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Oil spill judge reaffirms states' rights to choose counsel

By Alejandro de los Rios | Feb 7, 2011


NEW ORLEANS (Legal Newsline) - U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier issued an order Tuesday reaffirming the rights of states in pursuing litigation against BP for damages relating to the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and subsequent oil spill.

The order was issued in the oil spill multidistrict litigation in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

Barbier's order also exempts states involved in the litigation from certain deadlines issued to the Plaintiffs Steering Committee.

The order comes after Louisiana Attorney General James "Buddy" Caldwell filed an ex parte motion "for confirmation of non-applicability of, or exemption from, certain party-plaintiff requirements" on Dec. 15.

Caldwell's motion states that because "there is no 'Master Complaint' for government entities, there is also no present need for Louisiana to be held to an amended complaint deadline."

As part of the MDL, Barbier has approved "pleading bundles" and "master complaints" that plaintiffs can fill out to ease the process for anyone wishing to join the litigation against BP and other defendants.

Caldwell's motion also asked for confirmation that "no member of the (PSC) is authorized to negotiate regarding or resolve claims of the State of Louisiana, and that the settlement authority of the PSC excludes any claims of the State."

Barbier's order exempts Louisiana and any other state from the Dec. 15, 2010 deadline to file amended complaints and from the completion of the plaintiff profile form. Barbier also ordered that provision specifying the PSC's role "to explore, develop, and pursue all settlement options" does not apply to the states.

The order does not mention Barbier's recent appointment of Mississippi Attorney General Luther Strange as "Coordinating Counsel for State Interests," which Caldwell claimed was depriving states of sovereignty rights and preventing them from seeking their own counsel.

At a Jan. 28 statues conference, Barbier said, "Each state still has the right to choose their own representation."

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Louisiana Attorney General Mississippi Attorney General State of Louisiana

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