Monday, January 31, 2022

The Matrix Meltdown -- with Alabama Power and Balch & Bingham at its core -- has left an alleged unsavory trail of misdeeds for investigators to track

What might be called the Matrix Meltdown -- with Alabama Power and Balch & Bingham at the center of it -- has left a winding trail that federal investigators reportedly are following. Where will it lead, and who might come tumbling down as a result? A post at brings those questions to the fore, under the headline "Numerous Dirty Deeds? Matrix Meltdown Amplifies Alleged Criminal Misconduct." Writes Publisher K.B. Forbes:

The Matrix Meltown is an ugly reality: two entities suing each other in two states, “Sloppy Joe” Perkins’ lawyers issuing worthless demand letters, internal Matrix documents being slowly leaked, media following the non-profit entities and money laundering trail, and allegedly federal investigators probing possible obstruction of justice and Civil Rights violations.

Matrix is closely tied to Alabama Power and its sister-wife, siamese twin Balch & Bingham.

The obscure political consulting group has a legendary if not a mythical reputation of engaging in alleged dirty tricks and alleged sinister if not criminal misconduct.

Is it true or fantasy?

Now everything is on the table and up for scrutiny. Will investigators connect the dots?

How ugly has the recent history become of those caught in the Matrix Meltdown? Forbes provides a rundown:

Since 2017, our blog has documented atrocious misconduct. As we have repeatedly said, in Alabama there are no such things as coincidences.

Let’s start with the Newsome Conspiracy Case. 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.

Let’s review some of the alleged staged acts, beginning with the Verizon mess.

Newsome and his family wound up in somebody's cross hairs:

  • The smashing of his wife’s car window at a gym in which her purse was stolen. Law enforcement alleged she was targeted. Video surveillance of the incident shows the suspects driving around allegedly specifically looking for Newsome’s vehicle.
  • The sick operatives who sent the Newsome family a threatening package: Five pieces of luggage and numerous clothing outfits. There were approximately three dozen outfits for mom and the four Newsome children. Was Newsome going to be injured, killed or murdered?  Or were the wife and children going to “disappear” on a permanent vacation?
  • Exactly two years and a month later, Newsome was injured in a head-on accident. He was gravely injured and nearly killed. Some even claimed the act was an alleged act of attempted murder.

The trail then leads to Drummond Company and one of its former executives:

Now let’s look at the case of ex-Drummond executive David Roberson who filed a $75-million civil case against Balch and Drummond.

  • Roberson’s 90-year-old mother-in-law returned to her home in Jasper in 2019 after a hospital stay to find the windows of her home shattered, both in the front yard and backyard. Nothing was stolen from the home. Was it a message of intimidation and fear?
  • As ex-Drummond Company executive David Roberson was driving along Highway 280 in Shelby County a year ago, someone apparently shot out his rear driver’s window. Roberson was shaken up, scared, and rightly so. With glass blown exclusively inside the car, the projectile was obviously aimed at the driver’s side and missed Roberson’s head by inches.

Forbes' own public charity, Consejo De Latinos Unidos (CDLU) has not been spared:

        Then there is the orchestrated campaign against us, the CDLU, which                     utterly backfired, and has raised the eyes of investigators.

  • Some buffoons attempted to smear and intimidate CDLU’s Executive Director but instead terrorized the wrong family at the wrong address in July of 2020. The family has since moved.
  • An actor impersonated CDLU’s Executive Director and used the existence of his then-8-year-old daughter in an attempt to illegally obtain confidential financial information.
  • The continued harassment of CDLU’s accountants by morons who demanded copies of our tax filings when they should have contacted us directly.
  •  An embittered stalker and failed real estate agent was caught on security cameras at CDLU’s Birmingham offices (shut down at the time due to COVID-19) sitting in his black pick-up truck for 15 minutes before grilling the receptionist at the business next door, providing a false name and bogus cell phone number one-off from his real cell phone number. Idiot!
  • The writing of several hilarious articles in the Alabama Political Reporter that included the idiotic defense of Balch & Bingham. The public ripped the publication to shreds.
  • The public humiliation of a once-respected investigative journalist who allegedly amputated his brain for 30 pieces of silver.

Alabama has been riddled with corruption for decades, but this current saga is both ongoing and unsettling:

Was Matrix, in anyway, involved in any or none of these dirty deeds?

Did Alabama Power (which pays Matrix millions) or its sister-wife Balch back any or none of these acts financially?

From what we have been told, investigators appear to be tracking down and interviewing the buffoons, idiots and morons involved in these alleged unsavory and criminal acts.

Disgraced ex-U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town fled in the middle of the night after resigning. He could have been a current candidate for U.S. Senate, but the photos of him slamming back cocktails with Alabama Power CEO and former Balch partner Mark A. Crosswhite were political suicide.

Now with Sloppy Joe and the Matrix Meltdown; the Crosswhite Scandal and secret million-dollar contracts; and Balch’s internal strife, who else truly wishes to hang themselves… or are they ready to cooperate with criminal investigators about these acts?

