Judge in oil-drilling case protects oil companies — and his own investments

Joined by the Sierra Club, the Obama administration will appeal a decision by a New Orleans judge blocking the moratorium on oil drilling.

While the original legal brief may have been hastily put together, the Interior Department has more than enough reasons to justify its decision to suspend all deep-water drilling for six months, including this: In recent Congressional testimony, the executives of several major oil companies admitted that all of them had used the same consultant to assemble disaster plans just like BPs, which listed a dead scientist as an emergency contact. If BP’s emergency response plan didn’t work . . .

The administration also has ample reason to ask Judge Martin Feldman to recuse himself. From the NYT:

Groups supporting the moratorium quickly took aim on Tuesday at the judge, who was appointed to the federal bench in 1983 by President Ronald Reagan. Disclosure forms from 2008 obtained by the group Judicial Watch show that Feldman has invested in companies involved in offshore oil and gas exploration, including deep-water rig owner Transocean, shallow-water drillers Hercules and Rowan, and international rig and tool provider Parker Drilling. The investments were as much as $15,000 each, according to the forms.

But the amounts really don’t matter. A journalist/law school friend sent me the following:

The rules on judicial disqualifications are clear.
Judge Margaret McKeown recently explained the issue to Congress. “Even owning a single share of stock in a party mandates recusal,” McKeown told the House Judiciary Committee last year.

Unfortunately for the courts and the claimants before them, the oil and gas industry has deeply insinuated itself into the lives and financial portfolios of people along the Gulf Coast. It would be difficult to find a judge who wouldn’t need to recuse himself/herself, according to AP:

More than half of the federal judges in districts where the bulk of Gulf oil spill-related lawsuits are pending have financial connections to the oil and gas industry, complicating the task of finding judges without conflicts to hear the cases, an Associated Press analysis of judicial financial disclosure reports shows.

Thirty-seven of the 64 active or senior judges in key Gulf Coast districts in Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida have links to oil, gas and related energy industries, including some who own stocks or bonds in BP PLC, Halliburton or Transocean — and others who regularly list receiving royalties from oil and gas production wells, according to the reports judges must file each year. The AP reviewed 2008 disclosure forms, the most recent available.

Because oil is so important to Louisiana’s economy, Gov. Bobby Jindal has urged Obama not to appeal the decision, even as he berates the president for failing to respond to the spill quickly enough. Jindal is playing politics, but I feel sorry for the workers whose paychecks are imperiled by the moratorium. Still, given the eleven lives that were lost when the Deepwater Horizon exploded and given the extensive ongoing damage to the Gulf of Mexico and the coasts of several states, it’s imperative to make sure that other rigs are as safe as possible before deepwater drilling, which is inherently dangerous, resumes.
It would be irresponsible for President Obama to lift the ban too soon.

210 comments Add your comment

southerngal

June 23rd, 2010
7:43 am

Should the Feds continue to pay the full salaries of the workers displaced by this moratorium?

Hootinanny Yum Yum

June 23rd, 2010
7:44 am

First? Yada, yada, yada…

Peadawg

June 23rd, 2010
7:48 am

Sucks to be Obama right now. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

“Should the Feds continue to pay the full salaries of the workers displaced by this moratorium?”
Obama should foot the bill himself for workers who lose their job if this ban isn’t lifted. He made how many millions of dollars last year?

Aquagirl

June 23rd, 2010
7:49 am

It seems incredible the moratorium would be challenged. How incredibly shameless. But hey, we’re talking about big oil here! Any threat to our supply must not be tolerated! We are one big nation of oil junkies.

Granny Godzilla

June 23rd, 2010
7:49 am

southerngal

why should they? BP has established a 100 million dollar fund for just that.

Kamchak

June 23rd, 2010
7:52 am

People bitch because they see Obama as inactive—the same people bitch because Obama is proactive. Some people just like to bitch.

