IADL and NLG file amicus brief in Donziger case

[ Press release here. Amicus brief here. ]

An amicus brief was filed today by the National Lawyers Guild and International Association of Democratic Lawyers in the Second Circuit on behalf of human rights attorney, Steven Donziger, supporting his request for mandamus relief.

The brief provides an international human rights law perspective on shocking treatment of Mr. Donziger in nearly a decade legal attacks on him by Chevron Corporation and, more recently, private lawyers acting as criminal prosecutors and actively coordinating with Chevron. The brief links the pattern of judicial abuse to Chevron’s impunity and the persecution of human rights defenders globally.

In an underlying historic environmental case, Mr. Donziger successfully sued Chevron on behalf of indigenous peoples and affected communities for environmental devastation in the Ecuadorean Amazon, in what has been called one of the most important corporate accountability cases of our time. Since 2011 when the $9.5 billion judgment was issued against it (affirmed by three levels of Ecuadorean courts), Chevron has refused to make any effort to pay or clean-up the Amazon, instead aggressively sought to, in its own words “demonize” Mr. Donziger. After Mr. Donziger refused to give attorney-client privileged information to Chevron in one of the civil lawsuits, he was abruptly charged with criminal contempt of court—but because public prosecutors refused to take the case, private lawyers, linked to Chevron, were appointed to prosecute the contempt. As part of the process, Mr. Donziger has been on pre-trial home detention for over 11 months.

When U.S. courts fail to offer due process as dramatically as they have in Mr. Donziger’s case, international human rights law must stand as a bulwark to protect human rights defenders and the underlying causes they represent. Mr. Donziger’s case has important implications for attorneys engaged in human rights and environmental rights work, and for communities around the world.

The brief was filed by lawyers Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan and Natali Segovia on behalf of the NLG and the IADL. Both organizations earlier launched an international open letter from lawyers, legal organizations and human rights advocates. Signed by over 475 endorsers, the letter raised serious concerns about the profound injustices in the Donziger case, “one of the most important corporate accountability and human rights cases of our time.”

CLDC Press Release re Mandamus Petition in Donziger case

Judge-appointed Private Prosecutor Has Deep Ties to Chevron; Retaliatory Lawsuit Against Attorney Steven Donziger Must Be Dismissed

By Lauren Regan|June 30th, 2020

Eugene, OR – Attorneys for human rights attorney Steven Donziger have asked the U.S. Court of Appeals to weigh in on the interlocking conflicts of interests at the heart of a trumped-up case tracing back to Donziger’s major $9.5 billion victory on behalf of Ecuadorian plaintiffs against the oil giant Chevron. The Civil Liberties Defense Center is a member of the legal team that has petitioned the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to dismiss the case at question, which is currently before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

[ Continued here… ]

Back to Basics: Revisiting Chevron’s abandoned oil fields in Ecuador — and the people who live there

A new documentary largely successfully avoids the infinite distractions generated by Chevron’s colossal retaliatory litigation campaign and re-focuses back on what happened–and what is happening today– in Ecuador…

Ecuadorian Constitutional Court Affirms Environmental Judgment Against Chevron

More on this to come (hopefully elaborated in other forums and venues) but here is the decision (in Spanish) and here are the basic parameters:

  • This is the fourth Ecuadorian court to uphold the environmental liability judgment against Chevron, the third layer of appeal. All Ecuadorian affirmances have been unanimous.
  • The jurisdiction of the Constitutional Court (CC) allowed Chevron to challenge any aspect of the proceedings in Ecuador for lack of due process, use of improperly obtained evidence, etc. None of Chevron’s challenges were sustained.
  • The decision elaborates a strong human rights-perspective on the underlying questions about the fairness of the judgment and its magnitude. I hope to describe this in more depth shortly.
  • The decision was emitted well into the term of office of President Lenin Moreno, who is aggressively seeking to curry favor with the United States, so any sort of claim that the CC decision was politically influenced to Chevron’s detriment is a non-starter.
  • The decision is now the most current analysis of the environmental judgment and the controversies surrounding it, made by the court with the broadest jurisdiction to consider it and the challenges to it. Again, the judgment was sustained in full and unanimously.

Here is the BHRRC page on the development. I’ll add more links and analysis as it comes up.

IN CANADA, CHEVRON TRYING TO BLOCK ECUADORIANS FROM USING U.N. DECLARATION TO SUPPORT HISTORIC POLLUTION CASE

[ From TheFirstNationsCanada.com ]

In a Canadian court, Chevron is trying to block submission of a legal brief over how the company’s attempt to evade paying a $9.5 billion environmental judgment in Ecuador violates both Canadian and international law regarding the rights of indigenous peoples.

In a submission before the Ontario Court of Appeal in Toronto, Ecuadorian rainforest communities cite the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in support of their lawsuit to collect the Chevron debt in Canada. The judgment against Chevron was affirmed unanimously in 2013 by Ecuador’s highest court.

A hearing over Chevron’s attempt to block the new argument is scheduled for January 16 before the Ontario Court of Appeal in Toronto. If the submission is allowed, the Ecuadorians plan to use the U.N. Declaration during a critically important appellate hearing scheduled for April that will help determine whether they can seize the assets of a Chevron subsidiary in Canada to force the company to comply with the Ecuador judgment.

“Chevron’s attempt to deny the latest legal petition concerning indigenous rights from being heard is gutless and a sign of the company’s increasing desperation,” said Patricio Salazar, the lead Ecuadorian lawyer for the affected communities.

“The arguments that Chevron is trying to suppress outline in clear terms the numerous ways in which the company has violated international law by polluting indigenous ancestral lands and then deliberately obstructed legitimate efforts to seek compensation through the courts,” said Salazar.

In the legal brief, the Ecuadorian communities cite several provisions of the United Nations Declaration to support their lawsuit to seize Chevron assets in Canada. These include “the right to … prompt decisions through just and fair procedures for the resolution of conflicts” and “fair and equitable compensation” for their territories that have been damaged by oil extraction and other environmental harms.

The U.N. General Assembly approved the Declaration On The Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007 by the overwhelming vote of 144-4. The document since has been adopted as domestic law by both Canada and Ecuador, but it obviously did not exist for several years after the litigation against Chevron began in 1993.

Chevron, which sold its assets in Ecuador during the trial, recently had its General Counsel threaten the Ecuadorian communities with a “lifetime of litigation” if they persist in pursing their claims. The case has lasted a whopping 24 years largely because of Chevron’s forum shopping and use of at least 60 law firms and 2,000 legal personnel to file thousands of procedural motions to delay the process at almost every important juncture.

Chevron’s attempt to deny the Ecuadorians the right to file arguments based on indigenous rights – as distinct from simply filing its own legal brief to oppose it – is unusually aggressive, although not surprising given the company’s long record of trying to undermine the claims of the communities. Chevron was found guilty by three layers of courts of Ecuador of having deliberately dumped billions of gallons of toxic oil waste as a cost-saving measure, causing a spike in cancer rates and creating a public health catastrophe. Conditions are so bad that locals call the area the “Amazon Chernobyl”.

For more than two decades, Chevron has tried to block the Ecuadorian communities who live in the Amazon from pressing their claims. The latest Chevron maneuver is to assert that its assets in Canada are immune from collection because they are held by a wholly-owned subsidiary. The communities won the judgment after a hard-fought trial that lasted from 2003 to 2011 and produced 105 technical evidentiary reports relied on by the court to confirm Chevron’s responsibility for the dumping […]