Thursday should be a very good day for attorney Bill Lunsford.
According to an agenda from the Alabama Legislature’s Contract Review Committee, Lunsford is set to receive nearly $15 million in contracts for work to be performed over the next two years.
According to the agenda, Lunsford is set to receive one contract for $9.9 million to defend the Alabama Department of Corrections in a 2020 federal lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice alleging that ADOC is in violation of prisoners’ constitutional rights. In addition, Lunsford is set to receive 25 other legal services contracts – each for $200,000 – to defend the state and ADOC in other lawsuits.
Those contracts, while apparently extensions of previous contracts, appear to be in addition to the $7.6 million in contracts that Lunsford was awarded a month ago.
According to records from the state of Alabama’s open checkbook, Lunsford was already set to be paid more than $20 million between 2021 and 2025. The new contract extensions will boost that total to more than $35 million.
In June, the Alabama Attorney General’s Office said Lunsford had to be issued the $7.6 million in new contracts because he changed law firms. That move canceled the original contracts, requiring the state to either use state-employed attorneys or re-contract with Lunsford.
The bulk of Lunsford’s money has been made defending the state in the lawsuit brought by the DOJ, which alleges Alabama has demonstrated a history of abuse and neglect of its prisoners in state custody. Reports generated after investigations by the DOJ have highlighted horrific abuses within Alabama’s prisons. The federal court has ordered the state to make steps to clean up a number of those issues, including hiring more guards and offering more effective health care and mental health care.
Thus far, the state has seemingly failed to comply with the court’s orders at almost every turn. ADOC has failed to come close to hiring the suggested number of new guards, and deaths and abuse continue at levels higher than when the original DOJ report was released in 2019.