Lawyer files ethics complaint over drilling site cleanup legislation

04 20, 2012 by The Times-Picayune

An attorney for landowners who are fighting oil companies over the cleanup of property leased for drilling or production filed an ethics complaint Thursday against Rep. Neil Abramson, D-New Orleans. Abramson called the filing unfounded.

The two-page complaint, filed by Don Carmouche, a trial lawyer who has lobbied the Legislature for landowners' interests and fought the oil companies for years, said that Abramson is the author of several bills that would help his New Orleans law firm, which represents oil companies.

Ethics officials by law cannot confirm or deny if a complaint has been filed or comment on a possible investigation.

The complaint alleges that Abramson, chairman of the House Committee on Civil Law and Procedure, the panel hearing some of the landowner vs. oil company bills, is an employee and shareholder of Liskow and Lewis in New Orleans.

The complaint says that Abramson's firm represents "Exxon and BP who are defendants in many of the suits now pending" in state and federal courts. Carmouche said that with Abramson handling bills that could help his law firm and their clients, he has a conflict of interest.

Carmouche said that state law prohibits a lawmaker "from participating in transactions involving the Legislature in which he or his employer have a substantial economic interest."

"I have done nothing improper," Abramson said. "I am not personally profiting in any way. I know there is no conflict of interest or violation of the law."

He said his law firm represents "a whole gamut of clients," not just oil companies. He said one of his bills is designed to hold the oil industry responsible "to go out and clean up" sites.

If it passes, he said, "I realize a few trial lawyers may not make as much money as they want."