Friday, January 28, 2022

Packers' Aaron Rodgers might become the NFL's Most Valuable Player, but strange dance with COVID seems to have caused his support with fans to crater


With a playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers, the bizarre season of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has come to a close. How bizarre was it? Rodgers is a strong candidate to be named Most Valuable Player in the National Football League. But his personal reputation might never recover from his peculiar dance with COVID-19 and related protocols, according to a recent article at CNN. Writes Dean Obeidallah in a piece titled "The spectacular rise and fall of Aaron Rodgers":

This [past] weekend, Green Bay Packers star quarterback Aaron Rodgers did get "canceled" -- but it still wasn't by a "woke mob." Remember that the football star claimed last fall that "the woke mob" was trying to "cancel" him in response to misleading comments he'd made about his Covid-19 vaccination status, as well as for peddling unproven ways to treat the coronavirus. Yet it wasn't until Saturday night, after the San Francisco 49ers pulled off a stunning upset to beat Rodgers and his favored Packers in the NFL playoffs, that it became clear just how much public support Rodgers has lost.

The reaction to the Packers' loss on social media wasn't just from football fans, and it wasn't all about football. Much of the reaction was directed at Rodgers specifically, as evidenced by the "Bye Aaron" hashtag that trended into the next morning as people gleefully roasted the quarterback for his past comments about Covid-19. ("Guess who just got more time to 'do their own research,'" one of the more popular tweets said, mocking Rodgers' earlier statements that he'd done his own fact-finding on Covid treatments. And, of course, there were much more "colorful" remarks.)
There was one response, though, that really resonated with me. It was one of the more tasteful and thoughtful reactions directed at the Green Bay QB: "Always enjoyed watching you play and respected you as a great quarterback," the tweet read. "After this"
That's exactly how I feel about the three-time NFL MVP, who football experts note has been on the road to a fourth MVP trophy this year (one he may still receive) thanks to a remarkable on-field performance that led his team to the best record in the NFC. Rodgers' road from being one of the best-liked and most respected players in the league to being a target of derision shows how prevalent and polarizing Covid-19 misinformation has become. 

In short, Obeidallah counts himself as a longtime Rodgers fan, but after this season . . . not so much. And it has little to do with football:

The origins of this "rise and fall" began in November. That's when Rodgers found himself in a firestorm after testing positive for Covid-19. The positive test set off a chain reaction that included Rodgers publicly sharing unproven Covid treatments -- ones recommended to him by comedian Joe Rogan -- and admitting that he wasn't vaccinated against the coronavirus. Worse, it became clear that Rodgers had misled the public back in August, when he gave the impression during a press conference that he had received the vaccine. (When asked by reporters if he had been vaccinated, Rodgers responded, "Yeah, I've been immunized.")
As a fan of Rodgers, I wrote a column at the time urging him to show leadership by apologizing for past remarks and stop promoting misinformation about Covid-19. To his credit, Rodgers did a few days later take "full responsibility" for making comments about his vaccine status "that people may have felt were misleading." This entire story could've ended there.
But instead, Rodgers fumbled badly in late December by again sharing misleading information about Covid. While on a radio show, Rodgers slammed NFL protocols designed to keep players safe as unmerited, saying, "It makes no sense to me to continue to spread this narrative that nonvaccinated players are more dangerous or these superspreaders, which hasn't been proven to be true."
He added, "it's obviously not a pandemic of the unvaxxed." In reality, a CDC study last fall found that unvaccinated people were about 4.5 times more likely to be infected with Covid-19 and 10 times more likely to be hospitalized. The NFL's protocols were simply designed to save lives, not play politics.

After that, Rodgers still could not leave well enough alone:

Rodgers then poured gasoline on the fire just a few days before this weekend's game by embracing inaccurate right-wing talking points in an interview with ESPN. When asked about President Joe Biden's joking remark to a Packers fan last month that she should tell Rodgers to get the vaccine, Rodgers responded with a rant that sounded like an audition for a hosting job at Fox News.
"When the president of the United States says, 'This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated,' it's because him and his constituents, which, I don't know how there are any if you watch any of his attempts at public speaking, but I guess he got 81 million votes," Rodgers said, even though there isn't anything to "guess" -- Biden did, in fact, receive 81 million votes in the 2020 election. And for bad measure, Rodgers referred to the Biden administration as the "fake White House set," which, of course, conjures up Trump's repeated use of the phrase, "fake news."
All of this helps explain the mixture of anger and glee that was directed at Rodgers from many corners of the Internet when his team lost Saturday. It didn't help in the final two times his team had the football with the game tied at 10-10, Rodgers only completed one pass of the four he threw, gaining a total of four yards -- plus he was sacked. The 49ers ended up winning 13-10, with a last-second field goal.

Even famous names from other sports have tossed heat at Rodgers. Basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was one example when he took Rodgers to task in a piece at Substack:

Professional athletes have come so far from the dark days when the public saw them as perpetually partying adolescents, mean-spirited bullies, and worse: dim-wits one step above tackling dummies on the evolutionary scale. Today, many players are eloquent spokespersons as well as admirable athletes. This hard-fought change occurred gradually over decades as more and more athletes proved themselves to be passionate and articulate advocates for a better, more inclusive society.

