Local lawyer makes case for consolidating oil suits in Lafayette
Opelousas attorney Patrick Morrow gave it his best shot, but so did other attorneys representing just about every federal judicial district spanning South Carolina to Texas. They all want the more than 300 oil-related lawsuits consolidated in their backyards.
Morrow, who was among the first local attorneys to file a federal class action in the Western district of Louisiana on behalf of fishermen and others hurt by the BP spill, is hoping a seven-member federal judicial panel agrees with his position that Lafayette is the best venue for consolidating the cases.
BP wants the cases heard in Houston, but the U.S. Justice Department and Gulf of Mexico plaintiffs, including property owners, restaurateurs and fishermen, hope to see the cases play out in New Orleans federal court. “Lafayette is a good compromise venue,” Morrow says. “It is centrally located between Houston and New Orleans.”
Lafayette’s economy would benefit tremendously if the cases are heard here. “It would certainly be an economic shot in the arm for the area,” Morrow says. “This case go on for several years. There would be multiple hearings with many attorneys attending. It would certainly help the hotel industry and the restaurant industry. So we’re pulling hard for Lafayette.”
The Multi-District Litigation panel is weighing various issues in making its decision, chief among them are conflict-of-interest and bias perceptions for the judges and communities in the affected areas.
“I just got back from Boise, Idaho, last night at midnight,” Morrow says. “We all went up for the MDL hearing to determine where the panel will send the case. I received all of two minutes to argue on behalf of the Western District. There were probably 250 lawyers there, and I think 23 lawyers were allowed to argue. They argued for South Carolina, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida ... every venue you could possibly think of.” Morrow was chosen by attorneys in the Western District to be the voice for Lafayette. He says the hearing only lasted an hour.
“We argued that Judge Rebecca Doherty would be a perfect jurist to handle all this. She has the judicial temperament and 20 years of experience with complex civil litigation, maritime and environmental matters. She’s tried the whole gamut of cases.” Morrow says discussions included the possibility of splitting up the various wrongful death, economic damages, RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) and shareholder derivative action cases. Some of the attorneys said that different judges should handle various types of cases. The panel has wide latitude in determining where the cases will be tried, Morrow says, and whether they will be tried in one venue or split up. “We argued strongly for Judge Doherty. I really think she would be the perfect fit,” he says.
One possibility, according to Morrow, is that a single judge could be selected and authorized to appoint magistrate judges in each subcategory to oversee discovery in specific types of cases. “Discovery in a RICO case may not be the same as in an economic case or wrongful death case,” Morrow explains.
For various reasons, among which is that they own stock in oil companies, most of the federal judges in New Orleans have recused themselves from the cases, with New Orleans Judge Carl Barbier, who sold his oil-related investments, currently doing the bulk of the work — and making it clear he wants it to stay that way. Barbier has refused to recuse himself.
Most of the suits have been filed in New Orleans federal court, but cases have also been filed in about 10 other states. Along with BP, Transocean Ltd., Halliburton and Cameron International (which fabricated the failed blowout preventer) are the main defendants. The families of the 11 workers killed and others who survived the explosion are primarily seeking compensation in state court.
“[The panelists] asked certain questions, but they gave no indication where the case would ultimately end up,” Morrow adds, noting expectations are that the decision will come down in the next 14 to 21 days. “Everything is up in the air until the panel decides.”
JUNE 19 Former Saint Steve Gleason, who is paralyzed by ALS, released a statement Tuesday in response to the Atlanta radio station's skit making fun of him and the disease, this Picayune post reports. What did he say? He said he'd accepted the apology of the DJs who did it, notes that at least the incident has got people talking about ALS, and asks anyone who is burning to take action about it to do so -- by helping him fight ALS.
JUNE 19 Blogger Ian McGibboney takes a look at the Gleason incident in this post. He makes a good argument about the difference between having free speech and being free from consequences for your speech (which none of us is). He also admits that many of us got upset before we listened to the skit -- but lets us know that the reality is far worse than we can imagine. It was the incredibly bad judgment, even more than the actual speech, that probably got those DJs fired, he opines.
JUNE 19 Washington Post blogger Aaron Blake writes about Sen. Guillory's switch to the GOP in this post. He writes what most political watchers in Louisiana know: Guillory was a Republican before he decided to run for the senate seat in a mostly-D St. Landry district, and has switched back now that he plans to run for Lt. Gov. in a mostly-R state. But how come Blake missed Guillory's appearance on a TLC pageant show? Now that is a video we'd like to see. (Again).
JUNE 19 Here's another Washington Post blog post about a Louisiana politician, and it's just plain scathing. Ezra Klein says Jindal's Politico post was "insulting" to the intelligence of voters, and adds that Jindal is personifying the "stupid" he's railed against, by being an "elite" who convinces GOP activists of "things that aren't true." Me-ow.
JUNE 19 Here's Gov. Jindal's post in Politico, in which he asks the GOP to get over losing to Obama (again) and stop "the bedwetting." (Uh, what?) He gives his Republican buddies what is probably a nerd's idea of a coach's motivational talk, which starts with a list of accomplishments that they can't seem to exploit and ending with an absurd description of liberals that sounds like a character treatment for a Fox "News" movie scripted by Gordon Liddy. Sure, he's preaching to the choir, but even the choir's not this gullible.
JUNE 19 Lamar Parmentel read Gov. Jindal's post on Politico, but thinks it was so dumb it probably was published in the wrong paper. This post by Lamar on the Daily Kingfish opines that possibly Jindal's post was destined for the Onion -- because the governor couldn't possibly be serious here. If you listen closely, you can hear the staff of the Kingfish giggling.
JUNE 19 Blogger Robert Mann posts from Turkey, a country he has visited several times in the past few years. Mann gives an interesting overview of the current political and societal climate of the country, which -- if you're living under a rock and don't know -- is experiencing protests and turmoil these days. Mann promises to post as much as he can during his trip, which should be fascinating reading.
JUNE 19 Blogger CB Forgotston says the legislature is keeping the vicious cycle going with its funding of new buildings for the community college/technical college system. Universities across the state need maintenance and improvement on existing buildings, and the solution is to build new buildings at other schools? By the time the bonds are paid off, those buildings will be falling down, too, CB says.
Frank’s Casing Crew, now doing business as Frank’s International, will make its final appearance on ABiz’s list of the Top 50 Privately Held Companies in Acadiana this year, and once again, it will likely be at the top with more than $1 billion in annual revenues. The 75-year-old company specializing in tubular fabrication and installation services to the oil and gas industry plans to go public this year.
The defeat, or rather highjacking of House Bill 420 in the final days of this year's Legislative Session, say Reps. Vincent Pierre and Terry Landry, is the result of the propaganda spread by one unidentified local media outlet and an unnamed former state Representative, but nothing to do with the original legislation's lack of checks, balances or details.
He’s a singer. A songwriter. A piano man. A family man. He’s even got his own Wikipedia entry. He’s David Egan. And he knows ancient secrets about the monolithic stones of Stonehenge that he’s not willing to share.