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BP Spill Judge Won’t Step Aside in Criminal Obstruction Case

The judge presiding over a criminal obstruction case stemming from the BP Plc 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill said he won’t recuse himself after attorneys on both sides agreed he doesn’t have a conflict of interest.

U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval in New Orleans said prosecutors and defense attorneys indicated they have no concerns about his impartiality after he disclosed May 31 that he owns a camp adjacent to Grand Isle, Louisiana, the main beach where the spill washed ashore. He 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 harmed by the spill.

Duval said in a three-sentence order posted today on the case’s electronic docket that he’ll stay on the case after being “informed by the clerk of court that the parties have requested that this matter remain with the court.”

The judge is presiding over a case in which federal prosecutors allege that former BP employee Kurt Mix, a Houston-based oilfield engineer who worked on the London-based company’s efforts to cap its runaway well, deleted text messages from his mobile phone after receiving multiple warnings to retain them.

Joan McPhee, a lawyer for Mix, declined to comment on the judge’s filing today.

Scott Dean, a spokesman for BP, declined to comment.

Alisa Finelli, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, declined to comment.

Duval said in the May 31 filing that he “neither has a direct interest in the subject matter of this criminal proceeding, nor does he believe that his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.”

The case is U.S. v. Mix, 12-cr-00171, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans).

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