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The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation issued its transfer order in In re Oil Spill by the Oil Rig “Deepwater Horizon” in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 1010, 2010 WL 3166434 (U.S. Jud. Pan. Mult. Lit. Aug. 10, 2010) (slip op.)
The Panel faced four motions that collectively encompass 77 actions: 31 actions in the Eastern District of Louisiana, 23 actions in the Southern District of Alabama, ten actions in the Northern District of Florida, eight actions in the Southern District of Mississippi, two actions in the Western District of Louisiana, two actions in the Southern District of Texas, and one action in the Northern District of Alabama.
The Panel ordered that, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407, the actions transferred to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana and assigned to the Honorable Carl J. Barbier for coordinated or consolidated pretrial proceedings with the actions pending in that district.
Upon careful consideration, however, we have settled upon the Eastern District of Louisiana as the most appropriate district for this litigation. Without discounting the spill’s effects on other states, if there is a geographic and psychological “center of gravity” in this docket, then the Eastern District of Louisiana is closest to it. Considering all of the applicable factors, we have asked Judge Carl J. Barbier to serve as transferee judge. He has had a distinguished career as an attorney and now as a jurist. Moreover, during his twelve years on the bench, Judge Barbier has gained considerable MDL experience, and has been already actively managing dozens of cases in this docket. We have every confidence that he is well prepared to handle a litigation of this magnitude.
Some parties have expressed concern that recusals among Eastern District of Louisiana judges unduly limit our choices, and that even Judge Barbier may be subject to recusal. Notwithstanding these concerns, the Panel is quite comfortable with its choice. Judge Barbier is an exceptional jurist, who would be a wise selection for this assignment even had those other judges in the district been available. Moreover, the Fifth Circuit recently denied the petition of certain defendants for a writ of mandamus directing Judge Barbier to recuse himself.
Chairman John G. Heyburn, II wrote for the Panel.
By CHARLES H. JUNG