Chevron in Ecuador

The archive of the Clean Up Ecuador campaign website

Lawyer Fighting Chevron Hires a Heavy for Appeal

By Jennifer Smith, The Wall Street Journal
24 January 2014

The courtroom phase of Chevron Corp.'s racketeering trial against New York lawyer Steven Donziger is over.

Both sides have submitted their final briefs in the case, which stems from a $9.5 billion environmental verdict against the oil giant in Ecuador that Chevron says was fraudulently obtained through witness tampering, fabrication of evidence and a battery of other alleged misdeeds on the part of Mr. Donziger and others.

Now comes the wait for a decision by U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan.

Not apparently one to let the grass grow, Mr. Donziger – who disputes Chevron's claims, but has said numerous times that he expects Judge Kaplan to rule against him – has since turned his attention to the appellate phase of the trial. Chevron is seeking an injunction barring Mr. Donziger and others who participated in the Ecuador case from profiting off attempts to enforce the verdict in courts outside of Ecuador.

This week, Mr. Donziger announced that he has hired Washington, D.C., lawyer Deepak Gupta as his lead appellate counsel in the RICO case.

Mr. Gupta, the founding principal at Gupta Beck PLLC, has had roles in some prominent cases before the Supreme Court recently. Those include AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion (a consumer lawsuit over allegedly deceptive advertising practices) and American Express v. Italian Colors, another case involving arbitration where Mr. Gupta teamed up with former Solicitor General Paul Clement, who penned an amicus brief for the wireless lobby in Concepcion.

Mr. Gupta also worked at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau during its founding between 2011 and 2012, serving as senior litigation counsel and senior counsel for enforcement strategy, and spent seven years as an attorney for Public Citizen Litigation Group.

"I could not be more proud to be representing Steven Donziger as his lead appellate counsel," said Mr. Gupta, in a statement. "For anyone who cares about the rule of law, Chevron's retaliatory RICO action should be deeply troubling."

On Thursday, Amazon Watch, an organization that supports Mr. Donziger and the Ecuadorean plaintiffs, also released a joint letter from dozens of environmental and advocacy groups condemning Chevron's tactics, which the letter said "represent a threat to any civil society effort to challenge corporate power and prevent abuses."

A spokesman for Chevron said via email that Mr. Donziger was "resorting to his old playbook: try the case in the media and pressure government officials to intervene in the process. It's unfortunate that well-intentioned NGOs are allowing themselves to be used in this manner."

Responded Mr. Donziger: "This case is not about me; it is about the thousands of Ecuadorian villagers who live with the devastating effects of Chevron's contamination. They have won their case in Ecuador and now must pursue Chevron to meet its obligations."