Walter J. Leger Jr.
Walter J. Leger, Jr., Senior Partner in the law firm of Leger & Shaw, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1951. Son of a Bar Pilot and grandson of a Ship Captain, Leger has always had an interest in the maritime industry, and some would say it is in his blood. It was with this background that Leger started his legal career which led to him to be the highly revered attorney that he is today, focusing on admiralty and maritime law.
After receiving his Bachelor of Arts degree from Louisiana State University, Leger received his legal education at Tulane University. Leger graduated from Tulane School of Law with a concentration in Maritime Law, he was Managing Editor of the Tulane Maritime Law Journal and received the American Admiralty Law Institute Award. After graduation, Leger worked as an admiralty associate at the Phelps Dunbar law firm. He later formed his own firm, and his practice has been devoted to admiralty and complex litigation.
Since 1981, he has been recognized as a "Proctor in Admiralty" by the Maritime Law Association of the United States. He is a member of the Southeast Admiralty Law Institute and the maritime law sections of the American Association of Justice, the Louisiana Association of Justice, and other bar organizations. Over the years he has lectured extensively and written on maritime law and complex litigation topics at Harvard Law School, Tulane Law School, Loyola Law School, the University of New Orleans, LSU Law School, and various law associations.
Leger has been known as a prominent attorney in complex litigation. More particularly, he has demonstrated his leadership in major maritime disaster cases (recently including the July 2008 Oil Spill on the Mississippi River), in class action litigation against the tobacco industry, and as special counsel for the Attorney General of the State of Louisiana and the Governor of the State of California. After Hurricane Katrina he was involved in the Murphy Oil Spill Litigation and represented dozens of homeowners and businesses against their insurance companies.
Leger has repeatedly been recognized for his leadership and experience. He was appointed by U.S. District Judge Lance Africk as a member of the Claimants' Steering Committee representing businesses and governmental entities damaged as a result of the collision of a ship and barges causing a massive Oil Spill in on the Mississippi River. Also, Leger was appointed by U.S. Judge Peter Beer as Chairman of the Plaintiff's Committee and served as Lead Appellate Counsel in the case of The State of Louisiana, ex rel. v. M/V TESTBANK, et al., C.A. No. 80-2738, U.S.D.C., E.D.La., involving the claims of over 2,000 fishermen and businesses damaged as a result of a ship collision causing the spill of PCP into the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet. The Fifth Circuit's en banc decision and its progeny continue to guide the determination of economic loss damages in maritime collision cases to this day. In 1998, he was appointed by U.S. District Judge Morey Sear as Co-Lead Counsel in the M/V BRIGHT FIELD/Riverwalk Disaster.
Other notable maritime cases include but are not limited to M/V INCA TUPAC collision, (U.S.D.C., E.D. La.)(Lead Counsel, collision and explosion involving numerous deaths and burns); M/V POET, (U.S.D.C., E.D.Pa.)(mysterious ship disappearance in Atlantic Ocean with 25 crew lost); M/V TEXACO NORTH DAKOTA, (U.S.D.C., E.D.La.)(fiery ship collision with post hurricane damaged oil platform); M/V MISS CHRIS/Claiborne Ave. Bridge allision and collapse; M/V LEE III/M/V ZIM MEXICO III (Collision in Southwest Pass causing deaths of entire crew and closure of river and port).
Leger's experience and leadership extends far beyond admiralty and maritime law. In the Castano Tobacco Litigation, he served on the Trial Team, Discovery Committee, Science Committee, and Administrative Committee. This case was brought against the Tobacco and Cigarette industry in numerous states, including the Castano Tobacco Litigation, California Tobacco Litigation, and the Brown Case. Leger served as Class Counsel, Trial Counsel, Trial Liability Team Captain, and Expert Team Captain in the Scott Tobacco Litigation. This trial lasted three years and is still being appealed. In Louisiana Breast Implant Litigation, Leger served on the Plaintiffs' Steering Committee as Chairman of Discovery Committee and Member of the Strategy Committee, Planning Committee, Administrative Committee, and Law Committee from 1993 until 2000. In 2005, he was appointed by U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon to Plaintiffs' Legal Committee in the Murphy Oil Spill Litigation. He was appointed by U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance to Plaintiffs' Legal Committee in the Education Testing Services Litigation. In the Billieson Lead Paint Class Action, he was appointed as Class Counsel. Leger was also a member of F. Lee Bailey's Litigation Sub-Committee in the Bhopal, India/Union Carbide Disaster from 1985 until 1987.
