King's hand-picked law firm cites conflict in backing out of BP litigation

Jessica M. Karmasek Aug. 11, 2010, 11:44am


BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (Legal Newsline) -- The law firm of Balch & Bingham, LLP, which was tapped by Alabama Attorney General Troy King to organize and lead a team of lawyers to sue oil giant BP, now will not take part in the litigation.

King announced last month he was preparing a lawsuit against the company and others responsible for the Gulf oil spill to make up for lost tax revenue.

An explosion and fire occurred on Transocean's drilling rig Deepwater Horizon, licensed to BP, on April 20, killing 11 workers and resulting in the largest offshore spill in U.S. history.

King described the spill as "the largest legal disaster ever encountered," and said the state would be working for years to rebuild its economy.

Balch & Bingham was selected to "pursue the state's rights and to protect its interests in these matters," King said at a press conference last month.

Now, the firm has decided it won't take part in the litigation because of a potential conflict.

A spokesman for the attorney general said Tuesday the law firm would not represent the state in the lawsuit because the Mississippi offices of the firm previously represented Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig.

King spokesman Chris Bence told The Associated Press the lawsuit against BP would also name Transocean, well contractor Halliburton Co., and Cameron International, maker of the well's failed blowout preventer.

Bence told the AP King spent much of Tuesday meeting with lawyers from various law firms in the state, discussing the lawsuit. He declined to say which firm or firms might be chosen to replace Balch & Bingham as the lead attorneys.

He said the attorney general did not believe the law firm has an "actual conflict" but company officials agreed it would be in the best interest of the company and the state that the firm not be involved.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at

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