Mary Ann Vial Lemmon, Lance M. Africk, Helen G. Berrigan, Ivan L.R. Lemelle, Jay C. Zainey, and, in some cases, Kurt D. Engelhardt – and the only remaining question, IMO, is how long will it take NRB to post a comment to Bloomberg’s Judges Quit BP Gulf Oil-Spill Lawsuits Over Conflicts:
“We have five orders of recusal at the moment,” Gene Smith, chief deputy clerk of the New Orleans court, said in a May 28 telephone interview… A sixth, Judge Kurt D. Engelhardt, is also recusing himself from some cases, Judge Carl J. Barbier told lawyers last month. A seventh will join the group, he said.
Barbier, who didn’t include himself in the count, owns Transocean Sedco Forex notes and Halliburton Co. debentures, according to disclosure statements obtained from the Web site of Judicial Watch, a self-styled conservative advocacy group based in Washington.
According to the latest version of the Bloomberg story, “Barbier didn’t respond to a request for comment, left with one of his law clerks, on whether there is a conflict between his investments and the oil-spill litigation.” However, Judge Barbier’s financial disclosure form is the answer that works for me. Anyone who also owns a piece of Anheuser-Busch and Wal-Mart is man enough to not be influenced by Transocean and Halliburton!
In the federal judicial district based in Lafayette, Louisiana, Judge Tucker Melancon stepped aside from some oil- spill cases, according to court records.
Alabama hasn’t seen a “wholesale” withdrawal of judges from spill cases, said Jeff Reinert, chief deputy clerk of the judicial district based in Mobile.
“But several have stepped down from individual cases over relationship issues with the law firms involved,” he said. “Either their friend or son works there.”
BP and other defendants in spill cases asked the multidistrict panel to put the case in Houston, home of each one’s U.S. operational headquarters. The companies asked that the case be assigned to Judge Lynn Hughes.
Hughes has lectured for an oilfield industry professional group that pays his travel expenses, according to filings obtained from the Judicial Watch website…
Hughes also owns six mutual funds that include shares in companies involved in the spill, including one fund whose largest component is Anadarko Petroleum Corp., a minority partner in the damaged well, according to the filings.
Among Hughes’s reported mutual fund holdings are Legg Mason Aggressive Growth Fund, which was almost 10 percent Anadarko at the end of March, and AIM Basic Value Fund, which included shares of Halliburton and Transocean as of the same period.
Hughes, in an e-mail, declined to discuss any aspect of the oil spill case before him or any potential conflict of interest.
“I’m happy to do it,” Hughes told lawyers at hearing in his Houston court last month, referring to the proposed oil- spill litigation. “But I’m certainly not going to love you for it.”
The case is In Re: Oil Spill by the Oil Rig “Deepwater Horizon” in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, MDL-2179, Washington.
BP Plc and Transocean Ltd. oil-spill lawsuits may be combined before a judge from outside the Gulf Coast states, because judges in the region are withdrawing from cases, citing conflicts of interest.