Score One For The Fishermen


In an otherwise bleak New Orleans landscape, we scored one for the fishermen here today. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana was opened this afternoon by Judge Ginger Berrigan to receive petition of Louisiana commercial fishermen to nullify and strike the offensive language in the British Petroleum volunteer fisherman charter contract. District Judge Berrigan, after hearing from counsel for the fishermen and BP, indicated the language in question in the contracts was overbroad. Legal counsel for BP agreed to enter into a stipulated judgment holding that the offensive provisions are without effect. This was an effort I undertook after commercial fisherman George Barisich (a client of mine) stepped forward asking for emergency relief from the federal court to stop BP from forcing the volunteer corps of oil-spill responders –– many of whom are fishermen –– to enter into contracts that seriously compromised the rights and potential legal claims of the volunteers. The court’s action was an amazing example of how well our civil justice system works for the hard-working people of America like the fishermen, who are facing a long, long road ahead.


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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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