Saturday, June 05, 2010

Calling all BP lawsuits: Judge Lynn Hughes

As some judges in New Orleans disqualify themselves from handling lawsuits over the Deepwater Horizon rig deaths and oil spill, a Houston judge Friday made it clear he's willing and able.

U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes, whom BP lawyers requested by name to oversee pre-trial matters in all the federal lawsuits, met with lawyers on the first case filed in Houston federal court and talked about joining it with other lawsuits.

Hughes told the lawyers that he's handled complex matters before and that he has no conflict like the handful of judges in New Orleans and elsewhere who've recused themselves because of financial holdings or family ties to employees of the defendant companies or lawyers for those companies.

Hughes said he's posted his public financial disclosure on his own court website. Hughes owns some mineral rights and oil company stock but has no interest in the companies involved in the blowout and explosion that killed 11 and is wreaking economic and environmental havoc in the Gulf.

Do NOT miss the reader comments there. More on Hughes, first from the 1992 Houston Press' "Best of" reader poll/publication recommendations:

Republican Lynn Hughes hardly blinked when he advanced from his state district court (a civil one, no less) to the federal bench some 12 years ago. That characteristic aplomb has yet to be erased by some of the most demanding cases at the federal courthouse. He's coupled a healthy disdain for the traditional veil of legalese with a quiet but firm demeanor that has established him as one of the most independent jurists anywhere. Hughes demanded answers in a shady immunity deal for the notorious Graham brothers. And he didn't shy away from forcing the government to admit to submitting a false affidavit against an ex-CIA agent and lying to a grand jury in a bank fraud case. By now, his straightforward search for the truth is legendary among lawyers.

And Tom Kirkendall, from 2006:

First, he hammered the FDIC with a record sanctions award in the long-running case against Maxxam chairman Charles Hurwitz.

Then, he challenged the Enron Task Force's bludgeoning of a plea bargain from a mid-level former Enron executive.

Now, U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes accused federal prosecutors of "reckless and conscious indifference" for bringing a fraud charge against Oklahoma lawyer John Claro and said he would award attorney's fees to Claro under the Hyde Act that provides sanctions for bad-faith prosecutions.

Lastly, Judgepedia. Scroll to the bottom and click on "The Robing Room" for some entertaining comments from those who've tried cases before Judge Hughes.

My personal opinion is that BP plaintiffs could do a lot worse than Hughes, whose no-bullshit reputation likely translates into rejecting a lot of claims he deems 'frivolous' associated with litigation requesting being 'made whole'.  Which is probably why BP likes him so much.

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