Conflicted Judge Protects Chevron Abuse of Amazon Villagers’ Attorney Donziger
Abused lawyer, Steven Donziger, may get justice as shareholders rise up against Chevron’s CEO.
It is a classic David vs. Goliath tale, where New York Attorney Steven Donziger won a decade-long case for $9 billion against Chevron. Texaco was acquired by Chevron after Texaco dumped billions of gallons of toxic waste into Ecuador’s Amazon forest.
Unfortunately, the win for the people of Ecuador was short-lived, as a conflicted Federal District Court Judge, Lewis A. Kaplan, failed to disclose having money invested in Chevron. Judge Kaplan ruled in favor of Chevron, violating ethics code violations for federal judges.
The abuse of due process is unrelenting as Judge Kaplan continuously demonstrated bias in the Chevron case, according to U.S. Appellate Attorney Deepak Gupta (who represented Donziger.)
Bias is clearly visible as Judge Kaplan repeatably called the Ecuadorian villagers (who suffer illnesses from Texaco/Chevron toxic waste) to be “so-called plaintiffs.”
Clearly the Amazon villagers are victims of the Chevron/Texaco environmental abuses.
Instead of paying compensation to the victims, Chevron decided to try to stall/rig/retaliate by “demonizing” the victims together along with their legal team.
NY Attorney Steven Donziger worked as an activist lawyer his entire career. Donziger and others became the target of a civil “racketeering” lawsuit, brought before a U.S. court, where the case was conducted without a jury (one of the most bizarre abuses of Civil Rights by Judge Kaplan).
Going even further down the absurd rabbit hole in this case, Judge Kaplan flatly refused to allow the “plaintiffs” to produce evidence about massive environmental contamination caused by the oil giants.
Judge Kaplan’s denied a jury for the Ecuadorian villagers’ case against the oil company while Kaplan had investments in the oil companies, which is a requisite for Judge Kaplan to be recused from the case.
Instead, Judge Kaplan threatened Donziger with massive fines for refusing to give his computer and cell phone to Chevron (which would violate the sacrosanct attorney-client privilege).
Even a recent report by the Huffington Post, concludes that Chevron’s narrative is false and based on manufactured evidence.
Federal law requires U.S. judges are to disqualify themselves “in any proceeding in which” the judge’s “impartiality might reasonably be questioned.”Obviously, Judge Kaplan’s actions of hostility, including the wayward justice’s efforts that ultimately had Donziger’s lawyer license suspended, is questionable behavior for someone that has money invested in a company that is being investigated.
Can you imagine a precedent like this being allowed to stand, where a judge can make a lawyer lose his practice simply because the justice is upset at a lawyer objecting (and appealing) the judge’s rulings?
Amazon Watch, a U.S.-based environmental entity, is on the record stating that “Kaplan’s ethical lapses reflect terribly on the U.S. Judiciary and undermines the rule of law for everybody,” Paul Paz y Miño, Amazon Watch’s Director of Outreach said.
If that’s not enough, Global Witness, an international NGO that works to break the links between natural resource exploitation, conflict, poverty, corruption, and human rights abuses worldwide, recently wrote that, “Kaplan, relied heavily on testimony of a supposed “fact” witness–one whom Chevron acknowledged paying substantial sums–possibly, by now, up to at least $2 million in cash and benefits.
The group added, “the so-called ‘witness’ had admitted being corrupt and was coached for 53 days by Chevron lawyers before testifying.”
The Ecuadorian Supreme Court has unanimously endorsed the right of the Ecuadorians to pursue the company’s assets.
Global Witness Simon Taylor, seeking a criminal case against Chevron, wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Criminal Division, detailing the corruption-plagued case.
Siding with Donziger, Global Witness Mr. Taylor details the bad faith of Chevron and Judge Kaplan’s abuse of due process, stating:
For the avoidance of doubt, I must emphasise that we fully acknowledge the US’s generally excellent leadership record in the global fight against corruption.These are achievements that the US should be proud of, which we at Global Witness celebrate.This is why, over the years, we have frequently sought collaboration with various US law enforcement agencies. But the questionable circumstances around the manner in which the Civil Racketeering case seems to have been conducted, if true, would appear to standout as a kind of “festering sore”-one that we fear is leaving a stain on the generally strong reputation of the US judiciary and judicial system.With each new effort, seemingly aimed at “destroying” Mr.Donziger’s professional reputation and ability to practice law, not to mention also to deny justice for his clients in Ecuador, that stain appears ever-more ugly.
Indeed, the conduct of this case increasingly looks like “money and might”are all one needs to prevail over vulnerable Indigenous peoples, regardless of the facts.Such behaviour, not to mention the associated outcome to date, I have to say in the absence of a better explanation, appears more akin to the kind of corruption that we have documented in a myriad “Banana Republics” over the past two plus decades of our investigations.
Even the Chevron stockholders are revolting against Chevron’s CEO, Michael Wirth, who faces 2 major equity holders resolutions as a result of his mishandling of the Ecuador litigation (which has grown to $12 billion).
Will the Amazon villagers get justice?Can Steven Donziger get his Bar Card reinstated, or is the hubris of Federal District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan so haughty that Justice Kaplan will never admit the errors of his conflicted, unethical, tyrannical ways in favor of Chevron?
This all further displays what this writer has talked about before regarding corruption becoming the rule instead of the exception spreading across the world that Corps are acting above the law with oil giants and big banks toxicity infecting our systems of global justice.
Justice delayed is Justice denied!