Alabama Supreme Court denies Drummond's request to be treated like a law firm, paving the way for a possible trial in David Roberson's $75-million lawsuit

Alabama Supreme Court

 

The Alabama Supreme Court has denied Drummond Company's request for a writ of mandamus, apparently setting up a trial in the $75-million lawsuit of former executive David Roberson, according to a report at banbalch.com. Jefferson County trial-court judge Tamara Harris Johnson has sealed the case file, so it's hard to fully understand the ramifications of the high court's order. But it appears Roberson and his legal team have cleared a major hurdle in a civil matter that grew from the North Birmingham Superfund criminal case. Reports banbalch.com under the headline "Unanimous! Drummond Company to Stand Trial; Floodgates Open":

Last week, the Alabama Supreme Court unanimously rejected Drummond Company’s Writ of Mandamus against ex-Drummond executive David Roberson’s $75 million civil lawsuit with one word, “Denied.”

In their 46-page Writ filed last December, Drummond summarized their grave concern claiming, “A man—convicted by a jury of his peers for bribery, money laundering, and fraud—has now sued his employer and a law firm claiming they caused him to be wrongfully convicted.

So will we find out if Drummond, their “confused” General Counsel Blake Andrews, and other co-conspirators indeed caused Roberson to be wrongfully convicted?

The court proceedings in Jefferson County against Drummond Company have been placed under seal in another top-secret Star Chamber.

Regardless, multiple outside factors now come into play:

These factors alone may be just enough to spur federal investigations of possible criminal and prosecutorial misconduct regardless of what happens inside the Second Star Chamber.

 Drummond has argued hat it deserves the protection generally afforded law firms under the Alabama Legal Services Liabiliy Act (ALSLA). The state's high court wasn't buying it, reports banbalch.com:

Roberson has opened the floodgates against the Three Stooges (Drummond, Balch and Alabama Power) and stripped naked the drag queens at Drummond who tried to cross-dress themselves as a law firm.

Even the conservative Alabama Supreme Court did not buy the cross-dressing act.

Unanimously.

If legal precedent means anything -- and Lord knows, it's supposed to -- the state's high court had little choice but to rule as it did. Here's how we framed the issue in a post last December

What is that central question Drummond seeks to place before the high court? Here's how it is stated in the company's brief:

Whether a  corporation, which is not itself a legal services provider, may avail itself of the ALSLA statute of limitations where its alleged liability is based on the conduct of its general counsel, who is a legal services provider?

        The Alabama Supreme Court already has answered that question in a case styled Alabama Educ.  Ass’n v. Nelson, 770 So. 2d 1057 (Ala. 2000). Nelson involved a teacher's efforts to sue AEA under the Alabama Legal Services Liabiliy Act (ALSLA) because of alleged legal malpractice by one of the association's in-house lawyers. That appears to be analogous to Roberson's claims related to Drummond in-house counsel Blake Andrews -- and the company's efforts to seek protection of the ALSLA and its tight statute-of-limitations, which could make the Roberson lawsuit time-barred.

        But Drummond has a slight problem -- it admits that it is not a legal-services provider, and the Alabama Supreme Court held in Nelson that the ALSLA does not apply in such situations. In essence, the state's high court found in Nelson that ALSLA does not apply to the AEA -- which,  like Drummond, is not a legal-services provider -- so it could not apply to Drummond. That means Roberson's complaint is not time-barred, and Drummond's request for interlocutory appeal should  be sent to the dead letter office. Here is the key finding in Nelson:

            We note that throughout the ALSLA, the language used by the Legislature indicate               that the  Act  was intended to apply to lawyers and law firms.