March 18, 2021

This is one of the craziest stories I've ever seen. A legal vendetta by Chevron against an environmental/human rights lawyer who won a massive award against them, and the corruption of our legal system has resulted in his home confinement on a questionable misdemeanor charge. Via the Nation:

Lewis A. Kaplan, a career corporate lawyer turned federal judge, decided the case alone—and he chose to believe Chevron’s star witness, a defrocked former Ecuadorean judge named Alberto Guerra who testified that Donziger and an Ecuadorean lawyer had bribed him to ghostwrite the decision. It later emerged that Chevron had paid Guerra to move to the United States—where he is now living incognito—and rehearsed his testimony with him 53 times.

The string of injustices continued after Kaplan’s original unjust racketeering verdict. Chevron demanded access to Donziger’s phone and computer; Donziger declined, contending that handing over his electronics would violate attorney-client privilege. Kaplan asked federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York to charge Donziger with contempt. After the prosecutors declined, Kaplan took the nearly unprecedented step of appointing a private attorney, one Rita Glavin, to prosecute Donziger. Legendary human rights lawyer Martin Garbus, who is part of the Donziger defense team, said, “This is the first case I have seen where a judge let a private corporation take over the prosecutorial power of the US government to silence a critic.” (Months later, it turned out that Glavin’s corporate law firm, Seward & Kissel, had financial ties to Chevron.)

Judge Loretta Preska, who is hearing the contempt case, put Donziger under house arrest, 13 months ago, and denied his requests to be released on bail. Preska insinuated preposterously that Donziger, who is married with a 14-year-old son, could flee the country.

Here's the story the Intercept did back in January:

“I’m like a corporate political prisoner,” Donziger told me as we sat in his living room recently. The attorney, who is 6-foot-3, graying, and often used to be mistaken for New York Mayor Bill de Blasio when he was able to walk the city streets, was surprisingly stoic and resigned about his predicament during my two visits to the apartment he shares with his wife and 13-year-old son. But on this particular Wednesday, as the winter sunlight in his living room was dimming and the charger for his spare ankle bracelet battery flashed on a nearby shelf, his optimism about his epic battle against one of the biggest oil companies in the world seemed to be flagging. “They are trying to totally destroy me.”

Donziger is not exaggerating. As he was arguing the case against Chevron in Ecuador back in 2009, the company expressly said its long-term strategy was to demonize him. And since then, Chevron has continued its all-out assault on Donziger in what’s become one of the most bitter and drawn-out cases in the history of environmental law. Chevron has hired private investigators to track Donziger, created a publication to smear him, and put together a legal team of hundreds of lawyers from 60 firms, who have successfully pursued an extraordinary campaign against him. As a result, Donziger has been disbarred and his bank accounts have been frozen. He now has a lien on his apartment, faces exorbitant fines, and has been prohibited from earning money. As of August, a court has seized his passport and put him on house arrest. Chevron, which has a market capitalization of $228 billion, has the funds to continue targeting Donziger for as long as it chooses.

In an emailed statement, Chevron wrote that “any jurisdiction that observes the rule of law should find the fraudulent Ecuadorian judgment to be illegitimate and unenforceable.” The statement also said that “Chevron will continue to work to hold the perpetrators of this fraud accountable for their actions, including Steven Donziger, who has committed a litany of corrupt and illegal acts related to his Ecuadorian judicial fraud against Chevron.”

Donziger was basically hit with the mother of all SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) suits, and because not all states have comprehensive anti-SLAPP legislation, Chevron found a friendly state in which to file. In addition to the injustice to this lawyer, and to the indigenous people of the Amazon, these suits are an egregious abuse of the legal process.

And I'm guessing that the reason we haven't seem much coverage of this case in mainstream outlets is that their lawyers advised them not to.

Or, the paper of record's second largest shareholder also sits on.... the board of Chevron!

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