This shift in public perception is especially important when we understand how impactful athletes are in influencing our children. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation study, children 10-17 years old admire famous athletes second (73 percent) only to their parents (92 percent). That’s a sacred trust not to be abused. Unfortunately, the pandemic has revealed several athletes who abuse their position and responsibility, not just to the public, but to other professional athletes’ livelihood.

That latest egregious abuser is Green Bay quarterback and three-time MVP Aaron Rodgers who directly and deliberately lied to fans and the public when he assured everyone he was “immunized,” knowing that word would be interpreted as his being vaccinated. He wasn’t vaccinated. And he got COVID-19. And he went maskless during in-person press conferences, which not only violated NFL rules, but put everyone else’s health at risk.

Did Rodgers make any effort to educate himself on a complex topic? It doesn't look like it, writes Abdul-Jabbar:

Instead of consulting immunologists, he consulted anti-vaxxer and podcast host Joe Rogan, who also contracted the virus. If he ever requires open-heart surgery will he hand the scalpel to romance writers because they know about matters of the heart? While many who came into contact with him thought he was vaccinated, Rodgers had embarked on his own regimen to boost his “natural immunity.” He failed, as any scientist could have told him—and as they have been publicly telling us for over a year. University of Michigan microbiologist Ariangela Kozik explained that achieving “natural immunity” through these homeopathic methods is a non-starter because vaccines inform our immune system what the virus looks like so the body can build its own protection.

Rodgers compounded his lie by adding another lie. While being interviewed about the backlash on the Pat McAfee Show, he claimed that a league doctor told him “it would be impossible for a vaccinated person to catch or spread COVID.” However, the NFL responded by saying no doctor from the league or consultants from the NFL-NFLPA communicated with the players. And if they had, they wouldn’t have given such clear misinformation, which anyone who’s read a newspaper or watched a legitimate news show would already know. No medical expert claimed the vaccine prevents getting or transmitting the virus, only that their chances of spreading it to others or developing severe symptoms themselves are significantly reduced.

What’s especially bothersome is that Aaron Rodgers didn’t just lie and threaten the health of those around him, he also damaged professional sports. Many athletes make a lot of money on product endorsements, which depends on the public’s favorable perception of athletes. In 2020, global sports sponsorship was worth about $57 billion. Yet, every time a pro athlete like Kyrie Irving (anti-vax), Henry Ruggs (speeding at 156 mph, crashing, and killing someone), Evander Kane (forging vaccination card), or Aaron Rodgers does or says something stupid, the public trust in athletes lowers and sponsors might consider avoiding players in favor of actors, pop stars, or social media influencers. Steph Curry and LeBron James don’t have to worry, but some up-and-comers might not get the same opportunities.

Rodgers starred in college at the University of California, Berkeley, long considered one of the nation's finest public universities, so he was an unlikely candidate to step into vaccine-related doo-doo. Writes Abdul-Jabbar:

Rodgers’ ignorance regarding the science of immunology brings back to life the old stereotype of the big dumb jock. His utter lack of even the most basic knowledge and logic is shocking. In an effort to defend his lying, he stated, “This idea that it’s a pandemic of the unvaccinated, it’s just a total lie … If the vaccine is so great, then how come people are still getting covid and spreading covid and, unfortunately dying of covid?” Those two statements don’t even belong together. Statistics from many sources conclude that around 97 percent of those being hospitalized or who have died in the past several months are unvaccinated. The CDC found that the unvaccinated are 11 times more likely to die than those vaccinated. If he thinks that’s a lie, what credible evidence does he have? None.

The second part of his statement that laments the vaccine isn’t that great because people are still dying and getting sick is staggeringly illogical. People are still getting COVID—like him and Joe Rogan—because they didn’t get vaccinated. Yes, some people who have been vaccinated have also caught it, but a lot fewer of them than the unvaccinated, and their symptoms are generally more mild. His logic is like someone having a debt of $50,000 and a friend offers to give them a gift of $40,000. But they complain that it isn’t the full amount so they aren’t accepting the gift.

He also claimed he was allergic to ingredients in the vaccine, but offered no proof, which may be why the NFL denied his petition for vaccine exemption. Statistically, only 21 out of two million vaccinated people had severe allergic reactions. He also expressed concern over fertility issues, even though there is a greater risk of infertility from COVID-19, which he has.

Abul-Jabbar finishes with a sobering thought:

I can’t help but think of Colin Kaepernick, who was blacklisted by the NFL for passively expressing his frustration with systemic racism—a brave act meant to help his community and save lives—while multi-millionaire Rodgers will continue to play, despite lying to the fans and his teammates and putting innocent lives in danger. Time will tell whether Rodgers will be judged by the content of his character or the strength of his throwing arm.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

As mostly Black basketball players lift Auburn University to national prominence, a law firm with a dubious past on race helps produce diluted voting map

Auburn's Jabari Smith averages a team-high 15.2 ppg

Auburn University's men's basketball team is ranked No. 1 in the country for the first time in school history. Seven of the team's top eight scorers are Black, as are seven of its top eight rebounders.