Prince Harry Reid

June 23rd, 2010
7:53 am

Obama should resign or be impeached! Obama has a lot of oil money in his back pocket and doean’t want to hurt BP’s feelings!!

Bubba

June 23rd, 2010
7:54 am

But Granny, isn’t it the government’s job to pay salaries for out-of-work people? $100 million won’t come close to covering the cost. Where’s your compassion?

Granny Godzilla

June 23rd, 2010
7:54 am

From Talking Points Memo:

“Industry ties among federal judges are so widespread that they are beginning to endanger the courts’ ability to conduct routine business. Last month, so many members of the right-wing Fifth Circuit were forced to recuse themselves from an appeal against various energy and chemical companies that there weren’t enough untainted judges left to allow the court to hear the case.”

Peadawg

June 23rd, 2010
7:54 am

Aquagirl, I understand your side of the argument. But you gotta look at it from Louisiana’s side…it’s such a big part of their economy. How many jobs would be lost if this ban is in place? Again…damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Let’s see how Bozo the Clown handles this situation.

jt

June 23rd, 2010
7:57 am

What about congress people who have alot of stocks in the ethanol industry? As a senator, big agri owned Obama.

What about congress people who own big defense stock?

You can’t cherry pick corruption. They all are, except Ron Paul.

The Manchurian-Kenyan Candidate

June 23rd, 2010
7:58 am

Boy oh boy. I bet Barry’s really pi$$ed now. The Hacker-in-Chief has had to reschedule his 36-hole golf game to fire the hand picked general who voted for him.

BTW, why would it suck to be Obama? I mean golf, McCartney concerts, nightly parties, illicit affairs with women who actually keep quiet….. X

Granny Godzilla

June 23rd, 2010
7:59 am

Bubba

First what data do you have to make the claim that 100 billion won’t be enough? Have you got anything at all to back up that claim?

I do agree that the government has a responsibility to pay unemployment,
and I assume based on your post that you have fired off letters, e-mails and calls to your Congressional representatives in support of helping out the 99′ers.

AND….I find it ironic that you wouldn’t support BP’s attempt at personal responsibility for its actions by establishing this fund.

BP or US. Not a tough choice.

Listen Everybody

June 23rd, 2010
8:00 am

Peadawg, other oil companies who are conducting deep water drilling in the gulf relied on the same consultants and are employing the same methods as BP. What is wrong with a six month timeout to fully inspect and remedy and flaws?

hotlanta

June 23rd, 2010
8:01 am

Jindal is trying to look Presidental during this oil spill. Why is he complaining about the government repsonse when he was the main one complaining about tooooo much government interference. He cares more about oil than the citizens of NO getting an extension on their unemployment checks. Sorry Jindal you will not be riding the wave of people of color in the White House after President Obama because white folks would really freak out. I was ROTLAMO when the reporter on Dateline said that you had called President Obama personally and told him thank you for his response to the oil crisis.

Chris Matthews got it right when you was the chosen one to give a speech after President Obama speech when he said “Oh God”.

pat

June 23rd, 2010
8:02 am

So now the real job for you is to prove that his personal investments were the basis for his decision and not the law.

Dan

June 23rd, 2010
8:04 am

I thought Tuckers dumb arse got fired?

Peadawg

June 23rd, 2010
8:05 am

“What is wrong with a six month timeout to fully inspect and remedy and flaws?”

Nothing as long as the workers get unemployment.

Peadawg

June 23rd, 2010
8:06 am

“I thought Tuckers dumb arse got fired?”

Nope. She has her own Comedy Central Presents show here on the ajc everyday.

Killer

June 23rd, 2010
8:09 am

I’m expecting Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert to soon have a bit starring Judge Marty Feldman. (”What hump?”)

