Alabama's former governor, is pondering a run at Richard Shelby's U.S. Senate seat in 2022, possibly joining Brooks and Britt in GOP field


Rob and Bob Riley

Rob Riley, the son of former Gov. and U.S. Rep. Bob Riley, is considering a 2022 run for Richard Shelby's U.S. Senate seat, according to multiple Alabama-based Web sites -- including one that appears to be a Riley-family mouthpiece.

U.S. Rep Mo Brooks and former Shelby aide Katie Boyd Britt probably are the strongest contenders in the Republican field so far. But Rob Riley, on name recognition alone, likely would be a factor. Reports the Alabama Daily News, which is run by former Bob Riley staffer Todd Stacy:

Enter the Rileys?

By Todd Stacy, Alabama Daily News 

On May 12, Yellowhammer’s Tim Howe tweeted out a fresh rumor: that Rob Riley, Birmingham attorney and son of former Gov. Bob Riley, is a potential candidate for U.S. Senate. It raised eyebrows in Alabama’s political circles mostly because the discussion on this Senate race has revolved around the same names for months. It turns out the rumor has something to it. 

IAP (Inside Alabama Politics) has learned that Rob Riley is seriously considering entering the race to replace Sen. Richard Shelby. Sources say that Rob has been fielding calls from power brokers around the state and in Washington D.C. who believe he would make a formidable candidate in the race. I spoke with Rob, who confirmed that he has had discussions with several people about the Senate race but has not yet made a decision as to whether or not he will enter the race.

His potential candidacy is interesting on a number of levels. His name gives him a leg up in terms of name recognition and, whereas there had been perceptible “Riley fatigue” after his second term ended, the former governor’s stature has aged well in the memories of voters after the mess that followed him. Rob would no doubt seek to occupy the same pragmatic conservative lane that Katie Britt would compete for, potentially splitting that vote. 

I’ll say this having worked for the former governor: no one campaigns tougher than the Rileys. There were many involved in the various campaigns from congress to the governor’s office, but Rob and his sister, Minda, ran the show. They are ultra competitive and relentless in a style of politics that would almost certainly shock the more recent entrants into the business. Rob may ultimately decide not to run, but if he does he will be competitive.

Then, we have this from Jeff Martin, of The Montgomery Independent

If someone had told me a year ago that Mo Brooks might be the next U.S. Senator from Alabama, I would have just laughed. I still have a difficult time explaining to people how he continues getting reelected to Congress. Then again who would have ever thought Tommy Tuberville would defeat Jeff Sessions for the state’s other Senate seat.

    Other candidates running to replace Shelby include Lynda Blanchard, a former U.S. ambassador to Slovenia during the Trump administration, and Katie Boyd Britt, who just resigned as President and CEO of the Business Council of Alabama to run.

    Blanchard, even with her millions, doesn’t stand a chance, having lost out on the Trump endorsement to Brooks, but Britt could be a viable alternative.

    Katie Britt appears to be sharp, capable, reasonable and is no stranger to Washington politics. She has a law degree from Alabama and prior to leading the BCA, she served as Chief of Staff to the man she hopes to replace, Senator Richard Shelby. She is originally from the Wiregrass and married to Wesley Britt, a former offensive tackle who played at Alabama followed by several years in the NFL. The couple resides in Montgomery with their two children.

    Another potential candidate being whispered about in tight political circles is Rob Riley, a Birmingham lawyer and son of former Governor Bob Riley. His entrance in the race would make things that much more entertaining but also more difficult for Britt, as they would likely compete for the same voters.

    Secretary of State John Merrill was just days from announcing his candidacy when he self-destructed a couple of months ago after it was exposed that he had an affair or two. Dothan businessman and former congressional candidate Jeff Coleman also gave it some thought until he couldn’t get anyone to return his phone calls.

    Back to Britt. I expect she will be well financed with the help of big and small business interests alike, not to mention the possibility of a campaign windfall if Shelby were to relinquish some of the millions in campaign contributions he has stashed away.

    I know that most of her votes cast in the Senate would be similar to those of Brooks; she is after all a Republican, but she is much more likely to possess the ability and political savvy to represent Alabama well and not embarrass the state on the national stage.

     I hope Katie Britt can run a campaign on issues that affect all Alabamians, one not riddled with Trump rhetoric. I hope she remains a true alternative to Brooks’ divisiveness. I don’t know if it’s a winning strategy, but it’s the way to earn my vote.

 A Rob Riley candidacy would make things "more entertaining"? That's interesting. I wonder what it means.