UPDATE 3-New Orleans judge to oversee oil spill cases

Tue Aug 10, 2010 8:38pm GMT

* Judge Carl Barbier chosen by special judicial panel

* Houston judge to oversee securities lawsuits against BP

* Judge to decide which laws should be applied in cases (Adds background on judge in paragraphs 6-7)

By Martha Graybow and Tom Hals

NEW YORK/WILMINGTON, Del, Aug 10 (Reuters) - A New Orleans federal judge will oversee a swath of civil lawsuits brought by injured oil rig workers, commercial fishermen and others stemming from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, a 12-year veteran of the federal bench and a New Orleans native, will supervise hundreds of cases against BP Plc and other defendants, a special judicial panel wrote in an order on Tuesday.

Many plaintiffs' lawyers welcomed the decision. They wanted the cases to be merged in New Orleans, where tourism has suffered and fishing bans have drydocked shrimping boats in the spill's aftermath.

"Without discounting the spill's effects on other states, if there is a geographic and psychological 'center of gravity' in this docket, then the Eastern District of Louisiana is closest to it," the panel wrote in its order.

Barbier will be in charge of issues that could decide the future of spill-related lawsuits, such as which laws should be applied. The cases are in their earliest stages.   Continued...

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