NEW ORLEANS – Louisiana attorney general Buddy Caldwell, exiled from Deepwater Horizon litigation just last month, returns in triumph.
On Jan. 18, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier appointed Caldwell to a plaintiff steering committee that had taken over his role as Louisiana's lawyer.
Barbier designated Caldwell as the committee's co-coordinating counsel for state interests, teaming him with former foe Luther Strange, Alabama's attorney general.
Barbier had roasted Caldwell in a Dec. 28 order for failing to cooperate with the committee, writing that he obstructed and delayed the litigation.
Barbier's order entrusted the state's case to Strange, private lawyers on the committee, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Caldwell chose protest over exile.
On Jan. 6, he branded Barbier's order as disappointing, false, inaccurate, purely personal, and wholly inappropriate.
He wrote that Barbier violated Louisiana's sovereignty, constitution and laws.
He wrote that the committee would effectively control the presentation of Louisiana's case at a fault allocation trial Barbier plans starting next month.
He challenged Barbier's decision to reserve four percent of state settlements as a possible source of fees for the committee.
He criticized Jindal for hiring Baron and Budd of Dallas as special counsel, writing that Scott Summy of Baron and Budd serves on the committee's executive committee.
"The Governor's chosen special counsel stands to receive a potentially large fee in connection with the payment of common benefit fees out of a holdback fund," he wrote.
BP also challenged the order, which reserved six percent from settlements of private parties including BP's Gulf Coast Claims Facility.
When the United States joined BP in disputing Barbier's jurisdiction over the claims facility, Strange surrendered.
The claims facility has about $14 billion on hand, so surrender cost the committee about $840 million.
Now the committee has lost its solidarity too, with Caldwell at the table.
Just as the committee convinced Barbier to tax the claims facility and then asked him not to do it, they convinced him to exile Caldwell and then pleaded to bring him back.
They proposed an order on Jan. 17, and Barbier entered it.
The four percent reserve on state settlements remains in place, but Barbier's new order exempts response costs, natural resource damage, pollution removal, and penalties.