Chevron's Legacy

Chevron's Legacy
The Pollution Chevron Left Behind...Shushufindi pit 38. Chevron's scientists found no contamination at this pit.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Chevron's Ill-fated RICO Suit Facing Doom and Gloom


Chevron’s New York RICO lawsuit is fast going from shock and awe to doom and gloom. 

Legal briefs filed this month before a New York federal appeals court appear to dismantle the very foundation of the shameful Chevron-financed “racketeering” show trial that went down in late 2013 in the courtroom of controversial federal judge Lewis A. Kaplan.  By reading the briefs – which are summarized below-- one can gain even more insight into what might have been one of the most abusive trials in recent memory.

What comes through loud and clear is that presiding Judge Kaplan essentially turned over his federal courtroom to a gigantic oil company so some of its 2,000 lawyers from 60 law firms could have a jolly good time billing huge fees to beat up on impoverished Ecuadorian villagers and their U.S. lawyer, solo practitioner Steven Donziger.  Donziger, who for years has worked out of his apartment in Manhattan to hold Chevron accountable for its human rights crimes in Ecuador, is the lead target of what is probably the most well-financed corporation retaliation campaign in history. 

During the RICO trial– attended daily by Chevron’s $7 million-per-year General Counsel R. Hewitt Pate – Kaplan excluded almost all evidence that would have contradicted Chevron’s fake narrative that it was the victim of the very indigenous groups it poisoned. Kaplan not only denied the defendants a jury of impartial fact finders, he excluded the overwhelming scientific evidence of Chevron’s contamination in Ecuador and generally behaved as an overwrought prosecutor for the oil company.

The key takeaway from the briefs is that Kaplan never had the legal right to let the case proceed in the first place.  This is why we repeatedly have called the RICO proceeding a show trial designed to produce bogus “factual findings” to help Chevron evade enforcement of the Ecuador judgment in foreign jurisdictions.  It bears noting that in 2011, Kaplan was unanimously reversed after he tried to impose an unprecedented injunction purporting to block the Ecuadorian villagers from enforcing their judgment anywhere in the world.

Except in rare circumstances not present here, both U.S. law and international law prohibit one country’s courts from trying to rule on another country's final judicial decisions.  This is exactly what the hyper-excited Kaplan purported to do in March is in his bloated 487-page RICO opinion, which reads more like spin from an oil industry talking head than sound legal reasoning.  Having made up his mind, Kaplan clearly started writing his  magnum opus even before the trial started or the evidence came in. 

It is even more clear from the appellate briefs that Kaplan's findings are based on a stinky stew of Chevron lies, distortions, and the judge's obvious ignorance of the law of a foreign nation whose language he does not speak.   Kaplan did not read the 220,000-page Ecuador trial record, the 188-page trial judgment against Chevron, or the country's civil code.  Nor did he see any of the contaminated sites with his own eyes.  Yet Kaplan decided from his Manhattan courtroom that he knows better how to apply Ecuadorian law than the courts of Ecuador.

As Deepak Gupta, Donziger’s appellate lawyer wrote, it would be hard to find a more extreme example of American “judicial imperialism” that Kaplan's handiwork in this case.

Kaplan thought he was clever to reverse-engineer the trial in Chevron’s favor by excluding key evidence.  But the briefs, which confirm what we have been saying all along about Kaplan’s intellectual dishonesty as a jurist, show him (at least in this case) to be the trickster that he is.   

You heard it here first: after reading these briefs, it is simply inconceivable that Kaplan’s decision survives appeal.  Those journalists who for years have been shamelessly cheerleading the Chevron/Kaplan sideshow – we are thinking mostly of Business Week’s Paul Barrett, Michael Goldhaber of American Lawyer Media, and the once-esteemed Roger Parloff of Fortune who refuses to even print our responses challenging his misleading reporting – better inch back off the Chevron limb if they want to retain even of smidgeon of credibility going forward.

