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The cost to defend the Alabama Department of Corrections: $7.6 million

By 2025, Alabama will have paid out more than $20 million to a single, outside attorney to handle prison litigation

The seal of the Alabama Department of Corrections.
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New law firm, same big money for attorney Bill Lunsford. 

At last week’s meeting of the Legislature’s Contract Review Committee, the Alabama Department of Corrections presented three contracts for Lunsford, who moved from the Maynard Cooper law firm to Butler Snow a few weeks ago, to provide representation of the department and named employees in three ongoing federal lawsuits.  

The total bill: $7.6 million. 

While ADOC officials presented the contracts, it’s now the Alabama Attorney General’s Office that originated them. That change in the process came in April, when AG Steve Marshall stripped all ADOC attorneys of their powers to handle litigation. 

“Mr. Lunsford has changed law firms, resulting in the need to reissue his existing contracts to reflect his new firm affiliation,” said Amanda Priest, the director of communications for the AG’s office. 

Even so, the contracts continue a pattern of taxpayers dishing out millions of dollars to an outside attorney, while also still paying numerous attorneys employed by the AG’s office and the ADOC. 

Assuming Lunsford earns only the $7.6 million listed in the contracts, that will put him on track to take in more than $20 million from the state since 2021. While the current contracts are for a two-year period, Lunsford earned more than $7 million in 2022 alone, according to the Alabama Open Checkbook. 

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In the meantime, ADOC has struggled to find money to address many of the issues brought to light in the cases for which Lunsford is representing the state. Those cases include a lawsuit brought by the Department of Justice, which found Alabama’s prisons to be woefully understaffed in both officers and healthcare professionals. 

Those understaffing issues have brought about nearly incomprehensible levels of prisoner abuse and deaths. 

Even worse: the conditions have deteriorated since the lawsuits began. 

“There is no one who has looked at this lawsuit who thinks we’re going to win it,” Rep. Chris England, who is also an attorney, told APR in an interview earlier this year. “We’re going to lose. But for some reason, we’re still paying this much money to defend ourselves. What are we defending?”

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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