Chevron's Flawed RICO Decision in Ecuador Case Violates First Amendment and Will Backfire in International Courts, Defendants Say
Donziger and Associates
4 March 2014 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Karen Hinton at +1.703.798.3109
New York, NY – A decision in favor of Chevron in a New York RICO case is wrong on the facts and the law, violates the First Amendment, and has little chance of helping the oil giant block international enforcement actions, according to statements issued today by the defendants.
The statements were issued in response to a ruling by federal judge Lewis A. Kaplan by Ecuadorian villagers who won a $9.5 billion judgment against Chevron over massive oil contamination in the Amazon rainforest; Steven Donziger, the longtime legal advocate for the villagers, who is based in New York; and Deepak Gupta, the appellate attorney for Donziger.
Click here to read/download a background document on Judge Kaplan's ruling in the RICO case.
Gupta, the appellate attorney for Donziger, issued the following statement in response to the ruling:
"Today's decision should be extremely troubling for anybody who cares about the rule of law. This court has taken the extraordinary and unprecedented step of appointing itself a worldwide fact-finding commission and issuing what is in effect a global anti-collection injunction that would preclude enforcement of a judgment from another country in every jurisdiction. The injunction is effectively indistinguishable from an injunction issued by Kaplan in the case two years ago that was struck down on appeal.
This decision also effectively outlaws core activity protected by the First Amendment such as bringing lawsuits, holding protests, issuing press releases, and engaging public officials. This is particularly appalling given that this case is about holding a corporation accountable for refusing to clean up decades of toxic pollution in the Amazon."
Steven Donziger, Chevron's principal target, issued the following statement:
"With all due respect to the court, this is an appalling decision resulting from of a deeply flawed proceeding that overturns a unanimous ruling by Ecuador's Supreme Court. We believe Judge Kaplan is wrong on the law and wrong on the facts and that he repeatedly let his implacable hostility toward me, my Ecuadorian clients, and their country infect his view of the case. This decision is full of vitriol, is based on paid evidence from a corrupt former judge, and ignores the overwhelming evidence that Chevron committed environmental crimes and fraud in Ecuador. Through this decision, we now have the spectacle of a Manhattan trial judge purporting to overrule Ecuador's Supreme Court on questions of Ecuadorian law. All of these factual and legal issues will be addressed in due course on appeal. We are confident we will be fully vindicated in the U.S., as we have been in Ecuador.
Well before the trial began, Judge Kaplan made it clear he would rule against us. By not allowing me and my clients to argue before a jury, we did not have a chance to tell the real story of Chevron's wrongdoing in Ecuador which proves the judgment is based on overwhelming and unassailable scientific evidence that Chevron committed an environmental disaster that continues to cause harm to thousands of people.
It is worth noting that this ruling is a far cry from what Chevron wanted. It does not block enforcement of the Ecuador judgment. Nothing in Judge Kaplan's ruling will prevent my clients from pursuing the judgment's enforcement in other countries. The villagers deserve justice, and I am confident they will get it despite Chevron's efforts to undermine the rule of law.
I will continue my efforts on behalf of my clients consistent with the law. I also will pursue an immediate and expedited appeal so that a panel of impartial judges can review this decision."
Han Shan, the U.S. spokesman for the Ecuadorian villagers issued the following statement:
"While the Ecuadorians respect the rule of law in all countries, they do not accept this court's jurisdiction nor this ruling. The affected communities long ago gave up hope that a U.S. court would provide them relief from Chevron's contamination, which has taken their loved ones, poisoned their lands, and imperiled their cultures.
Their focus now is on enforcing their judgment in countries where they can receive a fair hearing about Chevron's pollution of the rainforest and refusal to abide by a legitimate ruling from the courts in Ecuador, where the company demanded the case be heard. It is time for Chevron to end its abusive efforts at evading justice, and restore the indigenous people and villagers who suffer from the company's terrible legacy."