Saturday, June 26, 2010

Conflict of interest

We like to feel that our justice system is superior and above suspicion and we tend to look with disdain at some countries with obviously biased and corrupt judges. This week we learned that we may not have so much to feel superior about.

It seems that two Louisiana judges who have rendered decisions on the government's attempt to place a moratorium on deep-water oil drilling until the causes of the BP catastrophe in the Gulf can be determined have financial interests in keeping the drilling going. Can you guess what their rulings were? That's right. The moratorium was ruled illegitimate.

Now both of these judges may be honorable man and they may not have stopped to consider their own financial interest when they were making their rulings. But how will we ever know? These men own stock in drilling companies and in companies that service oil drilling companies. Is it really possible that they didn't even think about that when they were considering the facts of the case? Excuse me if I am skeptical.

Frankly, I was shocked and surprised that this could even happen. Somehow I was under the impression that in circumstances where judges have a personal interest in a case before them, they are required to recuse themselves. Evidently not. It's entirely up to the judge as to whether he/she will do the honorable thing and recuse him/herself. What we now know is that not all judges possess this honor.

So what recourse does the government have? They will appeal, of course, but it seems that the judges in the Fifth Circuit to which they would have to appeal may be just as compromised as the trial judges. Where, then, can the government go for a fair hearing? The Supreme Court? Don't make me laugh!

And the oil continues to spew into the Gulf...


Picture courtesy of NASA.

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