The Alabama Setup


It’s not every day you get to see a version of the old “good cop, bad cop” routine played out in the real world. But that’s what we have shaping up in Alabama.

The state’s attorney general, Troy King, was an early mover in suing British Petroleum. But that brought complaints from those who still think making nice is the best way to collect for all the damage done to their communities. I’ve come down on the side of Mr. King, thinking this was a smart tactic (see recent “No Sweet Home Alabama for BP” post).

Now Alabama Gov. Bob Riley is seeking to limit King’s negotiating power in the landmark case, in effect taking away the AG’s ability to pay for outside lawyers or enter into a contingency agreement on the case. However inadvertent they were, and we can guess there was an absence of coordination here, the governor and attorney general have at least created multiple ways to skin the oil claims cat.

The next real move will be up to British Petroleum. If they decide to punish the state for daring to enter the courts, the other Alabama officials will face difficult decisions – support their own? Or cave in to a foreign-owned oil company? If there is punishment, by the way, expect the oil guys to lie about this just like they lie about refusing to use cleanup workers who dare speak to press.

© Smith Stag, LLC 2010 – All Rights Reserved

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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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