By Aaron Kesel
Amazonian lawyer Steven Donziger was given the backing by the International Association Of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) and National Lawyers Guild (NLG.) Both groups condemned Donziger’s treatment by Kaplan and accuse him of naming a private “prosecutor” with financial ties to Chevron to detain Donziger without trial. The legal groups also accused Law firm Seward & Kissel, which represented Chevron, of “egregious misconduct.”
Major win today after prominent legal groups accuse Judge Kaplan of naming private "prosecutor" with financial ties to @Chevron to detain me without trial. Law firm Seward & Kissel faces charges of egregious misconduct.https://t.co/C4y9sicVFl pic.twitter.com/bRUtfObMUL
— Steven Donziger (@SDonziger) June 29, 2020
If that wasn’t enough, in Canada, leading human rights lawyers have demanded an official investigation into Donziger’s wrongful detention without trial. “We are unaware of any other human rights activist so harshly treated by the courts of the United States,” letter says.
In Canada, leading human rights lawyers demand official investigation into my wrongful detention without trial. "We are unaware of any other human rights activist so harshly treated by the courts of the United States," letter says. https://t.co/yLbCH6Wk32 pic.twitter.com/RpFxrFD7gw
— Steven Donziger (@SDonziger) June 29, 2020
Donziger, a lawyer who recently received the support of 29 Nobel Laureates and thousands of lawyers around the world, helped the indigenous people of Ecuador’s Amazon win a historic judgment in 2011 against Chevron. Since then, Chevron has joined forced with U.S. judge Lewis A. Kaplan to abusively target Donziger in New York in a series of unprecedented legal actions that have wiped out his assets. The corruption has depleted Donziger’s resources, and stopped Steven’s ability to earn a living – to the point where Donziger seeks donations for his legal defense.
Activist Post previously reported, that Chevron is being formally accused by Donziger’s attorneys of owning legal officials. Calls for the reinstatement of the lawyer’s illegally revoked law license now stretch to over 475 lawyers, legal organizations, and human rights groups, according to the International Association of Democratic lawyers.
This is something this writer also made note of in a series of articles questioning the case, asking why Donizger had his law license revoked when it was other corrupt parties that deserved disbarment and not the lawyer who fought for the Amazonian Ecuadorian people (here, here and here).
Activist Post has been covering the story of Steven Donziger since last year when this reporter first learned about the judicial abuses and deplorable actions of NY District Court Justice Lewis Kaplan in favor of Chevron. For the past almost 10 months, Donziger has been forced under house arrest with an electronic bracelet on his ankle for defending the Ecuadorian Amazonian people against big oil’s environmental damages.
For over a decade, New York lawyer and activist Steven Donziger, of Donziger and Associates, has been fighting Chevron after the oil giant bought out Texaco. However, just when we think we’ve seen it all in the Chevron case, NY District Court Justice Lewis Kaplan seeks to prove we ain’t seen nothing yet. Judge Kaplan wants Amazonian lawyer, Steven Donziger, destroyed, at all costs!
Amazon Watch reports:
On September 17th, I (Paul Paz y Miño) testified on behalf of Donziger at a formal bar licensing hearing in New York, where for the first time witnesses were able to address the facts of Chevron’s fraud in bringing its retaliatory civil RICO (“racketeering”) case designed to try to undermine the legitimate $9.5 billion judgment won by Ecuadorian communities in 2011.
Several witnesses at the hearing explained how Chevron and its lawyers at the infamous Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher firm – led by Randy Mastro, former deputy mayor to Rudy Guiliani – engaged in unethical and illegal acts to target Donziger based largely on the testimony of a corrupt witness who was paid at least $2 million by the company and who later admitted to lying under oath. Many respected lawyers, authors, and activists also testified on Donziger’s behalf. Without exception, all described Donziger as a man dedicated to justice in Ecuador on behalf of Chevron’s victims, who was framed by Chevron and its corrupt witness Alberto Guerra, who claimed without any corroborating evidence that Donziger had approved a bribe to a judge,” Paul Paz y Miño, Amazon Watch’s Director of Outreach wrote.
Amazon Watch further provided a detailed recap of the Donziger saga:
- In 2011, Chevron was found liable in Ecuador for the deliberate dumping of billions of gallons of toxic oil waste into the Amazon between 1964 and 1992, decimating indigenous groups and provoking an outbreak of cancer that has killed hundreds if not thousands of people.
- Four levels of courts in Ecuador – including its supreme and constitutional courts – imposed damages on Chevron of at least $9.5 billion; most of the pollution, including an estimated 1,000 unlined toxic waste pits, continue to poison soils, rivers, and groundwater.
- Having definitively lost the case in Ecuador, Chevron abruptly removed all of its assets from the country and never paid a dime to the affected communities.
- In the RICO case, Chevron bribed its star witness Alberto Guerra and used false evidence to try to criminalize human rights lawyer Steven Donziger and the Ecuadorian communities fighting for cleanup.
- Donziger’s law license was suspended in New York based on the allegation that he was “an immediate threat to the public interest” due to his litigation against Chevron.
- With U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan as an ally, Chevron has demanded Donziger surrender his computer and cell phone for inspection by the company so that it can sue or target anybody Donziger has been in touch with, or anyone supporting the campaign for justice in Ecuador.