Notasleepwalker

June 23rd, 2010
8:10 am

Wake up Tucker pants! Nancy Pelosi is one of the largest share holders of EXXON. Plus, Obama just invested 2 Billion dollars of tax payer money in Petro-Bras. Brazilian oil. So, might want to check with your teamates as to avoid this in bed with energy companies who stand to make a profit rant… Oh yeah, I wonder if its OK to be in bed a president of the US with GE. Yeah, I guess its okay, no biggie, just ignore my agenda to switch us off oil to solar with the company that stands to profit from this laying in the bed next to me, GEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.
How do you have a job?

First Sergeant

June 23rd, 2010
8:10 am

Kamchak

June 23rd, 2010
7:52 am
People bitch because they see Obama as inactive—the same people bitch because Obama is proactive. Some people just like to bitch.

Kam, you could not have said it any better!!

Aquagirl

June 23rd, 2010
8:11 am

@ Peadawg, like I said—oil junkies. It’s like a crackhead getting in a last hit even as the cop snaps on the cuffs.

SunDawg

June 23rd, 2010
8:12 am

Its funny how CT doesnt mention how one of Obama’s major political contributors has benefitted from the Obama’s moratorium. Just look and see what stocks George Soros owns and how the price of the stock has significantly increased since the moratorium. There is one good thing coming out of this administration – at least Jimmy Carter will not be considered the worst president ever.

Lexman

June 23rd, 2010
8:13 am

Cynthia, you should resign and maybe the AJC circulation would spike up instead of down.

brad

June 23rd, 2010
8:14 am

As a show of support for the Sierra Club, the AJC should stop printing and delivering papers. Think of the oil that would be saved then. Next, eliminate the reporters and simply post portions of other news articles as Tucker does. Even more oil saved when the reporters no longer are working. I love it when a plan comes together…

Sick&Tired

June 23rd, 2010
8:14 am

Let BP pay the salaries, it’s not the feds job. Where are the personal responsibility crowd when it really counts?

Granny Godzilla

June 23rd, 2010
8:14 am

pat

IF his personal investments were his basis for judgement would you find that objectionable?

Mama Says

June 23rd, 2010
8:15 am

Question, if the judge can’t hear the case becasue he has oil stock and it’s making him bias, isn’t seeking out a judge who does not have oil stock placing a bias aginst the oil company ? I mean we are just picking our bias right ?

Notasleepwalker

June 23rd, 2010
8:15 am

@Peadawg. 6 mo’s unemployment on 33 oil rigs? $330,000 per month. Not to mention, the owners of the oil rigs will move them to other companies in other countries that are willing to work on them. Thus leaving Americans in the unemployment line, see?

Tim

June 23rd, 2010
8:15 am

Good thing the president doesn’t issue a moratorium shutting down the airlines for 6 months after a crash. What’s that? What about after 9/11? Oh yeah, that 3 day moratorium did shut down the airlines after a terrorist attack. 3 day moratorium it is.

George Soros

June 23rd, 2010
8:16 am

CT, Shhhh….don’t tell anybody but I’m getting Obama to close down drilling in the Gulf so my Brazilian Oil company can obtain the rigs? Don’t let the mainstream underlings find out lest they think Obama has a conflict of interest…

oldtimer

June 23rd, 2010
8:18 am

I think his ruling was correct for the exact reasons he stated.

Elliot Garcia

June 23rd, 2010
8:19 am

I am sure that you ride your bike to work everyday AquaGirl….so to get America off of oil, you back this ban so that oil prices can climb and crush a struggling economy….

Really??

June 23rd, 2010
8:19 am

I agree…If this judge is in bed with the american oil industry then Obama is in bed with Soros and Petrobas and more “foreign oil.”

Killer

June 23rd, 2010
8:20 am

@MamaSays 08:15

“isn’t seeking out a judge who does not have oil stock placing a bias aginst the oil company?”

The issue is that a judge with oil stock will stand to benefit financially from his decision, while a judge without that stock would not.