He has had particular experience in actions involving major collisions, numerous claims, and limitation of liability proceedings. His career has spanned over 30 years in the litigation of individuals, businesses, port authorities, towing companies, barge owners, shipyards, and ship pilots, officers and crew. He has represented clients in the state and federal courts of Louisiana and others, and at U.S. Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board hearings.
In addition to being an advocate for his client's rights, Leger has also tirelessly served the people of his community and Louisiana as a whole. Walter served as chairman of the St. Bernard Chamber of Commerce five times in the last 15 years, and is a past Chairman of the Board of the New Orleans Regional Chamber of Commerce and Co Chairman of the MetroVision Regional Economic Development Partnership. He currently serves as Chairman of the St. Bernard Economic Development Commission and is a member of the Executive Committee of GNO, Inc. and the Southeast Louisiana Business Council Coalition.
In addition to service as Vice Chairman of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, the Louisiana Land Trust and Co Chair of the St. Bernard Citizen's Recovery Committee, he currently serves on the Boards of GNO, Inc., the New Orleans Bar Association, the LSU Health Science Center Foundation, the Delgado Community College Foundation, Nunez Community College, Tulane Cancer Center, LSUHSC Cancer Center, and the Director's Council of the Louisiana Cancer Research Consortium.
After Hurricane Katrina, Leger was appointed by Governor Kathleen Blanco to the Louisiana Recovery Authority where he has been one of the LRA's most active members. Governor Bobby Jindal re appointed Leger and he now serves as Vice Chairman. He also serves as Chairman of the Louisiana Land Trust. Leger became well known as the co host with Garland Robinette of a weekly WWL radio show on hurricane recovery issues.
He testified before a U.S. Senate Sub Committee on Disaster Recovery whose participants included Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu, Senator Joseph Lieberman, and then Senator Barack Obama. Leger has appeared on behalf of the homeowners of Louisiana before five Congressional and Senate committees and sub committees and met numerous times with Senate and House of Representatives staff and committee staffs, including the Appropriations and Finance committees, and with U.S. Senators, Congressmen, and editorial and news staff of the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, and Associated Press. He has also made appearances on ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, CNN, PBS, LPB and numerous local and national television and radio stations.
Cases of Note:
- IN RE: OIL SPILL BY THE OIL RIG "DEEPWATER HORIZON" IN THE GULF OF MEXICO ON APRIL 20, 2010
- Appointed by U.S. District Judge Lance Africk to Claimants' Steering Committee in Gabarick Mississippi River Oil Spill Case, C.A. 08-4007, U.S.D.C., E.D. La.
- Appointed by Judge Peter Beer as Chairman of the Plaintiff's Committee and served as Lead Appellate Counsel in the case of The State of Louisiana, ex rel. v. M/V TESTBANK, et al., C.A. No. 80-2738, U.S.D.C., E.D. La.
- Appointed by U.S. District Judge Morey Sear as Co-Lead Counsel in the M/V BRIGHT FIELD/Riverwalk Disaster.
- M/V INCA TUPAC collision, U.S.D.C., E.D. La.
- M/V POET, U.S.D.C., E.D.Pa.
- M/V TEXACO NORTH DAKOTA, U.S.D.C., E.D.La.
