Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Court Ruling in Chevron’s RICO Case: Violates First Amendment and Will Backfire In International Courts

This morning, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan delivered his ruling in Chevron's retaliatory RICO case against the Ecuadorian villagers living amidst the company's contamination, and their long-time legal advocate Steven Donziger.

Donziger, his appellate counsel Deepak Gupta, and Han Shan, U.S. spokesperson for the Ecuadorians issued a press release earlier today with the headline:

Chevron’s Flawed RICO Decision in Ecuador Case Violates First Amendment and Will Backfire In International Courts, Defendants Say

The release contains brief statements from the three people listed above, as well as an informative background document with additional analysis on the ruling.

An excerpt from Steven Donziger's 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."
Donziger's statement concludes:
"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.”
Deepak Gupta, the appellate attorney for Donziger, said:
“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... 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.”
And Han Shan, U.S. spokesman for the Ecuadorian villagers had this to say:
“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.”
Read the entire press release here.

Amazon Watch, a US-based human rights and environmental organization that has long supported the Ecuadorian communities, issued a press release as well, stating:
Amazon Watch stands with Ecuadorian communities in rejecting a misguided judgment delaying justice for some 30,000 indigenous people and farmers who continue to suffer from the company's toxic legacy in the Amazon rainforest. The decision – handed down today by New York District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan – also underscores the threat that well-financed corporations pose to justice and the rule of law with their ability to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on efforts to attack victims and their allies.
Today's verdict is an example of Chevron buying and bullying its way to a verdict with 60 law firms and thousands of legal professionals hell-bent on exhausting the Ecuadorians and their allies. Such a verdict will ultimately prove useless in Chevron's efforts to evade justice.