Best Lawyers: Deepwater Horizon
My Toughest Case
“I was very aware of crime and became interested in the police and criminal justice when I was very young,” said Walter F. Becker Jr., a native of New Orleans.
Becker now heads the law firm’s Criminal Investigations and White-Collar Criminal Defense Section. In his 34 years of practice he has handled both criminal and civil litigation, representing individuals and companies under federal and state criminal investigation.
He spent four and a half years working as an assistant district attorney with Orleans Parish right out of law school before launching into a 14-year career as an assistant United States attorney in the Eastern District of Louisiana, during which he tried more than 100 jury cases. Becker then transitioned to his current position as a criminal defense attorney.
In that role, Becker represented Kurt Mix, a BP engineer and one of the defendants in the Deepwater Horizon explosion. Becker refers to this as one of the more challenging cases in his career. Mix was brought in shortly after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon well on April 20, 2010 to plug the spill.
“He was instrumental in that aspect of it. A few weeks after the well had been plugged he deleted two text messages off his iPhone. He was indicted for two felony counts of obstructing justice. It took us three years to work on his case,” said Becker. “It was all-consuming.”
Becker and his team were up against all the resources the U.S. Justice Department had brought to bear, he said.
Mix ended up being given a misdemeanor offense which carries no sentence.
“He was made a scapegoat for deleting two text messages. For three years this guy had to live his life fighting this. Ultimately he was one of the engineers who came up with the solution to plug the spill,” said Becker.
Reflecting on the transition from prosecutor to defense attorney, Becker said, “You have to believe in our justice system. You have to have ethical and competent lawyers on both sides. I have always believed in our system.”
He added, “The stakes are very high in my line of work. We have to keep in mind a client’s freedom and reputation in this work. What else do we have if we don’t have that? My clients are meeting me in the worst times of their lives.”
“As a defense attorney you are defending them during the nightmare they are facing, and helping them get through the nightmare,” he added. “It has been a tremendous privilege being able to represent the state and country as a prosecutor, and a privilege representing individuals and companies in the private sector.”
Walter F. Becker Jr.
34 years in practice
J.D. Tulane University Law School, 1982
B.A. Tulane University, political science, 1978
Native of New Orleans