Thursday, October 3, 2013

Chevron Continues Abusive Efforts to Rig Trial in Retaliatatory RICO Case vs. Donziger and Ecuadorian Villagers

Last week, after bringing in heavy-hitting trial lawyer Ted Olson to argue its case, Chevron prevailed in its effort to keep its favorite judge overseeing the upcoming trial over the oil giant's retaliatory lawsuit against lawyer Steven Donziger and his clients from the Ecuadorian Amazon. Days later, on the eve of the trial, Chevron dropped its damages claims against Donziger.

Why would they do that?

Well, once Chevron secured Judge Lewis Kaplan—who has displayed outright bias against the Ecuadorians and their legal team who sued Chevron over its rainforest Chernobyl—the company wanted to make sure it was Kaplan, and Kaplan alone, deciding the case.

As The Wall Street Journal—a pro-Big Business organ if there ever was one—put it:

"Trying the case before a jury would be riskier for the company, experts said, in part because jurors might not be sympathetic to its argument that it has been victimized by the lawyers for Ecuadorian villagers."
In other words, a jury would likely see right through Chevron's cynical efforts to play the victim after being found guilty of massive oil contamination—causing a horrific epidemic of oil-related sickness and death amongst thousands of poor rural Ecuadorians—in one of the most-litigated environmental cases in history.

And so, the company argued, without damages claims, Donziger loses his right to a jury trial.

But, according to a press release today, Donziger and the other RICO defendants disagree, and will pressing their view before the court tomorrow:

Donziger and his clients are due to file a motion tomorrow explaining why the law still requires a jury rather than allowing a bench trial before Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, who has a documented history of bias in favor of Chevron.

But, in addition to making sure the oil giant's dear friend in the federal court is the sole "decider," the company is going to alarming lengths to rig the trial:

Chevron is now trying to bar any and all evidence of environmental contamination in Ecuador from its RICO case as part of a strategy to deny rainforest villagers and their New York attorney Steven Donziger a fair trial, according to recent court filings.
The press release continues:

Chevron has asked Judge Kaplan to bar Donziger and the Ecuadorians from using any of the overwhelming scientific evidence that proved the company’s guilt when it was found liable by the Ecuador court for $19 billion in damages.

Chevron also has asked Judge Kaplan to bar Donziger and the Ecuadorians from presenting evidence related to “environmental and human conditions” in the affected area of Ecuador’s rainforest and to exclude the use of any scientific studies related to the contamination.  The Ecuador court relied on such studies as well as tens of thousands of chemical sampling results to find Chevron liable in the case.

Christopher Gowen, a law professor and spokesman for Donziger and the Ecuadorians called Chevron’s attempts to restrict evidence “stunning in breadth and scope,” saying:

"Chevron obviously is so afraid of its own wrongdoing that it wants to have an environmental trial without talking about the environment. That’s what corporate polluters do when they get caught with their pants down.”

Chevron's shocking requests to Judge Kaplan are laid out in its Summary Notice of Motions in limine. Here is an excerpt:

    Chevron requests that this Court enter an order: 
  • precluding Defendants from offering at trial evidence, arguments, or questioning in support of the proposition that the findings of the Cabrera report, the Ecuadorian judgment, or Defendants’ allegations in the Ecuadorian proceeding were accurate or supported by evidence and sound scientific analysis, including but not limited to a prohibition on the submission of evidence, arguments, or questioning regarding the following topics, except insofar as the evidence is otherwise relevant:
  • alleged environmental and human conditions in the Oriente region of Ecuador, including scientific or other studies, testing or sampling results, video or still images, or personal testimonies; and
  • the procedures employed in the TexPet Remediation, the efficacy of those procedures, or their compliance with agreements and with Ecuadorian law.

Today's press release outlines more:

In various court filings, Chevron also has asked Judge Kaplan to bar Donziger and the Ecuadorians from presenting evidence of:

**Chevron’s repeated contacts with high-level government officials in Ecuador to try to illegally quash the case;

**Chevron’s many private contacts with Ecuadorian judges and independent court experts;

**Chevron internal videos showing company technical experts in Ecuador laughing at the pollution while discussing ways to hide it from the court;

**Personal testimony from individuals about pollution and health impacts that was relied on by the Ecuador court;

**Chevron’s sting operation against an Ecuador judge where the company tried to orchestrate a fake bribery scandal to derail the trial;

**Chevron’s creation of dummy companies to hide its control of a supposedly independent laboratory that processed soil samples for the court;

**Evidence that the legal team for the rainforest communities received death threats and were harassed during the trial;

**Evidence of Chevron’s surveillance of Donziger, Ecuadorian lawyer Pablo Fajardo, and others;

**Evidence of Chevron’s lobbying contacts in the U.S. designed to pressure Ecuador’s government to quash the case.

Pablo Fajardo, lead lawyer for the rainforest communities in Ecuador, commented:

“We thoroughly reject Chevron’s blatant attempt to rig the trial before Judge Kaplan by barring the decades of accumulated evidence of its environmental crimes, fraud, and misconduct in Ecuador."

As always, for an overview of Chevron's crimes in Ecuador, watch this video overview or this 60 Minutes segment, or review this summary of the overwhelming evidence against the company.  Chevron is now fighting a $19 billion judgment against the company.

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