A BP plan to hire Gulf scientists could mean that there are fewer experts to testify against them when the oil spill case goes to trial.

The University of South Alabama turned down a BP offer to hire the entire marine science department after they obtained a copy of the contracts. Mobile's Press-Register reports:

The Press-Register obtained a copy of a contract offered to scientists by BP. It prohibits the scientists from publishing their research, sharing it with other scientists, or speaking about the data that they collect for at least the next three years.

BP plans to fight a lawsuit to be filed by the Natural Resources Damage Assessment, according to Press-Register's Ben Raines. Putting Gulf scientists on the payroll could mean there are less experts to testify against them.

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow compares the tactic to an episode of The Sopranos where Tony Soprano consults with top lawyers so his wife isn't able to hire them in a divorce case.

I'm thinking it is time I move forward with the divorce proceedings," Carmen Soprano told a potential lawyer.

"Ms. Soprano, I'm afraid I'm going to have to cut you short. As far as handling it, I'm afraid I have to recuse myself," the lawyer responded.

"Actually, your husband has been in to see me for a consultation last year," the lawyer said.

"I don't understand this. Why is my husband so picky? He talked to seven or eight of the top divorce attorneys in New Jersey," said a frustrated Carmen Soprano.

"I understand your frustration. If you like, I can recommend a colleague. Someone your husband hasn't contaminated," the lawyer recommended.

Maddow explained that "contaminated" is the perfect verb to "understand what BP has been trying to do to scientists on the Gulf Coast."

"It makes me feel like they were more interested in making sure we couldn't testify against them than in having us testify for them," George Crozier, head of the Dauphin Island Sea Lab told the Press-Register.

This video is from MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show, broadcast July 19, 2010.

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