Another judge steps down from Gulf disaster criminal case

Another federal judge has stepped aside from hearing the case of two BP well-site leaders charged with manslaughter in the deaths of 11 rig workers who were killed when the Deepwater Horizon exploded off Louisiana in 2010.

U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle said in a brief order that he was recusing himself. He did not detail why, but he has previously said his wife owns stock in Halliburton, one of BP’s partners on the doomed Macondo well project, and he gave attorneys in the case a chance to ask him to step down.

His order said only that not all parties waived disqualification.

The case against Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine has been reassigned to U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval for all further proceedings.

Before Lemelle had the case, another judge, Nannette Jolivette Brown, was assigned the case. Brown stepped down due to the judge’s work on civil litigation related to the BP oil spill as a city attorney for the city of New Orleans.

The criminal case against BP and a third defendant, former executive David Rainey, are currently assigned to different judges. The criminal case against former BP engineer Kurt Mix is currently before Duval.

Trials are set for January and February for the workers.

BP has agreed to plead guilty and pay a $4.5 billion fine to settle manslaughter and other criminal charges and related securities violations. A date for it to enter the guilty plea has not yet been set. A judge must approve the terms of the settlement, which was announced Nov. 15.