Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Yesterday the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation issued its much awaited opinion sending the BP Oil Spill cases to New Orleans Judge Carl J. Barbier. These cases include 77 cases from Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, and Texas. As the Panel explained in its short opinion, "if there is a geographic and psychological 'center of gravity' in this docket, then the Eastern District of Louisiana is closest to it." (Op. at 3)
This decision makes it much easier for plaintiffs to participate in the litigation process. Participating in the court process and in any plaintiffs' group meetings is an important part of procedural justice. As Ken Feinberg explained in administering the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund, "[g]iving people the opportunity to be heard is very important in helping them cope and move on the best they can." (Tracy Breton, Payments Pending for Fire Victims, Providence J. Bull. Aug. 3, 2008, at 1) The same is true for the oil spill victims. Although people litigate for various reasons including money, I suspect that holding BP publicly accountable is certainly part of the motivation behind these suits.
The Panel sent the shareholder litigation cases to Judge Keith P. Ellison in Houston.