HOUSTON – In a test of strength between judges presiding over claims from the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill, lawyers prod one to repeal the other's rules.
On Feb. 8, holders of BP securities protested to U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison of Houston that U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier of New Orleans limited plaintiffs from Ellison's court to 15 minutes out of 15 hours to ask questions at depositions.
Paul Yetter of Houston, on behalf of New York and Ohio pension funds, told Ellison that Barbier's order was potentially prejudicial to investors who lost billions.
Ellison presides over shareholder suits against BP, and Barbier presides over claims of personal injury and economic loss against BP and others.
Yetter told Ellison the securities claims before him are as important as those before Barbier and deserve equal treatment.
He wrote that at a hearing without involvement of securities plaintiffs, Barbier limited plaintiffs from Ellison's court to 15 minutes.
He wrote that when counsel asked BP for adequate time, BP told counsel to raise it with a plaintiff steering committee that Barbier picked for his proceedings.
Yetter wrote that there's no reason the steering committee in Barbier's court should control litigation and discovery in Ellison's court.
"If BP refuses to be reasonable, the securities fraud plaintiffs will seek appropriate relief from this court," he wrote.