By Aaron Kesel
On September 17th, a formal bar licensing hearing in New York was held for Steven Donziger, a lawyer who fought to clean up Chveron's environmental oil disaster in Ecuador. Donziger ended up being targeted in collusion by a judge and the company in what Amazon Watch, a U.S.-based environmental entity has called, a "well-financed corporate retaliation SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) campaign in history."
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.
This author was first made aware of the Amazonian villagers’ suffering, and the plight of Steven Donziger, due to Laser Haas, who is the whistleblower in this reporter’s Wall Street fraud protected by federal corruption series. (Is Goldman Sachs’ New CEO, David Solomon, on a Sinking Ship?)
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 proven he is a lapdog for Chevron time and time again. In June, one single day after this writer's first article was published, the judge escalated his abuse even further against Donziger by issuing a cruel and unusual punishment.
The tyrannical Kaplan ordered Donziger to face fines up to $200,000 per day and to seize his passport for each day that he fails to turn over attorney-client privileged information.
Chevron is already on public record claiming that Donziger doesn’t have enough money to satisfy the $800,000 judgment Justice Kaplan has egregiously awarded Chevron, on top of the now-ordered $200,000 a day fine.
When Donziger refused to do so, the out-of-bounds Judge Kaplan asked the Southern District of NY U.S. Attorney’s office to prosecute Donziger for contempt.
The SDNY U.S. Attorney office declined to prosecute Donziger and do the judge’s corrupt dirty work, Courthouse News reported.
In August, Activist Post last reported that Donziger faced house arrest after Judge Kaplan ordered a Special Prosecutor to indict Donziger, as well as yank his passport, punishing him even further.
Steven Donziger is now fighting to restore his right to practice law after his license was suspended last year without a hearing, an unhearable case. The case is based entirely on the retaliatory RICO suit and testimony by a bribed witness who admitted they lied, as Activist Post's Derrick Broze reported in 2015.
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).
Despite this, Chevron has claimed that Donziger is a "threat to the public interest" arguing 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 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.
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.”
Donziger has been in a war against Chevron for two decades; and, despite the fact the Chevron shareholders recently demanded the CEO settle with the Amazonian villagers, there seems to be no end in sight, or of justice coming anytime soon.
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.
It is 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.
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