Judge Asked To Remove BP Settlement Probe Leader
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- A lawyer targeted in an investigation of the settlement program for compensating victims of BP's 2010 Gulf oil spill has asked a federal judge to disqualify former FBI director Louis Freeh from reviewing and acting on any allegations involving the attorney.
In a court filing Wednesday, attorney Jon Andry argues that Freeh can't be impartial because he and his firms have "direct financial and legal alliances" with two of the law firms representing BP.
U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier appointed Freeh last year to investigate alleged misconduct by Lionel Sutton III, a lawyer who worked on the staff of court-appointed claims administrator Patrick Juneau.
In September, Freeh issued a report that accused Andry and another lawyer, Glen Lerner, of using Sutton's position in the settlement program to benefit their clients' claims. In return, Freeh's report said, Sutton received more than $40,000 in fees for referring a claimant to Andry and Lerner's law firm before joining Juneau's staff.
In a follow-up report earlier this month, Freeh concluded that the claimant, Casey Thonn, was awarded more than $357,000 based on fraudulent information. He recommended that Barbier rescind the award and order any lawyer who profited from it to pay restitution.
Before his appointment by Barbier, Freeh disclosed that he is a partner at a law firm that is working on an unrelated case with lawyers for Kirkland & Ellis, a firm that represents BP in spill-related civil litigation.
Freeh is a partner and chairman of the executive committee of Pepper Hamilton LLP, a law firm that also owns his consulting company, Freeh Group International Solutions. Andry's lawyers said Pepper Hamilton is working with Kirkland & Ellis on class-action litigation over the diabetes drug Avandia.
Andry's lawyers started questioning Freeh's impartiality late last year, arguing they need more information about Freeh's business relationships to determine whether to seek his disqualification. At the time, Freeh said in a statement that Andry's lawyers' "belated and rambling motion to recuse" him "is without merit in law and fact."
In a letter to Barbier earlier this month, Freeh disclosed that Williams & Connolly — another law firm representing BP — also represents a client that has hired Freeh's consulting firm to work on civil litigation unrelated to BP.
"If Freeh lives by the Code he wants to enforce on others, he should recuse himself," Andry's lawyers wrote Wednesday. "His business connections to BP's attorneys meet the requirement of the 'appearance of impropriety.'"