The thud you heard around Louisiana the weekend before Mardi Gras was the Gladstone Jones/John Barry lawsuit hitting the floor. Media coverage and editorials have correctly pointed out that the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East should have known better than blindly following the advice of an ambitious lawyer and misdirected history professor. This is the same suit that one editorial correctly pointed out was confected in secret and guaranteed the lawyers 32.5 percent of any winning proceeds.

After the judicial dismissal, these lawyers confronted their client with downright extortion: Either allow them to continue the mad dash to yet further embarrassing defeats in the courts or be faced with up to a $5 million poison pill.

These lawyers are the modern-day Willie Suttons, who famously said he robbed banks because that’s where the money was. They singled out more than 80 oil companies and service businesses simply because they felt they had the resources to pay for their outrageous claims. Even more so, these actions were taken without regard to the way of life of the 300,000 people working in Louisiana’s oil and gas industry every day.

The magnitude of the damage caused by this fiasco extends far beyond the legal and financial mess for the flood authority. It has unfairly characterized the history of the oil and gas industry in our state, ignored or disparaged the industry’s ongoing contributions to the environment and confused the public about the real causes of the coastal challenges we face and can address by working together.

Now these trial lawyers are holding their clients hostage for the appeals process, threatening to stick them with the bill for unsupervised and uncontrolled costs, including $500-per-hour fees adding up to millions. In addition to stopping the hemorrhaging of money, hopefully the Legislature or the judiciary itself will take a close look at how unprincipled attorneys can even attempt this kind of action.

Marc Ehrhardt

executive director, Grow Louisiana Coalition

New Orleans