So, how is this for irony? As fans pack Auburn Arena to cheer on a majority-Black basketball team, the city was hiring a Birmingham law firm with a troubled past on matters of race to help dilute the voting power of those players -- and other Black residents.

If there is a positive note in this sad story of gerrymandering and doctored voting maps, it's this: Auburn residents are not taking the insult quietly, according to a report on Tuesday night's city council meeting at Writes Publisher K.B. Forbes, under the headline "At Auburn City Council Meeting, Public Mauls Balch & Bingham to Shreds":

Is Balch’s reputation and public image truly this awful?

Not a single person at the City Council Meeting last night in Auburn, Alabama, defended Balch & Bingham. Not a single person.

Testimony after testimony mauled Balch to shreds. Balch’s public image appears to be in shambles.

The timing comes just hours after a federal three-judge panel rejected a state redistricting plan for Congress that “dilutes the voting power of Black residents.”

Balch was involved in those redistricting plans.

Auburn residents had seen this tired act before. Writes Forbes:

In 2011, the state was forced to redraw redistricting maps because of the inappropriate use of race, and now in 2022, the legislature will have to redraw because of the diluting of Black voting power. Balch has participated in both rejected plans, and Balch’s stigma of being an alleged racist law firm stings.

The wrath of the public was also against Darmon Walker, the Balch partner who was involved with both state redistricting plans, and also hired as a consultant in Auburn’s redistricting plans.

A week ago, Balch consultants stupidly attacked the NAACP’s proposed Auburn maps as “invalid.” The insidious attack against the civil rights organization’s work amplified the allegations of racism.

Last night, an independent consultant hired by the local NAACP called the maps legal and valid.

The evening did not end well for Balch:

The City Council eventually voted down the NAACP maps and went forward with their own maps. The city’s position was that their staff drew up the maps and that no lawyers were involved in the process. Balch allegedly only reviewed the maps for legality.

The public’s anger at the city’s political leadership for allowing Balch to only have their soiled fingertips on the redistricting matter is interesting. Will residents in Auburn quietly unite (like in Vincent, Alabama) and toss the Balch stooges out of office?

Balch’s reputation appears to be so battered that just choosing the firm appears to have become an extreme liability on its own.

Will Balch’s sister-wife, siamese twin, and long-time client Alabama Power continue to subsidize the alleged racist and unsavory firm with generous fees? Alabama Power CEO and former Balch partner Mark A. Crosswhite has enough problems right now.

Regardless of what million-dollar donations Alabama Power and its foundation make to minority-groups and entities, the embattled firm and the Matrix Meltown appear to have become major liabilities for Crosswhite and the utility, overshadowing the good deeds the company does.

Auburn is just a small example of what is to come.

Balch’s alleged misconduct may cause Crosswhite, a University of Alabama alumni, to be tackled onto his back and forced to scream, “War Eagle!”

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Balch & Bingham's tortured history on matters of race surfaces again as federal judges reject redistricting plan for diluting voting power of Black Alabamians

Birmingham's Balch & Bingham can't seem to escape its dubious history on matters of race. The embattled law firm, which supported George Wallace's efforts to keep black students out of the University of Alabama in the 1960s, saw a panel of three federal judges reject the Alabama Legislature's redistricting plan for 2022, finding the map improperly dilutes the voting power of Black residents. From an article on the failed plan:

Two separate federal lawsuits were filed against the redistricting map on claims that it violated the Voting Rights Act by packing Black Alabamians into a small number of districts -- including one congressional district, Alabama’s seventh, represented by U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Birmingham -- and limiting their influence on state elections.

Blacks comprise 27 percent of Alabama’s population yet only constitute [a majority] in one of the state’s seven congressional districts -- or 14 percent of the districts. Alabama’s 7th Congressional District was first drawn in 1992.

The panel of three judges from federal courts in Alabama found that the plaintiffs are “substantially likely to establish” that the map violates the [Voting Rights Act], adding that “Black voters have less opportunity than other Alabamians to elect candidates of their choice to Congress.”

Who was in the middle of helping draw the failed map? Balch & Bingham, of course. And that did not escape the notice of Consejo De Latinos Unidos (CDLU), the Birmingham-based nonprofit that supports, which has reported widely and critically on Balch's ties to apparent corruption -- especially the North Birmingham Superfund bribery scandal. Writes K.B. Forbes, publisher of and president and CEO of CDLU, under the headline "Auburn Disgrace! Use of Balch & Bingham Sparks Fury as Auburn Basketball Ranks #1 First Time Ever":

The City of Auburn, Alabama is under fire for using alleged racist law firm, Balch & Bingham, [for a] voter redistricting plan in the city  . . . 

Last week, Balch & Bingham consultants denounced a proposed NAACP voter redistricting map as “invalid” at a public meeting, blindsiding residents, observers, and supporters of the civil rights organization.

Yesterday, the Auburn Tigers were ranked first in the AP Top 25 Poll of men’s college basketball, for the first time in school history.

