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New legal chief of bankrupt Alabama County steps aside

By Verna Gates

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (Reuters) - The Alabama Supreme Court justice chosen just last week to help steer the state's Jefferson County through the biggest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history stepped down on Tuesday after apparently deciding he was not a good match for the job.

Mike Bolin, 65, could not be reached for immediate comment on his decision to leave Alabama's largest county, which includes Birmingham, with no one at the helm of its tumultuous legal affairs.

But Sandra Little Brown, a county commissioner, said Bolin would return to the supreme court after his wife suggested that the county's bankruptcy woes might be too much for him to handle.

Bolin, who was a probate judge for Jefferson County for 16 years, was confirmed just last Thursday to succeed Jeff Sewell, who took involuntary retirement on April 12.

Bolin was seen as a logical selection for the post since he is well versed in 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.

One of his first tasks as the county's top legal adviser or counselor included preparation for a new round of bankruptcy hearings beginning next week.

"We have to make sure whoever we pick is sensitive to the issues," said Brown.

"I am going to do a lot of praying as we go back to the drawing board," she said.

"Anyone we hire will be a top gun with the highest standards of ethical behavior and competence," said Jefferson County Commission President David Carrington.

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."

(Reporting by Verna Gates; Editing by Tom Brown and Richard Chang)

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