MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama State University spent almost $4 million on private attorneys since October 2005, while a nearby school with almost equal enrollment spent less than $500,000 on outside lawyers during the same time period.
Quoting records obtained through Alabama Open Records Act requests, the Montgomery Advertiser reported that ASU, with an enrollment of 5,700 students, spent $3.97 million on private attorneys between Oct. 1, 2005, and Nov. 1, 2010. Meanwhile, Auburn University-Montgomery spent $465,997 during the same time. AUM has 5,811 students.
ASU executive vice president and chief operating officer John Knight says the outside legal fees were partly caused by a large number of lawsuits against ASU.
Knight, who is also a state legislator, says some of the legal fees were the result of a protracted investigation by the NCAA into the university’s athletic programs.
He says the university does not have an attorney on staff and is therefore mostly dependent on outside counsel. Although the board of trustees has considered hiring an attorney, “at this point, it just has not happened,” Knight says.
Some cases, he says, needed experienced attorneys.
“There are very few cases we have lost,” he says.
Auburn spokesman Brian Keeter says that although Auburn has three staff attorneys, outside lawyers handle most of the litigation for both campuses.
A large portion of the legal fees that ASU paid went to one law firm.
According to The Advertiser, ASU paid $1.77 million to Thomas, Means, Gillis & Seay P.C. of Montgomery for various kinds of legal work. All the legal fees paid for cases involving AUM went to the Montgomery law firm Balch & Bingham.