Citing conflicts of interest, more than half of the federal judges in New Orleans recused themselves from BP oil spill suits. After the mass recusals, attorneys on each side began fighting over where the case would be heard, and by which judge. Lawyers for the victims of the spill of course wanted the cases to be combined and heard by a judge in New Orleans.
Lawyers for BP requested that the cases be heard in Houston, where their headquarters are located. They specifically requested Judge Lynn Hughes of Houston, Texas. According to Judicial Watch, Hughes lectured for oil industry groups that paid his travel expenses.
Naturally BP's attorneys wanted the BP oil spill suits in the hands of a corporate friendly judge and as far from New Orleans as possible. And naturally attorneys for the victims of the spill wanted the case tried in New Orleans, preferably where the damage of the spill was still visible and being felt firsthand.
However, on Tuesday a judicial panel annouced that the hundreds of federal lawsuits filed over the BP oil spill suits will be handled by a single judge in New Orleans. The panel gave the cases to Judge Carl J. Barbier, calling him "an exceptional jurist," The New York Times reports. This is a major setback for BP and the other corporations being sued over the spill.
BP released a statement reported by The New York Times, "We are aware of and respect the decisions ... We look forward to the cases proceeding as expeditiously and efficiently as possible in the selected venues."