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Houston Chronicle: Judge takes himself off BP blast case

The judge overseeing the criminal case involving the BP Texas City refinery explosion stepped down after a lawyer protesting BP’s plea bargain pointed out that the judge’s former law firm had represented the oil giant.

U.S. District Judge Gray Miller noted that he was not required to recuse himself but agreed to do so since others at the firm where he was a partner, Fulbright & Jaworski, handled some civil issues that overlapped with the criminal case.

Corpus Christi lawyer David Perry, who represents 12 victims of the 2005 blast that killed 15 people and injured scores more, had asked Miller to step down.

BP has agreed to plead guilty to a Clean Air Act violation and pay a $50 million fine. Perry filed a motion this week arguing the penalty is too low and should be at least $1 billion.

MARY FLOOD

Comments

johnadonovan wrote:

I know from personal experience how it feels to have been deprived of an impartial judge because of the influence of a multinational giant, in my case another oil goliath, Royal Dutch Shell.

Litigation is just a routine part of business for big business. Multinational companies have internal and external lawyers constantly engaged in litigation. Millions are spent on lawyers. Vast numbers of contacts are made. Contacts translate into influence. It is not uncommon for undercover activity to be directed against litigants. Shell admitted such activity in my case after an undercover agent was caught red-handed using a fake cover story and fake documents during the course of what Shell described as “routine credit enquiries”.

For ordinary people, litigation is usually a once in a lifetime event. If they believe in their case, many will stake everything in the expectation and right to a trial before an impartial Judge, as I did.

Because it became plain that the High Court Judge, Mr Justice Laddie, was blatantly biased in favour of Shell, I accepted a compromise settlement offered by Shell three weeks into the trial which I would not otherwise have entertained.

The Judge insisted on slandering my character in his “Judges Comments” when all he was required to do was approve the out of court settlement, which he did. Because there was no judgement as such, there was no legal process available to overturn his outrageously biased on the record comments, later used by a Shell Legal Director, Richard Wiseman, to denigrate me to a third party, in direct breach of the terms of the compromise agreement.

The matter was raised with the then head of the UK judiciary Lord Falconer, the Lord Chancellor. By co-incidence or otherwise the Judge later resigned in controversial circumstances and is now known as Professor Sir Hugh Laddie QC. He works for a law firm which represented Shell at the time of the trial. The law firm is headed by a long term friend of his, Mr Tony Willoughby. The Judge also failed to disclose before the trial that he had a commercial connection with the barrister son of the then Group Chairman of Shell, Sir Mark Moody-Stuart. The former Judge has more recently also been involved in a commercial enterprise with Richard Wiseman.

The lesson from my experience is that when an ordinary mortal takes on a multinational, they also take on the very considerable influence built up by potentially corrupting tentacles reaching far and wide.

Under the circumstances I have a great deal of empathy with the litigants fighting for influence free justice in the BP trial.

John Donovan of the gripe website www.royaldutchshellplc.com

11/22/2007 3:28 AM CST

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/business/5321501.html

royaldutchshellplc.com and its sister websites royaldutchshellgroup.com, shellenergy.website, shellnazihistory.com, royaldutchshell.website, johndonovan.website, shellnews.net and shell2004.com are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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