Georgetown, S.C., July 29, 2010 – South Carolina attorney J. Edward Bell III was one of just 22 attorneys invited to argue before the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) in Boise, Idaho, today.
Mr. Bell, senior partner at Bell Legal Group in Georgetown, SC, asked for consideration in consolidating and transferring all oil spill-related civil actions to the U.S. District Court of S.C., Charleston Division. The panel, charged with determining how to combine the now nearly 300,000 lawsuits covering millions of claims, will play a key role in determining the outcome of the upcoming spill litigation proceedings.
Attending the hearing with Mr. Bell were three other attorneys from South Carolina: retired South Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice David Harwell and attorney Aaron S. Jophlin, both with The Bell Legal Group; and Charles Hodge, founding member of Hodges & Langley Law Firm of Spartanburg, S.C.
The Bell Legal Group, one of the few law firms chosen to address the panel, previously filed motions asking that litigation be moved to the United States District Court in Charleston, stating the South Carolina location is the best prepared and most appropriate venue to handle the MDL based on its central location, favorable docket conditions, and absence of any pending MDL’s.
The MDL Panel was created to coordinate complex cases filed in multiple districts throughout the U.S., and consists of seven sitting Federal judges appointed by the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. The panel heard several attorneys from around the country argue in favor of various venues, including, among others, the Houston Division in Texas; the Eastern and Western Districts of Louisiana; and the Northern District of Florida.
“The American people deserve a neutral court, such as the District Court in Charleston, in order to quickly and efficiently dispose of the claims that run the gamut from wrongful death to economic recovery for struggling fisherman and other small businesses in the Gulf area,” Bell said. “The effects of the Gulf oil spill have not only devastated the Gulf States, but have wreaked havoc upon the entire Southeastern United States. While sympathetic, ultimately South Carolina does not have emotional ties to either the plaintiffs or the defendants, which include BP and Halliburton.”
When specifically asked which South Carolina judges might be available, Bell recommended The Honorable Judge Patrick Michael Duffy and The Honorable Judge David C. Norton of Charleston, and The Honorable Joseph F. Anderson, Jr. of Columbia, all of whom have extensive experience with multi-district pretrial matter, complex litigation, multiple party actions, and efficient management of their dockets.
The Bell Legal Group, located in Georgetown, S.C., represents clients in a wide array of issues, including large scale litigation and environmental disasters. The firm has recently filed suit on behalf of plaintiffs in regards to the Gulf oil spill, International Paper, Ford Motor Company, and for water contamination at various military bases around the country.