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Bar elects Ala. lawyer as president

BIRMINGHAM (AP) — Birmingham attorney H. Thomas Wells Jr. will take over as president of the American Bar Association next August, becoming the third Alabamian to head the group.

Wells, 57, was elected at the association's annual meeting that wrapped up Aug. 14 in San Francisco.

Previous Alabamians to lead the 413,000-member legal group were Henry Upton Sims of Birmingham in 1929-1930 and Wells' law partner, N. Lee Cooper of Birmingham, in 1996-1997.

Wells said his schedule will change dramatically when he becomes president next August, including traveling throughout the country to speak to legal groups, civic clubs and newspaper editorial boards and traveling internationally to attend professional meetings.

Wells' one-year term could
be more exciting than normal because he will take office in
the heat of a presidential election.

He said the association will have to be prepared for any election problems like the hanging chads of 2000 and will need to be ready to speak out about keeping the judiciary free from political influence.

He said judges' rulings sometimes become issues in political campaigns, but the judges are restricted from speaking publicly about pending cases. In those instances, association members step forward to explain that judges sometimes have to make decisions that are legally correct but politically unpopular, he said.

Wells, a 1975 graduate of The University of Alabama School of Law, has held other posts in the American Bar Association, including being a state delegate from 1992-2001 and chairman of its House of Delegates from 2002-2004.

A partner in the Maynard, Cooper and Gale law firm, Wells' practice focuses on the defense of class-action tort law suits and environmental and product liability cases.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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