Thursday, March 17, 2011

Chevron Tries To Delay Ecuadorians’ Demand For Jury Trial As Oil Giant Continues To Victimize Its Victims

It’s no secret that Chevron is willing to do just about anything to get out of taking responsibility for what they have done to the Ecuadorian Amazon. They have thrown the proverbial kitchen sink at indigenous groups seeking justice for Chevron’s mess. They also have the backing of a U.S. judge who recently issued an outrageous court decision that ignored key evidence of Chevron’s fraud in Ecuador. The decision also enjoined the Ecuadorians from enforcing a recent $9.5 billion judgment in the United States.

Now Chevron wants to delay and possibly prevent the victims of their contamination from having a jury trial on Chevron’s outrageous charges of extortion and racketeering. Apparently, Chevron is now working hard to delay its own counter-suit in New York which has already been panned as “corporate bullying.” Chevron’s claims are pretty far fetched. The oil giant is arguing that attempts to inform the public about its misconduct through negative press releases and lobbying efforts with elected officials is the equivalent of “extortion and racketeering.” The Ecuadorians, along with their attorneys, consultants and supporters who also have been named in the lawsuit, deserve their day in court in front of jury.

Thankfully, we are seeing effective push-back against Chevron’s latest delay tactics. The highly-respected San Francisco attorney John Keker is representing one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers. He stated his concern that Chevron is trying to skirt a jury trial.

At a hearing this week, Keker said that Chevron is trying to avoid facing a jury on key issues. He said the Ecuadorians and their attorneys “want a jury trial on the very serious issues of which he is being accused.”

In a Courthouse News article, Keker also defended the trial in Ecuador which returned the $9.5 billion judgment.

Keker objected to what he called the "wholesale condemnation" of the Ecuador judicial system, which he said was implicit in Chevron's request to separate a decision on the enforceability of the judgment from the so-called “extortion” charges.

"Decrying the Ecuadorean court system in a vacuum ... seems to use to be wrong," Keker said. "It has trials. It has opposed proceedings. It has judges. It has appeals."

`Keker added that Chevron's constant requests to hurry proceedings, and Kaplan's subsequent approvals, have compromised the plaintiffs’ defense. In support of this claim, he pointed to Kaplan's recently signed order to show cause, which the judge granted after meeting with Chevron's lawyer ex parte. […]

“Everything that they say almost is disputed, but they've been having their way because there was nobody around to dispute them," Keker said Tuesday.

Chevron is playing fast and loose with its facts and is making irresponsible accusations about people who are fighting for justice in the Amazon. Like a bully on the playground, it is not used to people standing up and saying no.

We can only hope that Chevron’s lies judicial won’t trump the facts in the case.