NEW ORLEANS, La. – Jurisdiction over the BP Oil Spill Trust Fund for oil spill damage claims, administered by Ken Fineberg, has been seized by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier. Barbier ruled on Feb. 2 that when the Gulf Coast Claims Facility and director Ken Feinberg process claims, they must follow a script that plaintiff lawyers drafted. He wrote that he didn't intend to impede or interfere with Feinberg's ability to process claims, but he charted a whole new course for Feinberg to follow. The Louisiana Record reports: He ordered Feinberg and the facility to disclose clearly at all times that they act for and on behalf of oil company BP. He ruled that a claim handler must begin any communication by telling a claimant he has the right to consult with an attorney of his own choosing. Barbier prohibited direct contact between the facility and anyone who has hired a lawyer. He ruled that the facility must not tell claimants they shouldn't hire a lawyer. He ordered full disclosure of options under the Oil Pollution Act including the right to file a claim in his court. And, he ordered the facility to advise claimants that BP directly or indirectly compensates attorneys and community representatives providing assistance to claimants. Having dictated these messages, he wrote that "this will not unduly burden BP's, Mr. Feinberg's and the GCCF's ability to speak on their own behalf." He treated Feinberg as a scapegoat for BP, adopting the view of a plaintiff steering committee that Feinberg is neither neutral nor independent of BP. Barbier wrote that "district courts are free to prohibit false or misleading speech by a defendant and may restrict a defendant from using methods of speech that are inherently coercive or prone to abuse." He rejected BP's argument that President Barack Obama appointed Feinberg, writing that BP picked him and Obama approved. Louisiana Record: Read Full Story. Related Searches: Louisiana maritime lawyer
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