Since we’re USA only right now I think it’s a good time to clear the air some. First off is the post title in quotes, which means it is a reader comment to the link I am about to drop but first.
There is no one commenter that has caused me more problems than our own Ashton O’Dwyer. Lifers understand why Slabbed welcomes Ashton here despite all the headaches. I’ll admit that I harbor a personal affinity for the man because, as the late Frank Davis would say he’s naturally N’Awlins. That does not mean I approve of his racial views, however, but some people get hung up on that part. That I can not help. Now to the jacking part.
Early on in the oil spill litigation Slabbed covered some of the problems I saw coming – heck one of our 2010 oil spill stories crossed over in a big way in fact. Due to the size and complexity of the topic and my epic legal battle with Aaron Broussard’s Goatherd there was no way I could take it on circa 2012 but luckily for everyone Jason Berry at American Zombie has tackled it and his body of work on the subject is very impressive. I mention this because Jason’s work has crossed over and this is the latest from the mainstream media:
Well “tickle my ass with a feather” if Hammerman didn’t put the hammer down on Buddy Caldwell and the apparently illegal contracts he let to his political supporters like Allan “Show me the money” Kanner, who is evidently is sleeping while on tower in Judge Barbier’s courtroom. None of this is a particularly new topic for us as Slabbed has covered the MDL litigation as well as the crash and burn of Ex Rel Branch but the grandaddy of Buddy Caldwell blogging is over at the Hayride with my colleague Scott McKay. We’re gonna get to Scott in a second but first Hammerman:
Yeah Buddy, Allan Kanner got lucky alright and you need a seeing eye dog if you are paying an attorney $600.00 an hour to sleep on the job.
There is additional context to the Kanner-Barbier-Caldwell donnybrook. We’re told by a friend in the legal community that Kanner and Barbier hate each other. We’re also told that Kanner really is a good attorney, but that once that case went in front of Barbier it was suicide to have Kanner sitting at the attorneys’ table. So when the judge singles out Kanner for abuse from the bench that’s nothing less than a the judge taking a chance to stick a knife in a guy he can’t stand. Who’s our attorney, by the way, and a damn expensive one, at that.
So we’re shelling out $600 an hour for this train wreck. And here comes Caldwell, who, asked about Barbier dissing his lead hired-gun outside counsel attorney in the trial transcript, thinks it’s a good idea to trash the judge for his level of attention to the trial.
The administrator of the $20 billion compensation fund for Gulf oil spill victims is not independent from BP and must stop telling potential claimants that he is, a federal judge said in a ruling Wednesday that…cuts at the heart of one of Feinberg’s central arguments that because he’s independent people…should trust his decisions.
Barbier said Feinberg must clearly disclose in all communications that he is acting for and on behalf of BP in fulfilling its obligations as the responsible party under the Oil Pollution Act.
According to the AP story, “Barbier stopped short of ordering changes to a release form people who accept final payments from the fund must sign”:
He asked lawyers to submit additional briefs to the court on that, as well as address the question of whether BP is fully complying with the law in the processing of claims…
Barbier ordered all sides to issue additional briefs by Feb. 11 addressing the question of “whether and how BP as the responsible party is fully complying with the mandates of OPA, for example, in the processing of claims for ‘interim, short-term damages,’ or ‘final damages,’ methodologies for evaluation of claims, and the release forms required of claimants.”
It’s never too late to post good news; but, for more tonight, read the AP story.
Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood continued Tuesday to assault the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, saying in a federal court filing that its activities violate federal and state law and again asking the judge to intervene in the claims process…
In the filing, Hood contends that Feinberg’s process, by freezing interim payments, increases the financial hardship on claimants and makes them more likely to sign away their legal rights.
Details of Hoods allegations are summarized in the Press Register story (h/t to reporter Dan Murtaugh) and detailed in Hood’s Memorandum of Authorities in Support of Statement of Interest on Behalf of the State of Mississippi (below in scribd format).
Judge Barbier shouldn’t need reminding a similar financial hardship resulted in claimants signing away their rights following Hurricane Katrina only to discover more damage later. Nonetheless, I’ll repeat myself and say that Attorney General Hood is now Twice Right and Judge Barbier should heed the warning.
Established the MID Hurricane Katrina Mediation Program and the U.S. Federal Court Mediation Program, which streamlined the claims handling process and resolved thousands of claims quickly and satisfactorily without lengthy and expensive litigation…
Others see Harrell and his brainchild in a different light – mediation fraud.
