The federal judge in New Orleans overseeing the first criminal prosecution stemming from the BP Plc Gulf of Mexico oil spill asked lawyers in the case to weigh in on whether he has a conflict of interest.
U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval told lawyers at a closed-door meeting May 31 that he owns a camp near Grand Isle, Louisiana, the main beach where the oil spill washed ashore in 2010, according to a court filing today.
Duval also said his son works for the BP-funded trust that is processing settlement claims for thousands of coastal property owners, tourism and fishing interests claiming harm from the worst offshore spill in U.S history.
Duval said in the filing that he “neither has a direct interest in the subject matter of this criminal proceeding, nor does he believe that his impartiality with respect to the defendant might reasonably be questioned.”
Duval presides over the prosecution of former BP engineer Kurt Mix, who faces two obstruction of justice charges for allegedly destroying evidence. Mix, who worked on efforts to kill BP’s runaway well off the Louisiana coast in 2010, is accused of deleting key text messages from his mobile phone after being warned to retain them.
The judge asked lawyers for the defense and the government to file responses by June 7 to his disclosure of possible conflicts.
The case is U.S. v. Mix, 12-cr-00171, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans).