NEW ORLEANS (Legal Newsline) - U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier said he will likely render a ruling on a plaintiff motion to monitor ex parte communications between BP and oil spill claims administrator Ken Feinberg this week.
Last month, plaintifsf lawyers filed a motion in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana that claimed Gulf Coast Claims Facility administrator Feinberg "seems indistinguishable from a defense attorney attempting to settle cases on behalf of BP."
The motion essentially accuses Feinberg of working as a BP lawyer and the GCCF of lacking transparency when it comes to why it accepts or denies claims. The motion claims that the "GCCF is undoubtedly acting pursuant to a BP mandate" to "avoid lawsuits."
BP attorneys Don Haycraft, Keith Jarrett, Richard Godfrey, Andrew Langan and Robert Brock filed their opposition Jan. 26.
BP claims "the factual record before the Court does not support - but contradicts - the need for relief sought by plaintiffs."
The defendants point to a letter by New York University legal ethics professor Stephen Gillers to Feinberg as ethical counsel on the matter. Gillers wrote that the plaintiffs' "suggestion that you are not independent because you are BP's lawyer is wrong. You are not BP's lawyer."
The defense motion also argues that the plaintiffs are asking the court "to censor the speech of non-parties (Mr. Feinberg and the GCCF) and then dictate what they must say. ... The law permits no such thing."
The motion denies any claims by the plaintiffs that BP is controlling the GCCF or that Feinberg reports to BP, stating "the record is clear that while the GCCF is funded by BOP and has a contract with BOP, subject to the legal requirements of [the Oil Pollution Act], the Feinberg Rozen firm makes OPA claims decisions for the GCCF, not BP."
Barbier did not hear oral arguments at the Friday BP MDL status conference, saying "everything's already been said."
No plaintiff or defense attorneys had anything to add.