Oil and Gas

Judge Tied to Oil Companies Will Stay on Liability Cases


A federal appeals panel in New Orleans has refused to order the judge who is presiding over many of the Deepwater Horizon liability cases to recuse himself, even though the judge previously owned bonds issued by two of the companies involved.

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The panel has, however, left open the possibility of removing him later.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier is hearing more than 40 lawsuits involving the April 20 rig explosion, which touched off the worst spill in U.S. history. BP , Halliburton and Cameron International—which supplied the failed blowout preventer—have all petitioned the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to remove Barbier from all the proceedings because he owned bonds issued by Halliburton and rig owner Transocean.

Barbier sold the bonds in June after media reports about his investments, but the companies still want him removed, arguing the investments were a conflict of interest.

In a six-page ruling Thursday, the appeals court declined to remove him from the cases, finding no evidence that the judge's investments gave him a financial interest in the outcome of the cases. But the panel said the courts could reconsider the ruling if the companies can prove otherwise.