Louisiana Record

Monday, March 30, 2020

New Orleans attorney accused in 2013 Deepwater Horizon kickback scheme suspended for twelve months

Federal Court

By Karen Kidd | Aug 14, 2019

Louisiana supreme court in new orleans
The Louisiana Supreme Court building in New Orleans | Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

NEW ORLEANS — Longtime New Orleans attorney Lionel H. Sutton III, barred more than four years ago from representing clients in the Deepwater Horizon spill, has been suspended following an Aug. 2 Louisiana Supreme Court order released earlier today.

In its single-page, two-sentence order, the high court suspended Sutton for twelve months and declared he is responsible for all costs associated with the matter.

The order provided no details about why Sutton was suspended.

The order is dated Aug. 2 by the Supreme Court but bears an Aug. 5 Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board timestamp and did not appear on the LADB's website until earlier Tuesday.

Sutton was admitted to the bar in Louisiana on Oct. 5, 1990, according to his profile at the Louisiana State Bar Association's website. No prior discipline was listed on his state bar profile or in a search of Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board's online database.

Sutton resigned from his position working for the administrator overseeing billions of dollars in settlement funds from the April 20, 2010, Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

Eleven workers were killed when the Macondo Prospect on the Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank, creating the largest oil spill in marine oil drilling history over the next 87 days.

At the time, Sutton gave no reason for his June 2013 resignation, but it followed accusations that he skimmed from settlement payment from a New Orleans law firm to which Sutton referred claims. Sutton said he had been suspended "pending an investigation of an anonymous allegation against me."

Later that year, a report released by Special Master Louis Freeh accused Sutton of being part of a kickback scheme in which he received a secret $40,000 payment.

In November of the following year, Sutton told U.S. District Court Judge Carl Barbier, who for almost a decade has overseen the five-state-wide Multi District Litigation, that he did receive funds from payments provided by New Orleans attorneys. Sutton said the fees were for work done prior to joining the claims office and that he'd deposited them into his business account to keep his wife from spending it.

In February of the following year, Barbier issued an order barring Sutton and two other attorneys from representing clients seeking damages over the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

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Organizations in this Story

Louisiana State Bar AssociationLouisiana Attorney Disciplinary BoardLouisiana Supreme CourtU.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana