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Wanted: Fifth Circuit Judges Without Ties to Big Oil

Are there any judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit without substantial holdings in oil and gas? Not many, notes the Alliance for Justice in a new report detailing the ties between the circuit court and Big Oil. Two of the judges with questionable ties to the industry — Jerry Smith and Eugene Davis — have been assigned to the three-judge panel in New Orleans that will consider today whether to stay Judge Martin Feldman’s decision last month to overturn the Obama administration’s six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling. (Feldman’s ruling was also called into question when his own investments in oil and gas companies, including Exxon Mobil, were made public.)

Judges Smith and Davis, the Alliance reports, attended all-expenses-paid seminars hosted by the Foundation for Research on Economics & the Environment (FREE), which receives major funding from … none other than Exxon Mobil:

FREE hosts industry-funded seminars for judges, often including leisure activities such as golf and horseback riding, to “explain why ecological values are not the only important ones.” The year that Judge Smith attended the seminar, FREE received $70,000 from ExxonMobil, of which $20,000 was for “Federal Judicial Seminars,” $30,000 was for “General Operating Support,” and $20,000 was for a “Climate Seminar.”

The third judge on the panel, notes Think Progress, hasn’t gone on any free trips — but he does have investments in oil stocks that may total as much as $305,000. And of the sixteen active judges on the Fifth Circuit that could hear the case if the three-judge panel decides to reinstate the moratorium and it’s appealed by the industry, ten are invested in oil.

Again, be sure to check out the whole report here.

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