Monday, March 28, 2011

Ecuadorian and U.S. Judge Base Their Opposing Decisions On Chevron Evidence

So within three weeks of each other, Ecuadorian Judge Nicholas Zambrano and U.S. Judge Lewis Kaplan issued opposing decisions about the massive eco-disaster lawsuit in Ecuador. They have, oddly enough, one thing in common: both are based largely on evidence presented by Chevron.

On February 14th, Judge Zambrano awarded the Ecuadorian plaintiffs $9.5 billion in damages against Chevron for the intentional contamination of the Amazon rainforest. He based his judgment on over 60,000 soil and water samples that showed illegal levels of contamination. Over 50,000 of the samples had been taken by Chevron itself, and the rest by the plaintiffs. Judge Zambrano also adopted the conclusions of Chevron’s own expert on the damage costs; Chevron-sponsored consultant Gerado Barros estimated $6 billion in soil and water remediation costs. (The rest of the damage award is for medical facilities, cleaning drinking water and other expenses.)

In other words, Judge Zambrano based his decision mostly on Chevron’s own evidence.

On March 8th, Judge Kaplan granted Chevron a preliminary injunction to prevent the Ecuadorians’ U.S. attorneys from enforcing Judge Zambrano’s February 14th decision on grounds that the decision is fraudulent, citing Chevron’s briefs 162 times, compared with 10 cites from the plaintiffs’ briefs.

But, how can Judge Zambrano’s decision be fraudulent if it’s largely based on what Chevron submitted to the Ecuadorian Court?

Good question. Here are a few more:

If the Ecuadorian courts are corrupt – as Judge Kaplan and Chevron have argued – why did it take eight years for the court to rule?

Wouldn’t a year or two been enough to fake a “fixed” trial?

And, why would the plaintiffs even bother to ask for a 4,000-page global assessment report much less “ghostwrite” it, as Chevron alleges?

Those are just some of the disconcerting questions folks should wonder aloud about while merits of this case keep getting “lost” in (Chevron induced) legal haze.