Thursday, April 21, 2011

Chevron Gets Scared, Moves to Avoid Jury Trial

Chevron has launched yet another front on its endless legal shenanigans. In a desperate attempt to avoid a jury trial, the oil giant has filed papers in Judge Lewis Kaplan’s court seeking to remove Steven Donziger and his highly-respected counsel John Keker out of the first phase of a racketeering case in New York that the oil giant filed in February to try to escape paying an $18 billion judgment in Ecuador for causing massive pollution to the Amazon rainforest.

The Amazon Defense Coalition blasted the oil giant's latest attempt to bully Ecuadorian plaintiffs seeking justice in Amazon:

Chevron is clearly "petrified" of a jury trial against Keker, who is based in San Francisco near the oil giant's headquarters and is widely considered one of America's leading trial lawyers, said Karen Hinton, the spokesperson for the Ecuadorian plaintiffs suing the oil giant. On behalf of Donziger, Keker has locked horns with New York judge Lewis Kaplan, who is presiding over Chevron's racketeering case in federal court, accusing him of trampling Donziger's due process rights and asking that he reassign the case to another judge.

"With its latest court filing, Chevron is admitting that it does not think its lawyers can win a trial before a jury of impartial American citizens who would likely review evidence of the company's reckless and potentially criminal misconduct in Ecuador," said Hinton.

"This is an extraordinary capitulation prompted by Chevron's desire to avoid having to prove its spurious allegations before an impartial jury," she added.

Donziger has repeatedly demanded to the New York court that he wants to exercise his constitutional right to a jury trial to respond to Chevron's "outrageous" allegations in the racketeering case that the environmental lawsuit in Ecuador, on which he has worked for the better part of two decades, is based on sham evidence. In response, Chevron filed papers late Wednesday seeking to drop Donziger from the first phase of the RICO trial that Kaplan scheduled for November of this year.

"Chevron's lawyers make all sorts of defamatory charges against Steven Donziger, and then they run for the hills when it comes time to put up or shut up," said Juan Pablo Saenz, an Ecuadorian lawyer who represents the plaintiffs. In February, after an eight-year trial that generated more than 200,000 pages of evidence, an Ecuador trial court found Chevron liable for dumping billions of gallons of toxic waste into the Amazon, causing an outbreak of cancer and decimating indigenous groups. Damages were found to be up to $18 billion.

You can read the full release here.

Once again if you read between the lines it should become clear by now that now clear that the RICO charges are a ruse. Chevron’s real agenda is to obtain a ruling from U.S. Judge Lewis Kaplan that the recent $9.5 billion Ecuadorian judgment against Chevron is unenforceable. Such a ruling could be used as a litigation tool in what will likely be future court disputes about the judgment’s enforcement. Judge Kaplan has not hidden his bias in Chevron’s favor and his utter distaste for the Ecuadorians and their country.

You can bet that the plaintiffs seeking justice against the corrupt oil giant will not be intimidated by this. We hope you and others reading our blog will speak the truth and join our efforts to seek justice today.