Judges in Drilling Moratorium Case Tied to Oil Industry

Thursday, July 29, 2010
Judge Martin Feldman

After a federal judge nullified the Obama administration’s moratorium on offshore oil drilling, federal lawyers have turned to a three-judge panel on the Fifth Circuit appellate court to get the ban reinstated. But two of the three judges set to hear the federal government’s appeal have owned stock in the oil and gas industry, raising questions about their impartiality.

Judge W. Eugene Davis in 2008 had “financial investments in oil and energy companies totaling $0-$30,000 in annual gross value,” according to a report from the Alliance for Justice. Judge James L. Dennis had investments between $17,000-$305,000 in oil and energy corporations in 2008. While he was in private practice, from 1960 to 1976, Dennis often represented offshore drilling and oil companies. The third judge, Jerry Smith, did not report holdings in energy companies, but while in private practice between 1973 and 1984 he represented major oil companies, including Exxon and Conoco.
Judge Martin Feldman of the Eastern District of Louisiana, who lifted the moratorium, owned investments in 28 different energy and energy-related corporations as of 2009, including ExxonMobil and Transocean, operator of the Deepwater Horizon.
Of the 21 judges on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, at least eleven have oil-related holdings.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky


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