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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

AFJ Condemns Effort to Steer Oil Cases to Friendly Courts


Alliance for Justice Condemns Cynical Effort by Big Oil to Steer Oil Drilling Cases to Friendly Courts

Washington, D.C., May 11, 2011–Alliance for Justice today condemned Section 202 of H.R. 1229, legislation that would mandate that civil litigation related to oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico be steered exclusively to courts in the Fifth Circuit, many of whose judges have notorious connections to the oil and gas industry. The section’s only purpose is to ensure that cases originating in Florida and Alabama, and that otherwise would be heard in the Eleventh Circuit, are brought to courts considered most responsive to the interests of Big Oil. Offshore drilling cases from Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi would already be assigned to the Fifth Circuit and wouldn’t be affected by the legislation.

Alliance for Justice President Nan Aron in denouncing the bill said, “This cynical and transparent attempt to manipulate the judicial process and shepherd offshore drilling cases into the welcoming arms of the Fifth Circuit is a violation of fundamental principles of American justice. The people of Florida and Alabama have a right to have their cases heard within their own jurisdiction and not be exported to other courts where powerful parties seek advantages with many judges who have spent their careers marinating in the world of oil interests. Anyone who doubts the motivation behind this appalling ploy need only read our report, Judicial Gusher: The Fifth Circuit’s Ties to Oil, which detailed the extensive energy investments and professional ties of most Fifth Circuit judges. This is a circuit, after all, where last year so many judges had to recuse themselves from a case due to conflicts of interest that an en banc circuit court of appeals panel couldn’t get a quorum.”

Aron called for Section 202 to be stripped from H.R. 1229, saying, “It’s no mystery why the oil lobby is asking friendly legislators to help them rig the judicial process, but Congress should resist efforts to meddle with the courts in this way. We strongly support efforts by Congressman Ted Deutch and others to amend the bill and preserve the rights of the people of Florida and Alabama and safeguard the independence of the federal courts.”

A copy of AFJ’s report on the relationship between the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and the oil and gas industry is available here.

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