JACKSON, Miss. (Legal Newsline) - A federal judge has decided that Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood's legal battle to enforce a subpoena against the Gulf oil spill victims fund should be heard in state court.
U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves ruled Tuesday that he does not need to wait until the Gulf oil spill multidistrict litigation court decides if it should take control of the issue and granted Hood's motion to remand the case to state court.
The Gulf Coast Claims Facility and administrator Kenneth Feinberg had argued the issue involved federal issues of law and removed the case months ago.
"We have maintained all along that this issue belonged in a state court since we brought it under state law, and we are obviously pleased that the judge agreed with us," Hood said. "We would hope that the GCCF and Mr. Feinberg could just do the right thing by the law and comply with our subpoena."
Reeves declined GCCF's motion for a stay while the New Orleans federal court decided if the lawsuit, which seeks to enforce a subpoena asking the GCCF to produce documents related to claims-processing, should be transferred to the MDL.
"Until a transfer to a (MDL) has become final, a district court's jurisdiction over pretrial matters is in no way impeded," Reeves said. "And when a litigant improperly removes a case, the limited jurisdiction of federal courts is impermissibly invoked, resulting in an undue delay of a state court's rightful duty to address a case's merits."
Hood's most compelling argument, Reeves said, is that his lawsuit does not amount to a civil action, a term used in the federal removal statute. Hood had characterized it as a "pre-litigation investigation of the activities of the GCCF and Mr. Feinberg."
Feinberg argued in his removal notice that the lawsuit should be heard in federal court because it concerns the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and the Class Action Fairness Act.
"The state court action arises out of or in connection with BP's Deepwater Horizon drilling activities, which were an operation conducted on the Outer Continental Shelf that involved the exploration, development or production of minerals of the subsoil and seabed of the Outer Continental Shelf within the meaning of (federal law)," the notice says.
Later, Feinberg dropped his CAFA claim.