Consider the contents of some of the submissions to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals from the principal defendants and their supporters, who filed “friend of the court” or amicus briefs:

New York Lawyer Steven Donziger:  Donziger, the main target of Chevron’s retaliation campaign, explains in his fact section how the company pays the investigations company Kroll to spy on adversary counsel – including himself and his family.  The brief exposes the dirty tricks used by Kaplan and Chevron’s lawyers to try to prejudice him at every turn – from presenting misleading film outtakes, to ordering him to turn over his entire privileged case file, to forcing him to sit for an American record 19 days of sworn depositions.  He also points out how Kaplan let Chevron use a clearly corrupted witness bribed with more than $1 million of company  money to falsely claim Donziger bribed a judge.   The brief demonstrates how Kaplan denied the defendants their right to a jury; how he never had jurisdiction; how he let Chevron unlawfully use the RICO statute to attack lawyers; and how he simply made up out of whole cloth – after the trial -- a common law fraud claim that Chevron never even asserted as part of a preposterous effort to salvage the company’s weakened legal position.  The brief also points to internal company emails to demonstrate how Chevron mounted a campaign to “demonize” Donziger and ruin his reputation, of which the RICO case was a central feature.

Donziger’s brief, prepared by rising appellate star Gupta of Gupta Beck and John Campbell and Justin Marceau, two young law professors at the University of Denver, can be read here.

Ecuadorian villagers:  Javier Piaguaje and Hugo Camacho, the two Ecuadorians who appeared in the RICO case (45 others rejected Kaplan’s jurisdiction), pointed out that Kaplan did not understand some of the basic differencse between a civil law system used in Latin America and the common law system of the U.S.  As a result, Kaplan spent his 487 pages attacking the wrong judgment – the one from the trial level, rather than the de novo appellate court judgment that was unanimously affirmed by Ecuador’s Supreme Court and is the only relevant decision at this point in the case.  A copy of the brief, prepared pro bono by noted law scholar Burt Neuborne from New York University, can be read here.

International law scholars:  More than 35 prominent international law experts from 11 countries – including Australia, Austria, Spain, the U.S., and Israel – submitted an amicus brief that explains the many ways that Kaplan’s decision violates international law.  The scholars accused Kaplan of trying to unlawfully “dictate” to judges in other countries how they should rule on the enforceability of the Ecuador judgment, in direct contravention of the sovereignty of those countries and U.S. domestic law.  That brief can be read here; a press release about it is here.

U.S. civil society organizations:  Several prominent U.S.-based non-profit organizations -- including Amnesty International, Friends of the Earth, and Amazon Watch – lambasted Kaplan for letting Chevron  use the RICO statute as a weapon to trample on the First Amendment rights of the numerous critics of the company’s Ecuador environmental disaster.  The brief persuasively demonstrates that Chevron used the RICO case as a SLAPP suit designed to harass and silence its critics, in violation of the Constitution.  They also point out that Kaplan, in a clear case of reversible error, never even considered the First Amendment implications of the defendants and their supporters before deciding the case.  That brief can be read here.

Government of Ecuador:  In urging reversal of the RICO decision, the government of Ecuador directs fire at Kaplan’s unprecedented frontal attack on the judiciary of a democratic nation, U.S. ally, and commercial trading partner.  The brief points out that Kaplan’s “finding” that Ecuador’s entire judicial system falls below international standards was based largely on the discredited testimony of Dr. Alvaro Grau, an Ecuadorian politician who is an opponent of the current President of Ecuador and who formed his conclusions based on newspapers stories from the opposition press.   The government also points out that Chevron repeatedly had praised Ecuador’s court system in the 1990s to transfer the matter from U.S. federal court (where it was originally filed in 1993) to the South American nation, and therefore should be prohibited now from complaining about Ecuador’s courts.  Only when the scientific evidence of toxic pollution began to mount against Chevron did the company switch gears and begin to attack Ecuador’s courts in a clear case of sour grapes, argued the government.   The brief, prepared by the American law firm Winston & Strawn, can be read here.

Earth Rights International:  This brief, filed by one of our nation’s most prominent environmental and human rights legal organizations, urges reversal on the grounds that Chevron agreed to submit to jurisdiction in Ecuador and therefore should be bound by the rulings of its courts.  For more on this brief, read here.

As compelling as they are, these briefs capture only a portion of Kaplan’s abuse.  For example, there is no mention of how Kaplan let Chevron pay 100% of the legal fees of his former law partner Max Gitter to serve as “Special Master” during the discovery phase of the RICO trial, but then let Gitter hide his actual invoices from Donziger and the Ecuadorians.  Chevron surely paid Gitter millions of dollars, but due to Kaplan the amount remains a secret.  Whatever the amount, this back-slapping relationship between a supposedly neutral jurist and Chevron is ugly.  And it helps explain why Gitter repeatedly ruled in favor of Chevron and ordered the wholesale disclosure of Donziger's privileged documents, while blocking Donziger from getting almost all of Chevron's documents.  See this analysis for more background on Gitter's biased behavior.

We have come a long way from the “shock and awe” days in 2010 when Chevron claimed every new piece of discovery was somehow proof of the “fraud” that never was.   Chevron CEO John Watson and Pate launched discovery suits in more than 20 federal courts to try to intimidate the villagers and their allies.  The Cabrera damages report ended up being a non-issue, as the Ecuador court refused to consider it; in any event Donziger and several prominent Ecuadorian law scholars stand by it.  The video outtakes of Donziger criticizing Ecuador’s courts are not relevant, and in any event they were manipulated by Chevron to try to taint Donziger’s image and mislead courts throughout the country.  And we now know that the real bribery in the case was Chevron’s -- of its star witness, crooked former judge Alberto Guerra.

It can’t be fun for Watson and Pate to go from shock and awe to doom and gloom, but that indeed is what has happened.  The RICO games don't much matter given that foreign courts are not bound by anything Kaplan orders, and it is likely he will be reversed yet again.  But the meltdown sure is interesting to watch.

Desperate to protect its favorite judge, Chevron has retained former Solicitor General Theodore Olsen to argue its case before the Second Circuit.  As we pointed out before, not even the great Supreme Court orator and now ersatz filmmaker is capable of putting lipstick on Chevron’s pig. 

Once the appellate court rules, Chevron likely will have lost not only in the courts of its chosen forum of Ecuador, but also in the U.S. where it enjoyed a home field advantage.  At that point, enforcement actions targeting billions of dollars of Chevron assets (and currently pending in Canada and Brazil) will be given a huge boost.

In the meantime, the human consequences of Kaplan's folly grow more acute.  Because Kaplan essentially gave Chevron’s management a false sense of confidence, thousands of rainforest villagers now have to put up with life-threatening levels of contamination on their ancestral lands for years longer.  Ultimately, the responsibility lies at the foot of Chevron CEO and Chairman Watson and the notoriously passive members of the company’s Board.  These mostly pale people of privilege, who collect huge fees for serving largely as “yes men” to company management, have done nothing to try to ameliorate a humanitarian disaster created on their watch.

Lance Ito let the O.J. case spiral out of control because of his failure to manage the proceedings.  What is most disturbing from the new briefs is how Kaplan so clearly orchestrated the entire process, even indicating to Chevron’s lawyers how they should present evidence, how they should modify their claims, and what he needed (wink wink) to best put the screws to Donziger, against whom he had a clear personal vendetta.  (See these briefs here and here for Kaplan’s disparaging and inappropriate comments about Donziger and his clients.)

The final death spasms of this sordid chapter in U.S. legal history are in motion.  Kudos to the excellent appellate lawyers who are fighting on, despite Chevron’s pressure campaign.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

How Chevron Cheated Ecuador's Courts From Hearing Evidence of Its Contamination


Remember the names Sarah McMillan, John Conner, and Bjorn Borkman.  

They are Chevron scientific consultants who tried to defraud Ecuador’s courts with trickery and flat-out lies.  Their dishonest work likely will be viewed with great interest in foreign courts that are looking to seize Chevron assets to pay for the company's liability in Ecuador.

We practically fell off our chair when we read the details of this group's subterfuge in a recent court filing (see pp. 33-85 of this legal brief).    Chevron is certainly creative when it comes to cheating.

None of this should come as a surprise.  

We recently reported that a new study by a prominent U.S. scientific consultancy (the Louis Berger Group) yet again confirms that Chevron is responsible for discharging billions of gallons of toxic “water of formation” into the streams and rivers of the rainforest in order to artificially inflate its profits.  The consultancy also confirmed the gritty details of how Chevron tried to trick judges during the Ecuador trial, which concluded in 2011 with a stunning judgment against the company.  

We note that Chevron’s trickery is on top of the company's intimidatin campaign  -- including efforts to threaten Ecuador’s judges with jail time and to paralyze the court by drowning it with frivolous motions.  

The deceptions deployed by McMillan (who is Chevron’s chief scientist) and tainted consultant John Conner have come to light in a legal brief filed by Ecuador’s government in its arbitration dispute with Chevron.  The American law firm Winston & Strawn (which represents Ecuador) quietly has been forcing Chevron to disclose documents that prove the company tried to corrupt the Ecuador trial.

Examples of Chevron’s tricks as described by Winston & Strawn include:

** Conner wrote a playbook directing the company’s field technicians to find only “clean” soil during the judicial inspections by sampling in areas up-gradient from visibly contaminated waste pits.  Chevron’s technicians then tried to act like they were engaging in “random” sampling in front of the judge.

**As confirmed by Bjorkman, Chevron conducted secret pre-inspections of several of the company’s former well sites where it found numerous dirty soil samples that far exceeded Ecuadorian regulatory norms.  Rather than report these samples to the court, the company hid the results.

(This critical data as well as the evidence of Chevron's corruption was not reviewed by U.S. Judge Lewis A. Kaplan is his tainted and farcical RICO trial against the Ecuadorians and their counsel.  This evidence will be reviewed by enforcement courts that are being asked to seize Chevron’s assets to force the company to comply with the Ecuador judgment.)

**Chevron’s Ecuadorian lawyers  -- led by the notorious Adolfo Callejas -- lied to the Ecuador court by claiming the company never performed the tests during its secret pre-inspections.  (See p. 65 of the aforementioned legal brief.)

**During the official judicial inspections (when the judge was present), Chevron tried to take soil samples from the shallow surface layer of dirt that it used to cover its oil waste pits during a sham remediation in the mid-1990s.  Yet data showed that several feet below where Chevron was sampling, the waste pits were saturated with oil that was contaminating soils and groundwater.

**A Chevron operative, Diego Borja, confessed on tape that he would often switch dirty samples for clean ones before submitting them to laboratories for analysis.  He also confessed that the company set up dummy “independent” labs that  actually were controlled by Chevron.  For more on Borja and his corrupt activities, see here

**McMillan’s team also mixed dirty soil with clean soil from the same site so as to artificially lower the average of the contamination found.

**Chevron never tested for key markers of oil contamination, such as Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons.  Instead, it tested for more narrow constituent elements that made the contamination appear less extensive than it really was.

**Chevron used two inappropriate laboratory tests (TCLP and Method 8015) that made it virtually impossible to detect illegal levels of contamination, even from oil-saturated soil.  Method 8015 counts only 50% of the hydrocarbons in petroleum, while the TCLP test often captures less than 1% of the actual contamination. 

(The TCLP test runs water over soils contaminated with hydrocarbons, and measures the amount of hydrocarbons in the runoff.  Because water and oil don’t mix, the runoff contains almost none of the oil in the soil.)

**Chevron’s team also refused to test for an extremely toxic class of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons that are harmful to human health -- apparently knowing that such tests would point to its guilt.

**Chevron blamed high cancer rates and other health problems on the presence of fecal matter even though there is no scientific evidence connecting fecal matter with cancer.  The high rates of cancer and risks to human health have been confirmed in several peer-reviewed studies by independent doctors.  

