Watts quits steering committee in middle of BP trial

By Marilyn Tennissen | Mar 14, 2013

Following a recent government investigation into how he got his spot on the Plaintiffs Steering Committee, Texas attorney Mikal Watts abruptly resigned from his role in the middle of the BP oil spill trial.

As the Southeast Texas Record recently reported, U.S. Secret Service agents raided Watts’ San Antonio law offices in February with a warrant for records related to people who the Watts firm supposedly represented in litigation against BP.

The attorney, known in South Texas for litigating product liability suits and known nationally for his major donations to the Democratic Party, was on the Plaintiffs Steering Committee handling the massive litigation against BP over the April 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig and oil spill.

A place on a Steering Committee can be lucrative for the attorneys, and U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier set up qualifications for attorneys seeking a spot.

“In the case of the oil spill litigation, Judge Barbier in the Eastern District of Louisiana asked for Plaintiff Steering Committee applicants to state their willingness and availability to commit to the time-intensive project, along with their experience and teamwork abilities,” the Baron & Budd Law Firm, which has an attorney on the committee, states on its website.

“Only attorneys who filed a civil action in the Gulf oil spill litigation were eligible for appointment to the PSC or Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee. In the oil spill litigation, 112 attorneys applied and just 15 were selected for the PSC. Only four were selected to the PEC.”

The federal government is investigating whether Watts may have padded his client lists when he applied for the committee. The federal probe is centered in Jackson, Miss., and led by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi.

The BP civil trial began Feb. 25 in Barbier’s court in New Orleans. He signed the order authorizing Watts’ resignation on March 13, according to The Associated Press.

Barbier's order did not state the reason for the resignation, the AP said.

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