Aquagirl

June 23rd, 2010
8:21 am

Actually Elliot, I swim. :)

Taylor Wooten

June 23rd, 2010
8:22 am

Resign??? Heck, appoint the guy as our President. The current one is tanking us. Our way of life is about to go further down the toilet if this “moratorium” stays in place. Oil and gasoline in the roof!

Lord….you can take me now.

BillyRay

June 23rd, 2010
8:23 am

Salazar produced a manifestly false report from experts adding a conclusion they did not make and Tucker thinks a judge should resign. How about the lying energy secretart.
The heart of the matter is that Tucker is no longer rational, no longer objective. We once had a time when editorial writers were opionated without being partisan. They offered wisdom and some distance from the unrestriced war of the partisan fight. No longer. Tucker is just a rabid partisan, eyes rolling back in ther head as she wildly defends all things democrat.

I'm here from the government and I'm here to help

June 23rd, 2010
8:24 am

aps

June 23rd, 2010
8:24 am

Cynthia, you are so hilarious. You call for this judge to resign but when Chris Dodd and Barney Frank were culpable for the mortgage meltdown, your silence was deafening.

Ray Gunnite

June 23rd, 2010
8:24 am

“It would be irresponsible for President Obama to lift the ban too soon.”
Aw c’mon, what’s one more instance of irresponsibility by Obama going to hurt?

Michael K

June 23rd, 2010
8:25 am

Boy, Hillary is laughing up a storm and saying, see this is what you get for electing a fool. I told you he was not capable of running the country. Bill is saying this guy years ago would have been serving us coffee.

dawgindc

June 23rd, 2010
8:25 am

blame it on Bush cynthia..lol…Go Judge Feldman!

Ron

June 23rd, 2010
8:28 am

I believe it would be very difficult to find a Federal Judge in that whole district of the U.S. who does not own a few shares of oil or petroleum related shares. At minimum it would be a part of their government retirement portfolio. I personally believe that Obama wanted moratorium lifted by someone other than himself to “save face”. I realize there will be a appeals process etc. but let’s see how it really unfolds. Don’t think Obama had thought about all the repercussions before his “kneejerk” reaction. Loss of jobs,unemployment benefits, and that is just the beginning. Realize I may be wrong but will watch it play out.

Road Scholar

June 23rd, 2010
8:29 am

Pres Obama shut down the deep oil drilling 2 months ago. What steps (research, forming a bilateral commission, etc.) has been done to review and make reccomendations for the deep oil drilling? No talk/facts about that! I know the facts part will challenge some of you!

What if the next oil leak, after this ban was lifted, does not include Federal aid? The states want autonomy…

Jason

June 23rd, 2010
8:29 am

@MamaSays

A judge shorting oil stocks would have a reason to rule against the oil industry. A judge that isn’t involved in the oil industry market at all would have no reason to be biased… at least not from a financial aspect. Judges with any financial interest in the parties in the matter before them should not rule on that issue.

This Soros talk is silly. Wasn’t the talking point last month that the president was going soft on BP because they contributed to his campaign? Now the talking point is he’s going hard on them and the rest of the oil industry because Soros contributed to his campaign. Choose one irrational talking point and stick with it. Throwing one thing after another hopeing that eventually on will stick just makes everyone ignore you. Ever heard of the boy who cried wolf? Eventually you might have a gosh to honest point to make but by then it’ll be too late because your credibility will be destroyed.

whatever

June 23rd, 2010
8:30 am

Cynthia = another barrack hussein obama troll. Doesn’t matter what the issue is, always try to cast it in the best light for obama. And the ajc wonders why its membership is falling…

Granny Godzilla

June 23rd, 2010
8:33 am

Jason

Well said!

Mrs. W.

June 23rd, 2010
8:34 am

Aquagirl: do you ride a bicycle or are you all public transportation? Ever fly? Where is my electric car?

I think 6 months is reasonable if that time is used in good faith for the people in this area. If it is going to be used to bash us over the head with more agenda then it is being used as a tool. Actually weapon would be more like it. I don’t trust this administration and that is their fault.