Thursday, 3 June 2010

Appeals court dismisses Katrina greenhouse gas case because of judges' recusals

The New York Times reports that the US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has been forced to dismiss Comer v. Murphy Oil because half of the 16 judges in the Court recused themselves; a quorum of 9 judges is required. The case began with a lawsuit by residents of coastal Mississippi residents affected by Hurricane Katrina, who charge energy companies with contributing to the effects of Hurricane Katrina by emitting greenhouse gases. The companies being sued have argued there is no evidence linking their emissions to Katrina's effects. Last fall, a three-judge panel from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the plaintiffs could proceed with their lawsuit; the defendants asked for an en banc rehearing. At that point, seven Fifth Circuit judges recused themselves from the case and the remaining nine voted in February to vacate the three-judge panel’s ruling and move forward with the en banc. But on April 30, the court posted a notice saying that an eighth judge had recused him or herself. The court didn’t give the rationale behind the eighth recusal or even name the judge; (The recusals are likely due to stock-ownership issues.)

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