The legal brief captured the company’s subterfuge:

Chevron has expended tremendous sums on expensive experts, laboratories, and technology.  Armed with its deep resources, Chevron systematically and deliberately devoted time and money to detect where contamination exists and where it does not.  Chevron then systematically did everything in its power to avoid sampling at the most contaminated locations, thereby seeking to minimize its findings of contamination, all the while contending that its anything-but-random samples [during the official judicial inspections] were “representative” of the whole.  They were not.

We admire the restraint of the writer.  It’s not often one can clinically describe an outright fraud by an American oil company designed to hide one of the world’s worst ecological catastrophes.  

Despite the trickery, Chevron still submitted enough soil samples to the Ecuador court from the official inspections to prove the claims against it.  This underscores just how saturated with oil waste Chevron's facilities are years after it fled the country.

Incredibly, additional proof of Chevron’s deceit was captured by the oil company itself on videos it made of its secret pre-inspections.  

Chevron’s video outtakes – which the company has asked courts to seal – show field technicians laughing at the contamination and mocking the Ecuador court process.   A Chevron whistleblower turned them over to a U.S.-based environmental organization.  It is highly doubtful the company can keep them under wraps forever.
  
As we have reported, the LBG report validates the decisions of three layers of courts in Ecuador that found the company liable and imposed the damages award.  The amount ($9.5 billion) surely must sting in the Chevron boardroom.  But it is actually a modest penalty taking into account the venality of the company’s misconduct and the magnitude of the damage.  BP’s liability is three times higher (and rising) for the far smaller Deepwater Horizon spill.

Chevron of course admitted to deliberately dumping at least 16 billion gallons of oil-laced produced water when it operated in Ecuador from 1964 to 1992.  The company also abandoned more than 900 unlined waste pits gouged out of the jungle floor.  Cancer rates in the region, where an estimated 200,000 people live, have skyrocketed

We note that McMillan, Conner, and Bjorkman are not the only “academics” willing to sell their integrity to Chevron for money and make themselves complict in human rights abuses.  The company also has submitted to courts reports from Douglas Southgate, who is associated with a think tank that denies conventional theories about global warming; and the infamous Ralph Marquez, formerly the lead lobbyist for the chemical industry in the state of Texas and a Chevron consultant. 

When Chevron management decides to do business with dogs like this, everybody associated with the company gets fleas.  No reputable academic would even think of working under McMillan, whose entire purpose is to obfuscate the truth and to cast doubt on the overwhelming scientific evidence of the company's crimes.

  


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

"Legal Tender" - Donny Rico on how Chevron’s legal thuggery really works

Donny Rico on how Chevron's legal thuggery really works

Reposted from the Eye on the Amazon

At long last we bring you Episode #3 in The Adventures of Donny Rico, a clever deep dive into the methods used by Chevron in its desperate and unethical campaign to turn the tables on the very victims it poisoned in Ecuador's rainforest. [Watch Episodes #1 and #2 here and here.]

Take it from Donny: it's no secret that Chevron has spent millions upon millions of dollars in an abusive "scorched earth" legal strategy to attack not only the villagers and their representatives who have held the company accountable in Ecuador, but virtually anyone who supports them. This is part of a decades-long legal strategy to delay paying for a clean-up, to deny the facts and simply to try to crush the opposition which has been gaining the upper hand yet again.

As a recent Huffington Post article stated in relation to Chevron's abuse of our civil justice system to evade its obligations in Ecuador: "Chevron has put an unprecedented amount of resources into its campaign against the Ecuadorian villagers, hiring more than 60 law firms and 2,000 legal professionals to wage a war of attrition, wearing the plaintiffs down through countersuits and flooding them with a constant barrage of paperwork."

In this case, Chevron hired a law firm willing to throw ethics to the wind and take extraordinary steps to concoct a story of Chevron as the actual VICTIM of a conspiracy. Just imagine what it would take to try to turn the tables after Chevron had ADMITTED to dumping toxic waste into the Amazon rainforest.

