Friday, January 21, 2022

Balch & Bingham's dubious history on matters of race -- including staunch support for George Wallace -- rises up in 2022 battle over redistricting in Auburn


The racially dubious history of Birmingham's Balch & Bingham -- which includes support for George Wallace's "stand in the schoolhouse door" to keep black students out of the University of Alabama -- has come back to bite the law firm in 2022, according to a report at (BB). The current-day issues involve Balch's support for a redistricting plan in Auburn, AL, that appears to restrict access for black voters. BB Publisher K.B. Forbes explains, under the headline "Unbelievable! Divisive Balch Slams NAACP’s Proposed Electoral Map in Auburn as Allegedly 'Invalid'”:

Embattled and alleged racist law firm Balch and Bingham has hit a land mine in Auburn.

The optics were horrific: two white men denouncing the work of the NAACP, the historic African American Civil Rights organization.

Last night, the city council unanimously voted to postpone the matter until January 25th after fireworks flew.

What caused sparks to ignite? Forbes writes:

Balch’s Darmon Walker brought on a professor to help denounce the map provided by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People as allegedly invalid.

As The Auburn Plainsman summarized:

[Balch & Bingham’s] Walker praised the City’s efforts and called it’s plan “exemplary” while claiming the NAACP map does not meet the legal standards and redistricts based on minority groups. 

The summary confirms what Opelika-Auburn News reported:

The delay followed a report from Balch and Bingham attorney [Dorman] Walker, who attended Tuesday’s council, to determine whether the alternate proposal from Lee County NAACP Branch 5038 was compliant with the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The Lee County NAACP submitted their map to the City of Auburn on Dec. 21 ahead of when the council was initially prepared to vote on its own map. The NAACP’s proposal includes two majority-minority wards as opposed to the singular majority-minority Ward 1 among the city’s current districts present and in its planned map.

Walker was joined by Trey Hood, a professor at the University of Georgia’s Department of Political Science. The two put the NAACP’s map up against three conditions, or prongs, of the Gingles Test….

“I was unable to find any evidence, statistically speaking, to sustain any of the three Gingles prongs, and you need all three of them to sustain a vote dilution claim,” Hood told council members…

As the old saying goes, there are “lies, damned lies, and statistics. ”

Gee, it's hard to imagine why NAACP representatives reacted poorly to the Balch-backed report: 

The NAACP swiftly responded to the egregious attack. The Opelika-Auburn News wrote:

[The NAACP] contended during a public hearing that their map was a valid submission and compliant with the Voting Rights Act. “Our map is legal – the districts are evenly sized, it does not hurt minorities (and) it does not dilute the ability of minorities to elect representatives of their choosing,” [Tabitha] Isner said. “I find it very bizarre that it’s being presented as if it’s not a legal map.”

Isner asserted the Gingles Test is intended for courts if a redistricted map is believed to be invalid after adoption by a municipality. She said council members should instead base their process on having equally sized wards above other factors.

Terra Foster, executive director of the NAACP Alabama State Conference, attended Tuesday’s council meeting and appeared at the podium after Isner with a scathing conclusion. “I can’t help but think our map, the NAACP map, is being discredited,” Foster said.

Balch's sketchy history on race-based issues did not manage to escape the fray:

Balch’s Walker was grilled about his association 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. 

Walker responded that his correspondence with Hofeller was brief and didn’t include any discussion on the views that were revealed after the strategist’s death in 2018.

“After he died, his daughter … got copies of computer files that portrayed some fairly egregious positions with regard to how redistricting could be used to steal votes from Democrats and from minority voters, and perhaps some racist views,” Walker told the council. “I don’t believe those are the appropriate things to do. I think distribution should be done in a way that makes our democracy function, and I certainly think we have to be very vigilant in the protection of minority voting rights.”


Walker’s defensive comments last night appear to contradict news reports after the Hofeller Scandal broke. In 2019, the Montgomery Advertiser reported:

Thomas Hofeller, who drew maps for Republicans in North Carolina and Pennsylvania, corresponded with then-Rep. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, who helped oversee Alabama’s redistricting process, and Dorman Walker, a Balch and Bingham attorney who defended the state plan in court, as the redistricting process in Alabama began in 2011.

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

The documents published by The Intercept suggest Hofeller saw guidelines used by the redistricting committee and was researching or had received data on racial breakdowns in the state.

McClendon declined to answer follow-up questions about how the maps were drawn. Walker had no comment …. Hofeller died in 2018.

Forbes was left searching for words to describe Balch's role in the redistricting plan:

From “no comment” to “perhaps,” Balch’s Walker appears to have misled the Auburn City Council.

To reiterate, in 2011, Balch’s Walker defended the state’s redistricting plan that was later tossed out by the federal court because the state improperly used race.  

While the Auburn City Council is deliberating redistricting, the one decision they can make is to terminate Balch & Bingham immediately. 

Balch consultants appears to be dividing the Auburn community by foolishly slamming and denouncing the honest work of the NAACP. 

When we started this blog in 2017, we asked, “Is it 1961 in the South again?”

Last night in Auburn, Balch’s sheer stupidity made it feel like it.


Anonymous said...,%20Damned%20Lies%20and%20Experts.html

legalschnauzer said...

Hah! Funny stuff. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

As I unde4stand the article, Balch & Bingham already was involved in screwing up Auburn's redistricting plan once, back in 2011. So, why are they still involved in 2022? Has the city of Auburn not learned from past mistakes? Is someone at Auburn extraordinarily hard-headed? Do the Auburnites have their heads stuck in the sand, blissfully unaware of Balch's history?

legalschnauzer said...

Another question: Why is a right-wing, corporate law firm (closely aligned with proven racist Jeff Sessions) involved in this process? There isn't another firm in the Southeast, or the country, that could bring some competence and integrity to the table?

Anonymous said...

If Tabitha Isner is correct, and I suspect she is, the Gingles test argument is a red herring -- and the guy from U of Georgia is filled with horse excrement.

legalschnauzer said...

To borrow a line from the classic "Scrubs," Balch seems to attract a fair number of "bastard-coated bastards with bastard filling."

Anonymous said...

" ...
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. ..."

legalschnauzer said...

Thanks for sharing. Alexander's lawyer seems to claim his client was joking about reaching out to Proud Boy, etc. I would call that real "weak broth" Defenses don't come much more flimsy than that.

Anonymous said...

Anyone else still wondering if the feds are using Ali

legalschnauzer said...

I am. I hope the committee gets its hands on his phone records, etc. Ali sure seems to be fighting that hard, along with other Jan. 6 committee targets.

e.a.f. said...

It is almost comical if it weren't so serious, all these white politicians trying to ensure people of colour can not vote. What do they hope to accomplish? Really, what do they wish to accomplish? They maybe able to prevent large segments of American society from voting, but do they really think that is going to work. it is reasonable to conclude these whites are attempting to turn the clock back to 1922, the last time a former slave owner sat in Washington D.C. They were appointed for one day. They also believed in lynching.

Here we are in 2022 and we still have Americans who don't want people of colour to vote. Looks like there are a lot of americans trying to take the USA back to the days before voting rights and turn it into something like the U.S.A. of 1922. But to what end? Do these racists think things will go back to the days of 1922? And to what end


legalschnauzer said...

Thanks for a thoughtful comment, e.a.f. You raise some sobering questions about where the USA is headed.