While city officials cheer African American players on the basketball court, the same officials hypocritically hire alleged racists that publicly denounced the local NAACP’s efforts to protect African American voters, including those players. "What a disgrace!” declared Lourdes Galvez, Vice-Chairman of the Consejo de Latinos Unidos (CDLU), a public charity that has repeatedly called on the city to fire the embattled law firm.

This is not the first time Balch has been involved with redistricting controversy in Alabama. Writes Forbes:

Balch has been under fire for weeks in Auburn after their consultant and attorney Dorman Walker  was tied to the redistricting debacle for the state of Alabama in 2011.

In 2011, Balch’s Walker allegedly communicated with the late Thomas Hofeller a redistricting consultant and alleged racist who allegedly “divided and diluted” the African American vote for decades, according to various news reports. 

The Alabama legislature was later forced to redraw the maps after federal courts ruled that legislators improperly used race in drawing up several districts.

Now in 2022, a decade later, Balch’s Walker is also involved in state’s redistricting plans.

But [Monday] night a federal panel of three judges unanimously rejected those plans.

Why can't Balch seem to escape its history? Perhaps because the problem has long and deep roots. Writes Forbes:

The long history of alleged racism at Balch & Bingham goes beyond redistricting.

Last year, a former prominent Balch partner started serving a five-year sentence for money laundering and bribery in a criminal scheme to suppress African American families in North Birmingham from having their toxic and contaminated property tested by the EPA. Balch has refused to apologize to the North Birmingham community that is 92.5 percent African American for their once-esteemed partner’s misconduct.

In August of 2020, voters in Vincent, Alabama united and cleaned house after local elected officials were tied to Balch and an alleged “whites-only” land grab to build a rock quarry on land that allegedly included historic slave graves

Balch & Bingham rose to prominence during the era of racist Alabama Governor George Wallace who infamously stood at the school house door in 1963 to symbolically support segregation. In the 1960s, a top Balch partner at the firm was part of Wallace’s inner circle and his former campaign manager.

In 2020, 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.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Ali Alexander communicated with members of Proud Boys and Oath Keepers extremist groups leading up to Jan. 6, according to videos outlined in new CNN report

Ali Alexander

Alabama-connected extremist Ali Alexander has been caught on video saying he would work with the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers militant groups leading up to Jan. 6, according to a report at CNN. Baron Coleman, Alexander's Montgomery-based attorney, hinted that Alexander was joking, but that might prove to be a weak explanation if the matter winds up before the House Select Committee on Jan. 6. From the article, by Andrew Kaczynski and Em Steck:

An organizer of the "Stop the Steal" rallies that preceded the attack on the US Capitol a year ago said he would work with two extremist groups, who later had members charged in the attack, about providing security and housing for the January 6, 2021, rally in Washington.

In previously unreported videos from the social media platform Periscope reviewed by CNN's KFile, Ali Alexander, a leader of the "Stop the Steal" rally and a central figure in the House select committee's investigation of January 6, said he would reach out to the right-wing Proud Boys and Oath Keepers on providing security for the event. Both groups later had members charged in the attack on the Capitol, including conspiracy. Last week, the Justice Department charged the Oath Keepers leader and 10 others with seditious conspiracy related to the attack.

This is not the first time Alexander has been connected to video-related controversy:

In other videos removed from Periscope -- it's unknown who removed the videos, when and why -- Alexander claimed to describe further details of his communications and coordination with several Congressional Republicans pushing to overturn the election result. The lawmakers have denied planning rallies or coordinating with Alexander in any way.
An attorney for Alexander denied that his client worked with the Proud Boys but acknowledged that Alexander did try to help them with housing; the attorney also said the Oath Keepers did provide security for several events.
While some of Alexander's Periscope videos have been previously reported by CNN, these additional videos provide new details of his claims about his contacts with extremist groups and lawmakers in the lead-up to the rally. They also show the heated rhetoric used by Alexander to describe his efforts, including speculating that a civil war could occur if the "Stop the Steal" movement's efforts were successful and that he'd rather see the White House be struck by lightning and "burn down" than have then President-elect Joe Biden enter it.

The videos indicate Alexander was not shy about touting his ties to the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers in the days leading to an attack on the U.S. Capitol:

In one livestream video on December 23, 2020, entitled "JAN6," Alexander said to his followers that he planned to reach out to the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers about providing security for the January 6 rally.
"Don't worry, I'm gonna make sure so many people are so safe. It's gonna make your head spin. I'm gonna try to make sure that every 15 minutes -- so that you just know in your head, you don't have to know in a map -- that Metro stops are being patrolled," he said. "I'm gonna try to go that deep into it. I'm gonna talk to the Proud Boys. I'm gonna talk to the Oath Keepers and I'm gonna try to get patrols going, okay, of men that go for hours."
In another video from December 29, 2020, Alexander said he spoke to the Proud Boys to make sure they had lodging covered for the event after a hotel frequented by the group said it would close in early January temporarily. 
"I'll find you a room," Alexander said in a livestream addressing the camera. "My team will find you a room. I talked tonight to the Proud Boys to make sure that they were all covered."