However, it would have been preventable mediation fraud had the Southern District Mississippi court taken oversight of the process as requested by Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood. Via a recently filed “Statement of Interest on Behalf of the State of Mississippi”, Hood has made a similar request of Judge Barbier for much the same reason he ask the Mississippi court to protect hurricane disaster victims:
The Attorney General’s Statement to U.S. District Judge Carl J. Barbier asks the court to take control in order “to correct the deficiencies in the GCCF as outlined in the PSC’s Motion and in this Statement of Interest, in order to facilitate the timely and just processing of claims…“I want Mr. Feinberg to continue paying claims, but I want the process to be transparent, fair and fast…”
Comments – both on blog and in email contacts – about today’s post, Bum steer, have prompted a fresh look at the “common benefits” of mass claims.
However, less I be misunderstood, it’s important to start this post recognizing the work of plaintiffs’ lawyers following Hurricane Katrina. Working largely on a contingency fee basis, some at great personal sacrifice, they opened the door to justice for many who would have otherwise had both their damage claim and justice denied. Admittedly, some eventually made a lot of money,particularly those who also invested a lot of money; others not so much; and. a few probably lost money; but, pay day, if it came at all, didn’t come until after a case had been decided or settled and then some.
Even then, the result did not always fully compensate plaintiffs for their loss or plaintiffs’ attorneys for their cost; but, individual cases are a different matter from a mass claim action – cases where a win can be a loss for everyone but the lead attorneys representing the class or mass of plaintiffs, cases such as the one subject to this recent 5th Circuit opinion.
A federal appeals court…rejected a $21 million settlement of Hurricane Katrina damage claims that some residents had complained was unfair, and that one group said would have entitled residents and businesses to as little as $40 each.
Oil and water don’t mix – and, apparently,federal and state Attorneys General feel likewise about having their claims overseen by the “big money pot in the little one” Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee appointed by Judge Barbier.
U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier told participants in the BP oil spill litigation Friday that he wasn’t trying to deny the state of Louisiana a voice in the proceedings when he rejected a motion for a special government track Thursday. He’s just trying to make the litigation more efficient, Barbier said…
Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell…[a]Appearing at his first monthly oil spill status conference Friday morning, Caldwell said he wasn’t reassured by what Barbier said and is evaluating the state’s legal options.
“The state’s claims are still subject to the plaintiffs steering committee,” Caldwell said, noting that Barbier also didn’t rule on Louisiana’s request to bar private attorneys from sharing any proceeds ultimately due to the state. With Gulf Coast Claims Facility Administrator Kenneth Feinberg settling claims and removing plaintiffs from the litigation, the concern is that public recoveries could become the deepest pockets in the litigation, and that governmental bodies could be forced to share if they’re operating under the auspices of the plaintiffs committee.
As I’ve gotten to know elements of the greater NOLA legal community I’ve come to appreciate the legacy on the plaintiff’s side of the bar of the late Wendell Gauthier, who was a litigator’s litigator. Simply put the man had a special talent in reading and reaching juries. In fairness, I’ve also heard the stories of the impact the man’s accumulated wealth had on elements of the local judiciary, especially at the zenith of his career with the tobacco litigation. As Gauthier died relatively young many of his contemporaries and former partners are still around as are an entire generation of younger lawyers that learned the art of the arguing a case from Gauthier in the years before he died.
On Tuesday, another federal judge in New Orleans stepped aside from handling oil spill cases, joining six other colleagues who have recused themselves in recent weeks. That means only five of the 12 available judges in the Eastern District of Louisiana can hear litigation over the Gulf of Mexico disaster.
Judge Eldon Fallon removed himself from oil spill cases on Tuesday because his son-in-law, Camilo Salas III, is an attorney of record in several oil spill cases. Salas of New Orleans-based Salas LC has three such lawsuits pending in the Eastern District of Louisiana. He also has a case in the Middle District of Louisiana and another in the Southern District of Florida.
Salas said he saw no current conflict of interest because none of his cases are in front of his father-in-law. However, he said, if and when the cases are consolidated in a multidistrict litigation down the road, then a conflict could have occurred.
“Chances are that, as long as I’m on the case, he will not be the MDL judge,” Salas said.
Plaintiffs lawyers are also speculating whether Chief Judge Sarah Vance will recuse herself because her husband, Patrick Vance, is the head of litigation at New Orleans’ Jones, Walker, Waechter, Poitevent, Carrere & Denegre, which is representing one of the oil spill defendants.
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.