April 24, 2013 / 9:52 PM / 5 years ago

Bankrupt Alabama county hires new top attorney

April 24, Birmingham, Ala. (Reuters) - Alabama’s Jefferson County, readying a plan to emerge from the largest U.S. municipal bankruptcy, on Wednesday hired a judge to replace the county’s top in-house lawyer, who was fired nearly two weeks ago.

Alabama Supreme Court Justice Mike Bolin will step down from that post to succeed Jeff Sewell, who took involuntary retirement on April 12, officials said. Bolin will earn $224,000 per year, or a bit more than half the nearly $400,000 salary of his predecessor.

Bolin was probate judge for Jefferson County for 16 years and has a deep familiarity with the legal history of the county’s sewer system, which is at the heart of the $4.27 billion Chapter 9 bankruptcy filed by Jefferson County in November 2011, according to officials.

“He is an expert in state and federal law, so he brings a wealth of knowledge and instant credibility,” said County Commissioner Jimmie Stephens.

Sewell had been in Jefferson County’s legal department for 25 years and was dismissed due to directions he gave the county’s outside bankruptcy attorneys “that were not in the best interests of Jefferson County.”

The federal judge overseeing the bankruptcy has scheduled a hearing on May 9 to discuss the schedule for filing a plan of adjustment for the county’s debts, but no hard deadline has yet been set.

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