Joy’s suit on behalf of St. Martin Parish commercial fishermen was removed from 16th Judicial District Court to U.S. District Court in Lafayette because of a provision in federal law that allows foreign-owned defendants – in this case Bermuda-based Aegis Insurance Co. – to request removal and trial before a federal judge without a jury.
“Actually I think we can get a court date quicker in federal court than we could in state court,” Joy said.
There might be something on the calendar as early as May, he said.
The fishermen, most of whom catch crawfish in the Atchafalaya Basin for all or part of their living, are suing the oil and gas and pipeline companies for damages to their traditional fisheries in the Basin caused by the improper deposit of spoil.
The surveyors and dredging companies originally made defendants have settled out of court.
The spoil banks, most of which run east and west, have dammed up natural bayous and retard the natural sheet flow of floodwaters southward through the swamps, said Mike Bienvenu, president of the Louisiana Crawfish Producers Association - West.
The result is stagnant water that doesn’t support healthy fish populations.