Miami Herald via McClatchy:
BP wants Houston judge with oil ties to hear spill cases
By Scott Hiaasen and Curtis Morgan | Miami Herald
MIAMI — Facing more than 100 lawsuits after its Gulf of Mexico oil spill killed 11 workers and threatened four coastal states, oil giant BP is asking the courts to place every pre-trial issue in the hands of a single federal judge in Houston.
That judge, U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes, has traveled the world giving lectures on ethics for the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, a professional association and research group that works with BP and other oil companies. The organization pays his travel expenses.
Hughes has also collected royalties from several energy companies, including ConocoPhillips and Devon Energy, from investments in mineral rights, his financial disclosure forms show.
Hughes, appointed to the bench in 1985 by then-President Ronald Reagan, declined to comment for this report.
Legal experts say the request for a single judge, while not unprecedented, is unusual, and they surmise BP is seeking rulings from a judge well-versed in the company's issues.
Edward Sherman, a law professor at Tulane University in New Orleans who has closely followed the BP legal maneuvers, said BP probably studied Hughes' past rulings and his caseload before suggesting he take the cases.
"Obviously, another factor is they would like to have a judge who understands their point of view," Sherman said.
Hughes is "well known as a competent judge," Sherman added.
Much more, including responses from legal experts and representatives of environmental groups, at the link to the source in the headline.