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Successfully Resolving The Jeffco Financial Crisis – How The State Bar Played A Crucial Role Behind The Scenes

Brad Carr
Alabama State Bar
Public Information Officer
(334) 517-2128 or
(334) 782-2781
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Montgomery, Ala., August 27, 2009 - Sometimes in politics, working behind the scenes is more productive than having the spotlight shine on you.

A perfect example of this is how the Alabama State Bar's Legislative Task Force worked with the Legislature and helped to craft legislation which would provide future funding for Jefferson County in light of a court ruling that invalidated the occupational tax the county had imposed.

State Bar President Thomas J. Methvin of Montgomery (Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles, P.C.) said, "We did not take any partisan position nor did we lobby for any particular bill or legislative solution. Instead, we simply provided support for the Legislature, to include consultation on legal issues, facilitate meetings, and, to the degree necessary, encourage dialogue."

Methvin asked James Pratt of Birmingham (Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton, LLP), chair of the state bar's Legislative Task Force to assemble a nonpartisan group who could address the various issues surrounding the court decision to declare the county occupational tax invalid. Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Drayton Nabers, ASB Past President J. Mark White, former Chief U.S. Federal District Judge U. W. Clemon and Prof. Howard Walthall of Cumberland School of Law, all agreed to serve.

Pratt explained a meeting was held by the bar group with Rep. John Rogers and state Sen. Steve French (since they were the proponents of the two primary proposed bills) during which the bar helped them come to agreement on the occupational tax bill which formed the framework for the ultimate legislation. Prof. Walthall provided the Jefferson County delegation and Gov. Bob Riley with an analysis of the legal issues presented. The governor was so appreciative of ASB's efforts that he intends to write Methvin to express his gratitude.

Pratt said, "We were able to develop a constructive method of addressing a very difficult situation. None of us want to see the courthouses in Jefferson County cease to function and I believe our efforts have prevented that from happening."

The 16,000-member Alabama State Bar is dedicated improving the administration of justice and increasing public understanding and respect for the law.