This suggests Alexander was not just interested in peaceful protesters leading to Jan. 6; he was communicating with groups whose members have been charged with attack-related crimes:

Dozens of members of the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers have been charged in the attack on the US Capitol. Prosecutors have said members of both groups conspired ahead of time to disrupt the Electoral College proceeding. Both groups have been the subject of subpoenas by the January 6 committee.
Baron Coleman, Alexander's attorney, told CNN his client "did not work with the Proud Boys," saying his "colorful remarks or exaggerations during playful livestreams contextualize his intentions." But he said his client did offer to help them find new housing and the Oath Keepers did provide security for several events.
Alexander has not been charged or implicated in any unlawful act and he has denied working with anyone, including lawmakers, to attack the Capitol. In his December testimony, he claimed that the evidence he handed over to the committee exonerated himself and members of Congress.
"Anyone who suggests I had anything to do with the unlawful activities on January 6 is wrong. They're either mistaken or lying," Alexander said in his opening statement to the committee on December 9.

CNN suggests Baron Coleman stretched the truth in discussing his client's organizing activities:

Coleman, Alexander's attorney, also argued to CNN in an email that the clips provided seemed out of context, arguing Alexander was joking or exaggerating in clips. He said all of Alexander's rallies were peaceful.
"Using tiny clips from the thousands of hours of extemporaneous speaking that Ali produced during the 2020 election cycle seems out of context and without regard to the truth," Coleman said. "All of Ali's rallies, to this date, remain peaceful and without incident. All of the dozens of rallies he did, all peaceful, without incident. The other ones under his care post-Election Day; all peaceful and without incident."
After at least two rallies in Washington, DC, however, clashes between protesters and counterprotesters turned violent. At a November 14 rally, violence erupted between the groups after dark and at least 20 people were arrested. And after the December 12 rally, at least four people were stabbed after an evening of face-offs with counterprotesters; at least 33 people were arrested, including six people for assaulting police officers.
Alexander previously worked as a Republican political operative under the name of Ali Akbar on John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign and a handful of political action committees before rebranding himself as an outspoken supporter of Trump. Alexander gained notoriety after he began posting videos of himself espousing pro-Trump and far-right views in 2019 on social media and for his work with MAGA conspiracy theorists Jacob Wohl and Laura Loomer.

Alexander has a history of using inflammatory words, and the new videos found by CNN reflect that:

The videos unearthed by CNN's KFile also show the heated rhetoric that Alexander used leading up to the January 6, 2021, rally.
In one video from early January 2021, Alexander speculated that being successful on January 6 might lead to a civil war. In the same video, he said he'd rather see the White House "burn down," than have Biden enter it.
Alexander's attorney said his comments about the White House were "in jest."
"There's no circumstance that I think is legitimate that Joe Biden should enter the White House," he said on January 1, 2021. "I think the White House should burn down and I'm not saying that -- I'm not telling anyone to, but I'm just saying -- I literally believe that a bolt of lightning should hit the White House and light it on fire before it's handed over."
Jared Holt, a resident fellow at The Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab who studies US domestic extremist movements and had extensively researched January 6, said Alexander's rhetoric had the potential to influence bad behavior among the far-right.
"His role in the pro-Trump political space, connecting politicians, influencers, and activists, means that his words matter a great deal," Holt told CNN. "What Alexander says, whether in jest or in earnest, has the potential to ripple across far-right communities and offer permission for bad behavior."

Monday, January 24, 2022

An easy call turned into a torturous process, but the Alabama Supreme Court finally got it right in restoring David Roberson's claims against Balch & Bingham

Alabama Supreme Court

A former Drummond Company executive's lawsuit against Balch & Bingham has new life after the Alabama Supreme Court reversed itself on Friday and found a Jefferson County circuit judge wrongfully dismissed David Roberson's claims against the Birmingham law firm. Drummond failed in its efforts to be dismissed from the lawsuit, so Friday's ruling means Roberson's $75-million lawsuit will move forward against both the coal giant and its law firm.

The new order replaces a ruling dated July 23, 2021, which upheld dismissal of Roberson's Balch claims based on the tight two-year statute of limitations in the Alabama Legal Services Liability Act (ALSLA). With Friday's ruling, the state's highest court found the ALSLA did not apply to Roberson's claims, so they are not time-barred; essentially the court wound up saying, "Oops, we screwed up back in July. Sorry. Our bad." That might not build public confidence in the Alabama Supreme Court, but at least, the justices did get it right -- finally.

How do we know? We've been reporting since December 2020 that the Roberson-Balch matter boils down to two simple legal issues -- both of which are well-established in Alabama -- so it should be an easy call for the Supreme Court to reverse the trial court's dismissal of Roberson's claims. Why did the appeal hang in limbo for much longer than it should have, and why was the screwed-up original appellate ruling ever issued? That brings us to a number of oddities about the high court's handling of this case:

(1) The original appellate ruling never made sense -- and clearly ran contrary to Alabama precedent; a reasonable observer might wonder: Why did the justices not see that the first time around? What caused them to change their minds?