- Judge Kaplan has held Donziger in civil contempt, seized his passport, and fined him an exorbitant $200,000 per day for refusing to turn over his computer and phone while an appeal is pending.
- Judge Kaplan himself then filed criminal contempt charges against Donziger and asked the federal prosecutor in New York to prosecute him; the prosecutor refused.
- Judge Kaplan then appointed private lawyers from a corporate law firm and deputized them to act as “government prosecutors” to target Donziger. Pending trial, Donziger has been confined to home detention and required to wear an electronic monitoring device for the last two months.
- Chevron has tried to undermine the very idea of corporate accountability with its unprecedented, unethical, and illegal attacks against Steven Donziger and those who stand up for a proper environmental cleanup in Ecuador.
Judge Kaplan 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. The judge also flatly refused to allow the victims (who suffer illnesses from Texaco/Chevron toxic waste) he referred to as “plaintiffs” to produce evidence about massive environmental contamination caused by the oil giants.
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).
Kaplan has been working on behalf of Chevron, who claims that Donziger committed fraud, bribed a judge in Ecuador and ghost-wrote the Ecuadorian verdict. All statements that are proven to be completely false by both testimony and forensic evidence. However, because no U.S. court would consider that evidence, Judge Kaplan’s RICO verdict still stands. Even though his court order is still active and Donziger is being punished, the findings have been thoroughly discredited and even rejected by 17 appellate judges in Ecuador.
It is highly ironic that Donziger is being accused of fraud and bribery since the sole witness Chevron utilized against him is an Ecuadorian Judge Alberto Guerra. Guerra was thrown off his bench for corruption, admitted to lying, and Chevron confessed the witness had been paid $2 million dollars, Alternet reported.
Kaplan also dismissed the fact that Guerra was being paid $12,000 a month by Chevron, as well as being supplied with a personal lawyer and a car under the company “witness-protection program.”
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).
In recently filed documents, the corruption is laid bare and judges are accused of horrific crimes against the court. These crimes include — abuse of power and judicial misconduct according to Donziger’s lawyer, Andrew Frisch, a former federal prosecutor.
Frisch accused Kaplan and Judge Loretta Preska, a member of the Trump-affiliated Federalist Society of abuses of power and misconduct in the Donziger case.
Donziger wasn’t just backed by NLG, IADL, and Canadian lawyers, in a video uploaded to Twitter now going viral actor, Alec Baldwin ranted about the unfair treatment in the case.
— Steven Donziger (@SDonziger) June 30, 2020
The video so far has 11,000 views at the time of this report, tweeted only yesterday. In the video, Baldwin states:
Texaco/Chevron are the Harvey Weinstein of the environmental pollution issue. And like Weinstein they’ve exploited every opportunity they can to evade justice, to evade punishment.
Baldwin added, “the issue with cases like this are Judges like Lewis Kaplan, Kaplan is bought and sold by the oil industry. What he’s done to Donziger is not only unfair, it’s unprecedented.”
Baldwin isn’t the only personality to speak out in support of Donziger. In fact, there are many other people who have spoken out on behalf of the Amazonians and Steven Donziger; including NY Mayor Bill Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo’s press secretary, Karen Hinton, along with activist gumshoe reporter Greg Palast who stated Donziger was “one of the greatest American heroes alive.”
The criminal #Chevron corporation, which spread childhood leukemia while destroying the Amazon rainforest, has figured out how to use a fascist judge to go after the most heroic American alive, @SDonziger, who spent his life fighting this petro monster. https://t.co/n6SuNTYhYa
— Greg Palast (@Greg_Palast) August 15, 2019
Chevron has claimed that Donziger is a “threat to the public interest,” arguing that his law license should be revoked. More like Donziger is a “threat to corporate interest,” as Pink Floyd Rock legendary musician Roger Waters has said.
He’s a huge help to the public interest, in my view. He presents something of a threat to corporate America, which is why he’s being demonized and vilified, which is why his license is being suspended.
Several other people have spoken out about what’s going on with Donziger, and some have even testified at his hearing.
“In my work I’ve met a lot of people in pursuit of accountability, and Donziger is right up at the top of those. He has done an unbelievable job.” – Simon Taylor, founder of Global Witness
“All evidence to the contrary that Steven is a threat to the public.” – Public interest attorney Zoe Littlepage
“He’s a completely honorable man representing people grievously harmed. What he and his family have gone through is unbelievable. He’s been attacked and demonized to distract the American courts and world public from the fact that Chevron committed a crime and owes the people of Ecuador for a cleanup.” – Rex Weyler, co-founder of Greenpeace
It has been a classic David vs. Goliath tale, where New York Attorney Steven Donziger won a decade-long case for $9 billion against Chevron. Now, the real fight begins against the corrupt collusion of a judge and a corporate giant. This is a bigger case than you may imagine with more at stake than just a lawyer and his law license. Donziger’s case will shape and determine global human rights issues, and decide whether corporations can evade their legal accountability for disasters such as what happened in Ecuador.
In other words, Donziger’s case could set a precedent normalizing this type of behavior, which will be felt for generations to come; and if this treatment is allowed, all future lawyers fighting for reparations for those affected by a tragedy caused by a corporation may be terrified to do their due duty. At least Donizger now has strong allies – both legal minds and others supporting his fight for justice.
Aaron Kesel writes for Activist Post.
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