Well, it turns out the best way to do it is to go the ol' Nixon route and try a bunch of dirty tricks – and then accuse the other side of doing just those things. Who better to lead the campaign than the "guns for hire" known as Gibson Dunn & Crutcher? The same firm the Montana Supreme Court blasted for using "legal thuggery" and "blatant and malicious intimidation" tactics while another U.S. federal judge said that the firm maintained "a culture [of] obstruction and gamesmanship."

Just like their sister spin-doctor and PR flack Sam Singer, Gibson Dunn is quite open about using a template to defend its high-profile corporate clients who are losing legal cases or are trapped in scandal. It does this by targeting the lawyers or witnesses who held their clients accountable with character assassination and defamation campaigns.

Gibson Dunn masterminded a strategy where a single U.S. judge with more arrogance than Dick Cheney re-litigated the eight-year Ecuador trial in his courtroom in what can only be described as a Kafkaesque proceeding. The judge refused to consider the Ecuador trial record, the 64,000 chemical samplings results that proved Chevron committed a massive environmental crime, or the Supreme Court decision that already considered Chevron's complaints and rejected them.

How did Chevron and Gibson Dunn get it done? First they spent years trying to create dirt and get it to stick. They mounted racist attacks on Ecuador, hired PR firms and bloggers to attack the Ecuadorian communities, Ecuador's legal system, and of course the lawyers, activists, human rights defenders or allies supporting them. They launched "sting" operations, attempted to entrap judges, hid information about contamination from the court and turned a straightforward case into what is probably the most abusively litigated nightmare in the history of world jurisprudence. The trial in Ecuador took over a decade to complete.

While Chevron – under the "leadership" of CEO John Watson – was stitching together its Frankenstein monster in Ecuador, it laid the groundwork in the U.S. to fabricate a massive "conspiracy" to be used to try torpedo and delay the verdict they knew would be against them around the world.

Chevron and Gibson Dunn filed dozens of discovery lawsuits across the county and racked up over $36 million in legal fees. They tried to find any court that would hear their trumped up allegations. Many rejected them and one federal appellate court in Philadelphia reversed a discovery order stating "[t]he circumstances supporting [Chevron's] claim of fraud largely are allegations and allegations are not factual findings." The appeals court further chastised Chevron's attacks on the Ecuador courts as "disparaging." Some judges dismissed the firm's legal attacks under laws designed to fight "SLAPPs" (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, i.e. intimidation suits), while others ordered Gibson Dunn to pay fees to its adversary and other sanctions.

But when you have a self-deluded management team with unlimited shareholder funds and an army of lawyers, when confronted with resistance you simply dust ‘em off and try again. So the Chevron and Gibson Dunn fishing expedition eventually nailed a real whale with U.S.Judge Lewis A. Kaplan. With Kaplan essentially taking on the role of Chevron's prosecutor-in-chief in a courtroom where he officially presided as judge, the oil company and Gibson Dunn had never had it so good. The fact that Kaplan's show trial proceeding fell below minimal standards of due process is completely ignored by the company, even though the deep flaws in the proceeding will likely prove fatal to any effort by Chevron to use Kaplan's opinion to block enforcement actions in other jurisdictions.

Kaplan himself encouraged Chevron to file the RICO suit and assigned the case to his own court. He also called the villagers the "so-called" plaintiffs and said their case did not constitute "bona fide litigation" but instead was akin to "mud wrestling." He said the main legal advisor to the Ecuadorians, Steven Donziger, was using the case to become the "next big thing in fixing the balance of payments deficit" of the United States. Really?!

The story of the sham trial has been told many times on Eye on the Amazon. And Donny Rico will have more to say about the particulars of Chevron's (with Kaplan's encouragement) bribing of witnesses and creating fake conspiracies. But it still took massive resources to keep the truth from prevailing in court, and Chevron and Gibson Dunn had many ways to ensure this. Intimidation, pressure and legal might simply made it impossible for opponents to defend themselves.