(2) What about the revolving cast of characters? Six justices (Bolin, Shaw, Wise,  Bryan, Sellers, and Mitchell) recused themselves in the Roberson-Balch matter. Four justices (Stewart, Main, Lyons, and Welch) came out of retirement to serve as special justices for the Roberson case. Why so many conflicts of interest? Do they involve connections to Balch?

(3) Friday's ruling covered 67 pages, including a dissent. Why was so much ink spilled on an opinion that could have been spelled out in 3-4 pages?

(4) The high court's machinations give the impression this was a tortured process on an exceedingly close call. It should have been neither.

Here's how we described the basic issues on Dec. 20, 2020, under the headline "Alabama Supreme Court should have an easy call in reversing trial court and restoring Balch Bingham to David Roberson's $75-million fraud lawsuit." Our analysis plainly shows where Jefferson County Circuit Judge Tamara Harris Johnson went off the tracks:

The Roberson brief is 80 pages long and touches on a host of issues that indicate Balch Bingham should be brought back into the lawsuit to join codefendant Drummond, which had Circuit Judge Tamara Harris Johnson deny its motion to dismiss. . . .

The appeal, however, probably can boil down to two dispositive issues:

(1) Judge Johnson erred in failing to accept as true Roberson's factual allegation that he did not have an attorney-client relationship with Balch Bingham -- 

Johnson apparently found this allegation was conclusory and improperly pled, but that runs contrary to Alabama Supreme Court precedent, as found in a case styled Ex parte Austal USA (2007). From our post on the Austal finding:

In Austal, several employees were injured while using a "Miller saw," and they alleged that Austal intentionally injured them, asserting a claim for fraud and stating, "Austal “intentionally made false statements regarding the safety of the Miller Saw” and that those statements were made “with the conscious and deliberate intent to injure its workmen, including plaintiffs, with the Miller Saw so that it could build its ships without having to incur the costs associated with finding a safer alternative method to perform the work. . . .” Austal fraudulently “suppressed, concealed, hid or withheld important facts from the Plaintiffs regarding the known safety hazards associated with the Miller Saw ․ and that Austal knew the tool was unsafe and had made the conscious and deliberate decision to intentionally injure its workmen with the tool so that it could build its ships without having to incur the costs associated with finding a safer alternative method to perform the work.”

Austal labeled the allegations "conclusory" and claimed the injuries were accidental, the kind for which the company was immune from tort liability. The trial court denied Austal's Motion to Dismiss, and the Alabama Supreme Court denied the company's petition for mandamus review. 

The factual allegations in Austal, particularly those involving reliance on false statements, are similar to those in the Roberson case. The Supreme Court's reasoning on denial of a Motion for Dismiss also is instructive for Roberson:

Austal urges this Court to look only to the specific factual allegations pleaded in the plaintiffs' complaint concerning how the injuries occurred and the alleged business motivations Austal had for requiring the plaintiffs to work with a dangerous tool. Those allegations, Austal contends, describe precisely the type of workplace accidental injuries for which it is immune from tort liability. . . . 

At the motion-to-dismiss stage, however, a court's ability to pick and choose which allegations of the complaint to accept as true is constrained by Alabama's broad and well settled standard for the dismissal of claims under Rule 12(b)(6). In this case, there is no question that the plaintiffs have pleaded that Austal “made the conscious and deliberate decision to intentionally injure its workmen.” That allegation -- that a company would deliberately injure multiple specific employees -- is so shocking that it invites skepticism. Moreover, we agree with Austal that a specific intent or desire to cause injury to its employees is not particularly consistent with the alleged cost-saving motivation for causing such injuries. Nevertheless, our standard of review does not permit this Court to consider the plausibility of the allegations. Rather, in considering whether a complaint is sufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss, we must take the allegations of the complaint as true, Ussery v. Terry, 201 So. 3d 544, 546 (Ala. 2016); we do not consider “'whether the pleader will ultimately prevail but whether the pleader may possibly prevail,”' Daniel v. Moye, [Ms. 1140819, November 10, 2016] ___ So. 3d ___, ___ (Ala. 2016) (quoting Newman v. Savas, 878 So. 2d 1147, 1149 (Ala. 2003) (emphasis added)); and “[w]e construe all doubts regarding the sufficiency of the complaint in favor of the plaintiff.” Daniel, ___ So. 3d at ___. Furthermore, a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal is proper “'only when it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of the claim that would entitle the plaintiff to relief.”' Knox v. Western World Ins. Co., 893 So. 2d 321, 322 (Ala. 2004) (quoting Nance v. Matthews, 622 So. 2d 297, 299 (Ala. 1993)).

In this case, regardless of our view on the likelihood of the plaintiffs' ultimate ability to establish the truth of the intent-to-injure allegations, or even to survive the summary-judgment stage, we cannot deny that there is at least some possibility that those allegations are true. Accordingly, the plaintiffs are entitled to at least limited discovery on the issue whether their claims are subject to the exclusivity provision of the LHWCA.5 Thus, Austal has not shown a clear legal right to a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal.

