Monday, January 20, 2014

HuffPost: New Christie Attack Dog Attorney Randy Mastro No Friend to Ecuador's Indigenous Peoples

New York City-based writer Nikolas Kozloff has written a powerful indictment of the lawyer that embattled New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has hired to help him handle a scandal that threatens to engulf the Governor's administration and destroy any chance he may have at a White House run.

Governor Christie has hired none other than Gibson Dunn's Randy Mastro to try and fend off the scandal over the administration's recent abuses.

The Governor's bullying ways were brought into stark relief after inquiries into what turned out to be punitive traffic gridlock for Fort Lee residents, who were unlucky enough to find themselves in the Governor's cross-hairs for having the temerity to elect a Mayor who refused to endorse Mr. Christie during his successful re-election bid.

If you want a preview of the way in which Randy Mastro will try and rescue Christie, you need look no further than the cynical, deceptive, and abusive legal counter-attack Mastro has led for Chevron in the company's efforts to evade accountability for its Ecuador disaster.

Kozloff writes:
Realizing that the company probably could not win its case on the merits, Mastro decided to change the nature of the debate entirely. In a rapidly unraveling kangaroo process, Mastro took advantage of a bizarre legal tactic which states that U.S. courts may force testimony to assist foreign courts. If Chevron prevailed, the U.S. would probably assist Chevron in defending against the Ecuadoran judgment in other countries where the plantiffs might seek to pursue the case.

Taking his cue from the earlier Nicaraguan Dole case, Mastro shifted the focus from pollution to attorney ethics. Through a calculated campaign of obfuscation, denial, personal attacks and claims of bias by the Ecuadoran legal system, Mastro sought to divert attention away from the suffering plaintiffs.
It makes sense, in a perverse kind of way: bully Governor hires bully lawyer to defend himself against charges of bullying.

An expert in Latin American history (with a Ph.D from Oxford University), Nikolas Kozloff has explored the impact of oil companies in the Amazon, authoring the recent landmark book, No Rain in the Amazon: How South America's Climate Change Affects the Entire Planet. He has explored Chevron's toxic legacy in the Amazon. In his latest piece on Huffington Post, he provides a brief history of Chevron's toxic legacy in Ecuador:
In order to put Chevron's problems in context, we must go back in time some twenty years. According to Ecuadoran Indians, from 1964 to 1990 Texaco caused serious damage to human health and the environment by employing obsolete technology in drilling operations at hundreds of wells spread throughout the jungle. Indigenous peoples claim that contamination created a virtual "death zone" in an area the same size of the state of Rhode Island. Within the area, they say, local people have suffered from increased rates of cancer, leukemia, birth defects, and a variety of other medical problems.
And finally, Kozloff concludes:
In light of Mastro's tactics in the Ecuador affair, perhaps we should expect the unexpected when it comes to the unfolding investigation into Chris Christie's affairs. If history is any indication, Mastro will probably try to wear out investigators or to turn the tables. A master of the counter-suit, Mastro might seek to question the credibility of Christie opponents or to underhandedly change the "narrative." From Nicaragua to Ecuador, these are strategies that have worked for Gibson & Dunn over the years, and the firm may well be tempted to employ such an approach once more.
Read the entire article at Huffington Post, and stay tuned for more on Randy Mastro and the Gibson Dunn, and Crutcher law firm.