Many Judges Likely to Preside Over BP Oil Spill Cases Have Interest in Oil Industry

A recent article by the AP notes that over half the Federal Judges in the southern states of Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas have links to the oil and gas related industries. The article “Many Federal Judges Have Oil Links” raises serious questions about whether a Judge who has an interest in the oil and gas industry should preside over these Oil Spill Claims. Currently there is a fight amongst BP’s attorneys and various Plaintiff’s attorneys as to which Judge(s) should preside over these cases. The ethics rules on this subject are at best fuzzy. Essentially these rules state that a Judge who has a direct financial interest -owns BP stock-would be disqualified from hearing such a case; however, if they own a mutual fund which has oil stocks as a part of its makeup they do not have to disqualify themselves. The handling of the over 200 filed lawsuits over this disaster may become a little clearer once the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation meets next month to hear arguments on consolidation of the oil spill cases.