In Austal, the plaintiffs' allegations clearly could be labeled as conclusory; in fact, they border on mind reading. But the Alabama Supreme Court made two central findings:

(a) Despite the unlikely nature of the plaintiffs' claims, they had to be taken as true for purposes of a motion to dismiss.

(b) All doubts about the sufficiency of the complaint must be construed in favor of the plaintiff at the motion-to-dismiss stage.

Johnson failed to apply these standards in the Roberson matter, so her dismissal of Balch & Bingham should be reversed on those grounds alone.

Those, however, are not the only grounds for reversal:

What about the second dispositive issue? Here's how we explained it in the earlier post:

(2) Judge Johnson erred in finding the Alabama Legal Services Liability Act (ALSLA), and its tight statute of limitations, applied to Balch Bingham even if Roberson had no attorney-client relationship with the firm.

Again, this runs afoul of Alabama Supreme Court precedent as stated in Mississippi Valley Title Ins. Co. v. Hooper, 707 So. 2d 209 (Ala., 1997) From our post on the Mississippi Valley finding. 

Alabama law is clear that ALSLA -- and its tight statute of limitations, which could make the Roberson complaint time-barred -- applies only where there is an attorney-client relationship. Circuit Judge Tamara Harris Johnson correctly stated the law in her recent order dismissing the Balch & Bingham law firm from the Roberson case, citing a case styled Mississippi Valley Title Ins. Co. v. Hooper, 707 So. 2d 209 (Ala., 1997). Harris wrote:

The Court held further that “an attorney-client relationship is an essential element of a claim under the Legal Services Liability Act... To create an attorney-client relationship,there must be an employment contract ‘either express or implied’ between an attorney and the party for whom he purports to act or someone authorized to represent such party. . . . ”

The Court in Mississippi Valley, supra, further held, The test for determining the existence of [an attorney-client] relationship is a subjective one and ‘hinges upon the client’s belief that he is consulting a lawyer in that capacity and his manifested intention is to seek professional legal advice.”

In our view, Johnson correctly stated the law in the Balch dismissal, but she applied it incorrectly -- and her order should be reversed by the Alabama Supreme Court, where it stands on appeal.

To summarize:

(1) Roberson must have had an attorney-client relationship with Balch & Bingham for his complaint to fall under ALSLA and be time-barred.

(2) Roberson said in his complaint that he had no such relationship with anyone at Balch, and that must be taken as true. On top of that, the record shows no sign of an employment contract, "express or implied," between Roberson and any lawyer at Balch. Finally, there is no hint that Roberson believed he was consulting a lawyer in the capacity of being a client. In fact, the words of Roberson's complaint, which must be taken as true, show just the opposite -- that he had no such belief.

For the reasons cited above, the Alabama Supreme Court should have an easy call in reversing Johnson and bringing Balch Bingham back into the Roberson lawsuit.

Moving ahead to Friday's order, the court turned on page 33 to a case that probably is more analogous to Roberson-Balch than any other case on record. From the opinion (some citations omitted for ease of reading):

In Fogarty v. Parker, Poe, Adams & Bernstein, L.L.P., 961 So. 2d 784 (Ala. 2006), the nonclients sued attorneys asserting, among other things, fraud, alleging that the attorneys had "misrepresented to [the nonclients] Alabama law by stating that under Alabama law the [nonclients] were not entitled to review the books and records" of a majority shareholder in a venture in which the nonclients were minority shareholders. . . The venture was failing and the nonclients had become suspicious of the activities of the majority shareholder. The attorneys represented the majority shareholder and, as noted above, denied the nonclients access to the books and records. The attorneys moved to dismiss the nonclients' complaint on the ground that "the [nonclients'] claims arose out of the rendition of legal services" and that the ALSLA provided their exclusive remedy. . .  They also asserted, however, that since "the [nonclients] were not clients ... [the attorneys] owed no legal duty to the [nonclients]." This Court rejected those arguments and held that the nonclients' fraud claims were not legal-malpractice claims. The Court held: "The ALSLA applies only to allegations of legal malpractice, i.e., claims against legal-service providers that arise from the performance of legal services . . . ." This Court in Fogarty also noted: "After a thorough examination of the language of the entire act, this Court [in Cunningham v. Langston, Frazer, Sweet & Freese, P.A., 727 So. 2d 800, 804 (Ala. 1999),] held that 'the ALSLA does not apply to an action filed against a "legal service provider" by someone whose claim does not arise out of the receipt of legal services. . . .' " Consequently, this Court held, the lack of an attorney-client relationship did not bar the nonclients' fraud claims asserted independently of the ALSLA. . . .

That statement from Fogarty essentially was the court's final word on Roberson-Balch. Roughly three paragraphs later the justices concluded with this:

The trial court's order dismissing Roberson's third amended complaint against Balch is reversed, and the cause is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Those words probably ensured a few folks at Balch & Bingham would have an unpleasant weekend. The call was not as easy as it should have been. But to its credit, the high court got it right in the end.