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 al.com 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 banbalch.com, 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 banbalch.com 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.