- M/V MISS CHRIS/Claiborne Ave. Bridge allision and collapse
- M/V LEE III/M/V ZIM MEXICO III
- Castano Tobacco Litigation
- Attorney General Tobacco Litigation
- Scott Tobacco Trial
- Bhopal, India/Union Carbide Gas Leak Litigation
- Breast Implant Litigation
- Billeson Lead Paint Class Action
- Murphy Oil Refinery Spill Litigation
- Educational Testing Service Class Action/MDL
Areas of Practice
- Admiralty Law
- Complex Litigation
- Pharmacuetical Products
- Class Actions
- Louisiana, 1976
- U.S. District Court Middle District of Louisiana, 1978
- U.S. District Court Western District of Louisiana, 1977
- U.S. District Court Eastern District of Louisiana, 1976
- U.S. Court of Appeals 5th Circuit, 1976
- U.S. Court of Appeals 11th Circuit, 1981
- U.S. Supreme Court, 1980
- Tulane Law School, New Orleans, Louisiana
- J.D. - 1976
- Honors: Tulane Freshman Moot Court Competition
- Honors: American Admiralty Institute Award
- Law Journal: The Tulane Maritime Law Journal, Managing Editor, 1975 - 1976
- Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
- B.A. - 1973
- Honors: Phi Gamma Delta National Leadership Award
- Honors: Senior Scholar's National Award
- Honors: Phi Beta Sigma
- Honors: Omicron Delta Kappa
- Honors: Who's Who in America's Colleges and Universities
- Honors: Mu Sigma Rho
- Honors: Freshmen Honor Award Scholarship
- Honors: Centennial Honor Award Scholarship
- Major: Political Science
- Minor: Economics
- Associated Branch Pilots
- ECL Marine Company
- New Orleans Zephyrs AAA Professional Baseball Club
- Regions Bank, New Orleans, Louisiana
- First Bank and Trust, New Orleans, Louisiana
Honors and Awards
- New Orleans CityBusiness Leadership in Law Hall of Fame, 2009
- New Orleans CityBusiness Leadership in Law, 2009
- New Orleans CityBusiness Leadership in Law, 2008
- New Orleans CityBusiness Leadership in Law, 2007
- Louisiana's Super Lawyers, 2009
- Louisiana's Super Lawyers, 2008
- Louisiana's Super Lawyers, 2007
- Arthur B. Hanson Rescue Award - U.S. Sailing Association and U. S. Coast Guard Commendation for Rescue and Lifesaving, 2008
- New Orleans Bar Association President's Award, 2009
- Louisiana Association of Justice President's Award, 2008
- Federal Bar Association President's Award, 2007
- Ten Outstanding People, Family Services Foundation, 2007
- Man of the Year, St. Bernard's Business & Professional Women's Club, 2006
- Role Model Young Leadership Counsel, 2005
- Finalist for Trial Lawyer of the Year Award - Lawyer's for Public Justice Foundation, 2005
- Breath of Life Award American Cancer Society, 2003
- "Kingfish of the Month”- Kingfish Magazine
- New Orleans Magazine, People to Watch in 2006"
- New Orleans Magazine, People to Watch in 2000"
- New Orleans Magazine, 82 People to Watch in '82"
- "Volunteer of the Year," The Southern Economic Development Council, 1999
- "Volunteer of the Year," The Louisiana Industrial Development Executives Association (LIDEA), 1999
- Boy Scouts of America, Southeast Louisiana Council, The Walter J. Leger, Jr. 1999 Class of Young Americans
- "Citizen of the Year" St. Bernard Parish Chamber of Commerce, 1986
- Distinguished Community Service Award, Alliance for Good Government, 1994
- Who's Who in America (1992/1993), (1994/1995), (1996/1997)
- Who's Who in American Law (1987/1988), (1990/1991), (1996/1997)
- Who's Who in the Southwest U.S. (1988)
- Who's Who in American Society (1987)
Professional Associations and Memberships
- New Orleans Regional Chamber of Commerce, Chairman of the Board, 2000
- St. Bernard Parish Economic Development Commission, Chairman, 1996 - Present
- College of Arts & Sciences, Louisiana State University, Member, Advisory Council
- Delgaldo Community College Foundation, Member, Board of Directors, 1998 - Present
- Metrovision Partnership Foundation, Co-Chairman, Executive Committee, 1998 - 2000
- The New Orleans Regional Chamber of Commerce, Vice-Chairman, 1988 - 1998
- St. Bernard Council, The Chamber/New Orleans and the River Region, Chairman, 1992 - 1993
- St. Bernard Community College Foundation, Vice Chairman, Board of Directors, 1986 - 1993
- Nunez Community College Foundation, Board, 1986 - Present
- Louisiana Cancer Research Consortium, Directors Coucil, 2004 - Present
- Greater New Orleans, Inc., Board and Executive Committee, 2004 - Present
- LSU Health Science Center Foundation, Board and Executive Committee, 2001 - Present
- Tulane Cancer Center Advisory Council, 2001 - Present
- LSUHSC Stanley Scott Cancer Center, Board
- March of Dimes of Greater New Orleans and Southeast Louisiana, Chairman, 1981 - 1985
- Business Higher Education Council, University of New Orleans, Member
Past Employment Positions
- Phelps & Dunbar, Associate Attorney, 1976 - 1979
- George & George, Attorney, 1979 - 1980
- Phi Gamma Delta
- Phi Alpha Delta
- Omicron Delta Kappa