The ex-employee suing the Alabama State Bar and its former director amended her complaint last week to include current counsel for the state agency who she alleges are now attempting to disqualify her attorney as incompetent in retaliation for filing the suit.
Katherine Church added the Bar’s General Counsel Roman Shaul and Assistant General Counsel Mark Moody as defendants to her original suit last week. The addendum alleges Church’s attorney Thomas Gallion has been instructed that the Bar is monitoring a claim he personally made against a restaurant where he fell two years ago. In a June 14 letter, Moody demanded Gallion’s March 30, 2022 deposition from that case and two days later sent another letter requesting the deposition and alluding to possible “mental or emotional impairment” created by the fall.
“Enclosed is a complaint you filed against a number of defendants wherein you stated that you have suffered some degree of mental or emotional impairment and those injuries are ‘permanent.’ You further indicate that because of the injuries, your “legal career may be over,’” Moody wrote in a letter included in the addendum. “All of these allegations are relevant to your pending disciplinary matter and further relevant to your ability to practice law.”
Though Church’s suit against the Bar wasn’t filed until June 23, she claims the Bar was aware of her intent to sue and that she’d met with Gallion prior to Moody’s letters. She told Lagniappe that when she first met with Gallion about the suit the Bar was already aware of her plans.
Church’s original filing in June outlined the circumstances of her work under former State Bar Executive Director Phillip McCallum, who she claimed treated her as a “personal servant,” repeatedly instructing her to run errands for him and to perform non-Bar matters such as helping set up his Auburn tailgating parties. McCallum resigned in October of 2020, shortly before he was found by the Alabama Ethics Commission to have had 17 violations of the state ethics laws while running the Bar.
Church’s original filing also made a number of other troubling claims, including that Bar officials had engaged in a retirement spiking scheme called “two-year bump” by which long-time employees had their salaries increased 10 percent one year and another 10 percent the following year before retiring. As the highest three-year salary average, along with years of service, go into calculating retirement benefits for the Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA), such a plan would result in higher benefits over time. An RSA spokesperson told Lagniappe, a “two-year bump” would not be permissible under its rules.
The addendum filed by Church last week outlines not only ongoing friction between Gallion and some members of the Bar, but makes specific allegations that her former employers are attempting to harm Gallion’s ability to practice law in a scheme to deprive her of an attorney. Church said finding a lawyer willing to take on the Bar in the first place was nearly impossible, and losing Gallion would severely handicap her ability to pursue the lawsuit.
Gallion declined making a statement for this story other than to say the lawsuit speaks for itself.
Asked if the timing of Moody’s letters to Gallion regarding a lawsuit that has been ongoing for two years might lend credence to Church’s accusation that her lawyer is being selectively harassed because of his involvement, the Bar did not answer. In fact, since current Executive Director Terri Lovell wrote on June 23 that she would follow up on Lagniappe’s questions about McCallum and other related matters, the Bar has not responded to any communication at all.
Church, who worked at the State Bar for 29 years, also said retaliation for the suit reached a new level when she was not allowed to even enter the public building while trying to hand over the addendum to her suit.
“I had to stand on the porch to hand over my addendum,” she said. “I’m not a threat. It’s a public building, but I was denied access.”
The addendum alleges it is her intimate knowledge of the inner workings of the Bar that have led its leadership to go after Gallion.
“Plaintiff alleges that the Bar and Bar Attorney Defendants Moody and Shaul are attempting to deprive the Plaintiff of her right to an attorney in this matter. Plaintiff alleges that she and her attorney know so much of the corruption and unethical conduct as described herein that they will do anything to silence both her and her attorney,” the addendum reads.
It also outlines instances involving one lawyer allegedly involved in illegal drugs that led to the death of a young woman. Another allegation involves a former staff attorney at the Bar who allegedly fell in love with an attorney he was investigating, leading to the breakup of their marriages and a financial settlement from the Bar. Neither lawyer was disciplined by the Bar, according to the addendum.
“Plaintiff alleges that if someone does not expose what has gone on at the Bar, then the safety and welfare of the public will not be protected,” the addendum says.
While the Bar offered no comment on Church’s suit or addendum, it has also avoided answering questions about McCallum’s departure nearly two years ago, or a May 2022 report from the Examiners of Public Accounts outlining multiple unauthorized payments to McCallum and other former employees, as well as unauthorized expenditures to outside attorneys and unauthorized non-disclosure agreements.
Ironically, outgoing Alabama Bar Association President Tazwell Shepard wrote in the latest edition of The Alabama Lawyer Today magazine of the importance of transparency at the Bar.
“We agree that the state bar must become more transparent, responsive and accountable. These are the three areas I heard over and over when I campaigned around the state as I was running for president,” he wrote.
Appearing on page 215 of July’s edition, next to the end of Shepard’s column, is a half-page ad announcing former executive director McCallum’s new job with Schreiber Dispute Resolution. It does not mention his tenure as executive director, only that he is a past president of the Bar Association.
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