Chevron in Ecuador

The archive of the Clean Up Ecuador campaign website

Appeals Court to Consider Removing Key U.S. Judge in Chevron Ecuador Case

Gowen Group Law Office
Contact: Karen Hinton at +1.703.798.3109

Washington, DC – A New York appellate court has said it will consider a petition to reassign federal judge Lewis A. Kaplan from an Ecuador environmental case that resulted in a $19 billion judgment against Chevron.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals has set Sept. 26 for oral argument on the petition to reassign the judge, who has been criticized for unfairly promoting a retaliatory Chevron “fraud” case against Ecuadorians villagers and their U.S. counsel. The reassignment petition, which is based primarily on Judge Kaplan’s refusal to follow prior appellate court orders in the case, can be read here and here.

Chevron also solicited the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to file a brief in the case. Signed by former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, that brief can be read here and its reply here.

Separately, two rain forest residents and New York attorney Steven Donziger on Tuesday asked Judge Kaplan to temporarily suspend Chevron's "fraud" case over the Ecuador judgment until the appellate court can dispose of the petition for reassignment. That motion can be read here. Kaplan has scheduled the trial to begin Oct. 15.

The Ecuadorians and Donziger said the purpose of waiting for the appellate court was to conserve resources. Chevron currently has 114 lawyers working on the case, while Donziger is representing himself and the Ecuadorians have solo practitioner Julio Gomez as their counsel.

Judge Kaplan has been accused of bias for calling the Ecuador case a "giant game" invented by lawyers to “fix the balance of payments deficit” of the United States. He also referred to thousands of indigenous Ecuadorians as the "so-called" plaintiffs before imposing an illegal injunction purporting to block the Ecuador judgment from being enforced anywhere in the world. For background, see here and here.

Judge Kaplan’s injunction was reversed unanimously in 2011 by a three-judge appellate panel, dealing a stunning rebuke to Chevron’s primary defense in the case. The current petition for reassignment explains how Kaplan has continued to defy that appellate order by issuing a series of decisions disparaging Ecuador’s judicial system.

It is estimated that Chevron has spent well over $1 billion to launch a series of legal actions around the world to evade paying the Ecuador judgment. These include more than 25 discovery actions in the United States, three arbitrations actions against Ecuador’s government, and fraud lawsuits against the lawyers for the Ecuadorians and their funders.

Chevron itself has been accused of using litigations to distract attention from the overwhelming evidence of its environmental crimes and fraud in Ecuador, according to evidence presented by the plaintiffs. A summary of Chevron’s bad acts can be found in counterclaims filed by Donziger and this sworn affidavit of Ecuador lawyer Juan Pablo Saenz.

“Chevron is desperately suing everybody it can to evade a valid judgment won by the rainforest communities the company has contaminated with toxic waste,” said Chris Gowen, an adjunct professor at the Washington College of Law who is advising the Ecuadorians and Donziger.

“Chevron’s approach is clearly one of the greatest abuses of the legal system ever,” he added. Judge Kaplan and Chevron also were harshly criticized earlier this year by famed trial lawyer John Keker, who formerly represented Donziger.

“Through scorched earth litigation, executed by its army of hundreds of lawyers, Chevron is using its limitless resources to crush defendants and win this case through might rather than merit,” said Keker in a motion filed in May. “Encouraged by this court’s implacable hostility to Donziger, Chevron will file any motion, however meritless, in the hope that the Court will use it to hurt Donziger.”

A summary of the overwhelming scientific evidence against Chevron in the environmental case in Ecuador can be found here; a summary of U.S. court judgments rejecting Chevron’s allegations of fraud can be found here; and a 60 Minutes news segment outlining Chevron’s deliberate contamination in Ecuador can be viewed here.