Judges Quit BP Gulf Oil-Spill Lawsuits Over Conflicts

June 1 (Bloomberg) — BP Plc and Transocean Ltd. oil-spill lawsuits may be combined before a judge from outside the Gulf Coast states, because judges in the region are withdrawing from cases, citing conflicts of interest.

Six of 12 active judges in the federal judicial district based in New Orleans have removed themselves from spill-damage cases filed by fishermen, property owners and coastal businesses, according to a court official and court records. The judges found conflicts tied to oil investments or personal relationships with lawyers or companies involved.

“Plaintiffs have been informed that most or all of the judges in the district have a conflict and cannot preside” over the litigation, victims’ lawyers said in a request to a Washington judicial panel asking that all the cases be combined before one judge in the New Orleans district.

Federal judges in southern Alabama also have stepped aside from handling spill-damage cases, a court official there said.