Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Orange Park, FL, with about 8,400 residents, rejects Balch & Bingham's bid to serve as town attorney, hinting that Balch could be swirling down the drain

A Florida town of about 8,400 residents has rejected an opportunity to have Birmingham's Balch & Bingham law firm serve as town attorney, according to a report today at The Town of Orange Park, FL, a suburb of Jacksonville, rejected Balch's bid, even though the firm offered unusually favorable terms. K.B. Forbes, publisher of the Ban Balch blog and CEO of its parent organization -- the CDLU public charity and advocacy group -- says Orange Park's rejection is another sign that Balch's ties to a string of scandals have left its reputation in tatters.

Under the headline "Third-Party Risk! Florida Town Council Rejects Balch & Bingham; Embattled Law Firm Offered to Work for “Flat Fee,” Forbes writes:

Can the situation get any worse for Balch & Bingham?

The Town Council of Orange Park, Florida, has rejected a bid from the law firm. Not a single council member voted for Balch, one of three firms contending to provide legal services to the town, according to local news reports.

Worse, Patrick Krechowski, a Balch partner, “said that the majority of services for Balch & Bingham would be covered under a flat fee…”

A flat fee for a law firm with more than 200 attorneys? Unheard of!

Could Balch be so desperate, or in such bad financial shape, that it no longer is billing hourly?

We heard of possible financial troubles at the firm when Balch partner William “Bo” Lineberry committed suicide last year by brutally hanging himself.

The Orange Park decision comes as a sign that the financial problems are real. And, Forbes reports, the firm is in trouble on multiple fronts, making it unclear how it will manage to climb out of any financial hole:

The firm’s toxic reputation is tied to multiple factors including the North Birmingham Bribery Scandal, in which poor, African American children and their families were targeted in a bribery scheme born at the offices of Balch & Bingham. Once-esteemed Balch partner Joel I. Gilbert is currently serving a five-year prison term because of his involvement in the bribery and money laundering scheme.

Lineberry, incredibly, was the attorney who incorporated the entity through which the bribes were laundered. Chase T. Espy, another ex-Balch attorney, is serving an eight-year prison term for possession of kiddie porn. He was arrested in 2021 by local authorities for soliciting a child for sex online, and because of our outreach to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Espy was investigated and later indicted in 2022 for online child solicitation. He eventually pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography.

Numerous clients and money-making partners have fled the embattled firm. Known as the sister-wife of Southern Company, Balch has even seen the utility reduce the firm's workload.

Having a former attorney connected to child pornography looks grim, but Balch's ties to unsavory activity do not end there, Forbes writes:

With two convicted ex-attorneys currently sitting in federal prison, who would want to have Balch, an apparent third-party risk, as their counsel of record?

Let us not only remember that Blacks and children were victims of Balch’s alleged misconduct, but also the elderly.

Balch partner Amy Davis was recorded by 88-year-old Joann Bashinsky (Mrs. B) telling Mrs. B that she could lose her house (even though it was paid off) if she didn’t allow Balch and others to represent her interests.

Mrs. B was worth a whopping $218 million, and that appears to be why Balch and others wanted to control the elderly woman and her assets. The alleged Elderly Exploitation Scandal is one of the many aspects that appears to have damaged Balch’s reputation and created an unsustainable third-party risk.

In recent months, other law firms have picked-off top partners from Balch, and insiders claim that Balch might be bought out by Bradley or another firm.

With flat fees, green-behind-the-ears attorneys, and minimal bonuses, Balch could be in an irreversible death spiral.

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