If they came up against a consulting business that supported the Ecuadorians, they would pressure their other clients to drop them with fake allegations. Stratus Consulting, which had provided scientific reports backing the claims of toxic contamination, is a perfect for example. Chevron tried to block their access to government contracts essential to keeping their business afloat. They hounded Stratus to the brink of bankruptcy by filing misleading complaints with government agencies and creating defamatory websites. Stratus quickly buckled under the legal thuggery and signed a statement written by Gibson Dunn in favor of Chevron and in obvious contradiction to the facts in Ecuador and to the previous sworn statements of the group's consultants.

When facing opposition from journalists, Gibson Dunn either used Kaplan's court or legal threats to intimidate and force them to kill their stories, or to turn over all their sources and footage. Chevron fought CBS's 60 Minutes tooth and nail to prevent production of what turned out to be an extremely damning report (which, by the way, won the 2010 Edward R. Murrow Award). After winning Kaplan's verdict they scared CBS enough to remove the story from the company's website (still found here).

When they faced another big law firm (Patton Boggs) on the side of the Ecuadorian villagers, bullying Gibson Dunn simply found their weak spot and pressed as hard as they could until the firm backed down. Patton Boggs was counting on a merger with a larger law firm to rescue it from its economic problems. With a Kaplan-backed lawsuit filed by Chevron hanging over their heads, Patton Boggs paid Chevron $15 million to back off in violation of their own ethical obligations to their clients.

And what to do when facing growing grassroots pressure and shareholder dissent organized by environmental or human rights groups? Chevron and Gibson Dunn used multiple nasty strategies of attack. They went after our funding, tried to damage our reputation and used more legal thuggery to try to bog us down with massive subpoenas seeking hundreds of thousands of documents detailing campaign strategies and donor information.

But that's just where Gibson Dunn hit a snag. Backed by the pro bono support of excellent human rights and environmental lawyers from EarthRights International, Amazon Watch was ready to defend itself and did. The attacks from Chevron only demonstrated our own effectiveness to our donor base and actually strengthened our organization's resolve to press on.

When Amazon Watch was defending itself in federal court from Chevron subpoenas, Gibson Dunn repeatedly tried to move the case – improperly - into the hands of Judge Kaplan in New York. They failed. And in their attempts they were almost sanctioned by Federal Judge Nathaniel Cousins in San Francisco for serving such overly broad and abusive subpoenas. I guess they started to get a little drunk with power from Kaplan's unending support and got sloppy. But when this real judge looked impartially at their request, he stated that despite over 70 Gibson Dunn filings claiming that Amazon Watch was a conspirator "all that Chevron has shown this Court is that Amazon Watch has been very critical of Chevron's operations in Ecuador." He then warned Chevron that if it tried the same tactics again they had better take great care to "avoid infringing upon the organization's First Amendment rights. Otherwise, the Court (would) impose sanctions."

Gibson Dunn had to let that one go, and I am guessing they're still stewing over it.

One could write hundreds of pages detailing Gibson Dunn's dirty tactics, but we'll leave it to Donny on this note. As he mentions, Gibson Dunn's lead lawyer Randy Mastro personally met in Chicago with Chevron's key witness – disgraced ex-judge Guerra – to negotiate the exchange of huge sums of money and other benefits in exchange for his "factual" testimony. They also doctored video evidence and possibly engaged in fraud on the Ecuador court by failing to disclose that its technicians were ordered to hide dirty soil samples. The list of unprecedented attack on justice waged by Chevron and Gibson Dunn goes on and on. Increasingly disturbing to many is that their "pioneering" work could make it easier for other corporations to do the same without having to spend nearly as much. Kaplan's verdict, though likely to be overturned, could set a dangerous precedent by criminalizing First Amendment protected activities by environmental, human rights and corporate accountability groups.

Which leaves one wondering what's worse: committing the crime and then refusing to clean up, or wasting over a billion dollars to pay rich lawyers to fight while Ecuadorian communities continue to suffer? Actually, they are simply two different sides to the same Chevron coin.