Our View: We’re starting to worry about Judge Barbier

The SE Texas Record Jan. 7, 2014, 7:39am

When a judge gets so hard of hearing, blind, or feeble-minded that he can’t understand what’s going on in his courtroom and is unable to rule properly, maybe it’s time to retire.

Last fall, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier’s interpretation of the settlement in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill and ordered him to draft a “narrowly-tailored injunction that allows the time necessary for deliberate reconsideration of these significant issues.” 

For whatever reason -- Barbier chose to ignore that order and reaffirm his original misinterpretation, whereupon BP petitioned the appeals court once again for another corrective order.

BP has never objected to paying plausibly legitimate claims for damages caused by the oil spill. It did balk at brazenly spurious claims, however, even as Claims Administrator Patrick Juneau and Judge Barbier himself seemed to be intent on encouraging and approving them.

An article in Bloomberg Businessweek last summer summed up the situation:

“In its attempt to dilute a legal and public-relations mess of epic proportions, BP began paying claims within weeks of the disaster and has so far spent more than $25 billion for cleanup and compensation,” the article noted. “That hasn’t stemmed demands for more. The installation last year of a particularly generous claims administrator prompted scores of additional plaintiffs’ attorneys to swarm onto the scene, signing up a new wave of clients, many located far from the once-sullied shoreline.”

Since Judge Barbier didn’t get the message the first time, the federal appeals court will have to try to explain it to him again. Maybe they should use simpler words and larger type to make it easier for him, maybe include pictures and some coloring pages illustrating the key point, which is this: Quit being coy and stop trying our patience.

If Judge Barbier doesn’t get it right this time, he should think about retiring.

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