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Update: Same judge denies stay on drill ban ruling; Report: Gulf state judges' hands tied by oil industry interests

LATEST: Judge reportedly receiving death threats, claims pro-drilling, conservative radio host

According to Jeff Crouere at Bayou Buzz, US District Court Judge Martin Feldman "is now receiving death threats in the aftermath of his bold ruling."

Last night, Feldman served as a celebrity judge at a cooking contest at a school gymnasium in Uptown New Orleans. Due to the threats, Feldman was accompanied by a federal marshal security team.

It is a sad indictment of our society today that a judge with such a sterling record of integrity and service to his country would be subject to such threats. Feldman was appointed to the federal bench by President Reagan in 1983. Today, he is in the eye of a political hurricane unlike anything he has ever experienced.

Much of the sensational reporting on Feldman’s investments was based on outdated information. The Judge was blasted for owning stock in Transocean, Ltd and Halliburton, two of the major companies involved in the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Feldman owned those stocks in 2008; however, he sold those shares long before issuing his ruling this week. In fact, this updated information will be released in the next report on his stock holdings.

If Feldman held financial interests in any of companies involved in the lawsuit or the Deepwater Horizon rig, he would not have been allowed the take the case. The 5th District Court uses a sophisticated computer system to check whether judges have a conflict of interest in any legal proceeding. This system automatically determines whether a judge needs to be recused from a particular case. In this lawsuit, Feldman was allowed to take the case because he did not own any stock related to the parties involved.

medium jeff Revealed: Judge who overturned Obamas offshore moratorium owned drilling stocks According to his Wikipedia entry, Crouere "has held several positions within the Louisiana Republican Party, formerly including executive director. In 1995, Crouere unsuccessfully ran for a seat at the Louisiana Legislature against Democratic incumbent Mitch Landrieu."

Last August, Crouere attacked Obama for attempting to transform the US into a "European style socialist nation."

A Wall Street Journal article on partiality charges against Feldman notes,

In a current civil case against Transocean before Feldman, the judge raised the issue himself, noting that he had holdings in Ocean Energy Inc. He asked whether the company had ties to Transocean that would present a conflict.

In a May 24 order, Feldman put the matter to bed at least in his mind, saying he had been advised that Ocean is not owned by Transocean Inc., and “accordingly, the court’s ownership of stock in Ocean Energy does not raise a conflict of interest in the present litigation.”

Requests for comment to Feldman weren’t returned.

"The Obama administration was dealt a minor setback on Thursday when a local judge denied its attempts to legally continue a moratorium on deepwater drilling as the issue continues to be litigated in court," Sam Stein reports for Huffington Post.

The same judge who ruled this week that the administration's temporary ban was illegal denied the Justice Department's attempt for a "stay" on the ban Thursday morning.

The administration had hoped that by upholding a stay, U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman would have given it time to re-craft the language of the moratorium, which Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has pledged to do. With the stay request denied, those 33 deepwater wells that had put a stop to their operations can now legally begin drilling again.

Bloomberg News adds,

"The defendants' motion to stay pending appeal is hereby denied for the same reasons given in this court's June 22, 2010, order granting the plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction," Feldman wrote in today's ruling. Feldman said in the earlier decision that the ban was too broad and would cause "irreparable harm" to offshore oil-service companies.

In an article titled Judges' hands tied by oil industry interests, Carol J. Williams reports for the LA Times,

Recusals in oil industry cases have become so common among the judges that the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals last month left in limbo a landmark case brought by Hurricane Katrina victims because the court couldn't muster a quorum to review it. Eight of the circuit's 17 judges stepped down because of financial interests in the oil, gas and chemical companies being sued for alleged culpability in global warming.

The 5th Circuit, encompassing Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, would be the venue for the Obama administration's expected appeal of Tuesday's ruling by U.S. District Judge Martin L.C. Feldman of Louisiana that struck down the government's six-month moratorium on deep-water drilling.

Feldman recently filed a financial disclosure statement for 2009, but it won't be available to the public until the judge has a chance to request redactions, said Richard Carelli, spokesman for the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

Judges are required by federal law to step down from cases in which they own even one share of stock in a company that is party to a case before them. None of Feldman's 2008 holdings are known to include the oil service support companies that sought to quash the government moratorium.

"As the gulf spill litigation moves forward, though, both federal district judges and those on the 5th Circuit appeals court will be called upon to decide whether their financial interests might cast doubts on their impartiality, legal analysts say," the paper notes.

Original article follows:

"The federal judge who overturned Barack Obama's offshore drilling moratorium appears to own stock in numerous companies involved in the offshore oil industry—including Transocean, which leased the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig to BP prior to its April 20 explosion in the Gulf of Mexico—according to 2008 financial disclosure reports," Yahoo News reports.

According to Feldman's 2008 financial disclosure form, posted online by Judicial Watch [pdf], the judge owned stock in Transocean, as well as five other companies that are either directly or indirectly involved in the offshore drilling business.

It's not surprising that Feldman, who is a judge for the Eastern District of Louisiana, has invested in the offshore drilling business—an AP investigation found earlier this month that more than half the federal judges in the districts affected by the BP spill have financial ties to the oil and gas industry.

The report discloses that in 2008, Judge Feldman held less than $15,000 worth of stock in Transocean, as well as similar amounts—federal rules only require that judges report a range of values—in Hercules Offshore, ATP Oil and Gas, and Parker Drilling. All of those companies offer contract offshore drilling services and operate offshore rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. Judge Feldman also owned between $15,000 and $50,000 in notes offered by Ocean Energy, Inc., a company that offers "concept design and manufacturing design of submersible drilling rigs," according to its web site. None of the companies were direct parties to the lawsuit seeking to overturn the ban.

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Jessica Austrum

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Reply with quote  #2 
Judges are supposed to recuse themselves if they have any conflict of interest, once again Republicans play by a whole different set of rules.

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