U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier denied a motion for reconsideration filed by Louisiana attorney Danny Becnel which challenged the court's authority over Ken Feinberg and the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF).
Barbier issued the ruling Feb. 28 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.
Becnel had challenged a Feb. 2 ruling in which Barbier stated that Feinberg was an agent of BP in administering the claims fund to victims of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
"First, Mr. Feinberg is an appointee of the President," Becnel wrote.
"Second, the President, as he expressly stated himself, organized the claims process to assure that Mr. Feinberg be independent," he wrote.
"As such, it is respectfully submitted, Mr. Feinberg's actions are beyond the constitutional powers of the judiciary to control or regulate," he wrote.
In denying Becnel's motion, Barbier wrote, "Plaintiff's arguments have no merit." He pointed to a statement by the federal government which stated that Feinberg "is not a government official of any sort."
Becnel's firm is representing four businesses and three individuals in the multidistrict litigation surrounding the Deepwater Horizon oilrig explosion and BP oil spill.
Plaintiff lawyers outside of the Plaintiff Steering Committee (PSC) opposed a motion submitted by the PSC to monitor ex parte communications between the GCCF and BP.
Anthony Buzbee of Houston wrote that the proposal would disrupt negotiations and delay resolution for those who have received settlement offers.
"Represented claimants should be able to enter into any type of agreement or release with the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, or any other party for that matter, without micromanagement from other attorneys," Buzbee wrote.
Camilo Salas of New Orleans wrote that his clients didn't wish any interference by the PSC and didn't request any assistance from the court.
He wrote that neither the PSC nor the court should inject itself into private negotiations.
Three Florida firms adopted the arguments of Becnel, Buzbee and Salas.
Barbier's ruling that Feinberg is acting as an agent of BP requires the GCCF to disclose its relationship with BP to claimants and to expressly state that claimants should seek outside counsel for help filming claims.
Federal MDL 2:10-md-2179