A New York federal judge on Monday set a fall trial date for the criminal contempt trial of environmental attorney Steven Donziger stemming from a years-long saga with Chevron Corp. over pollution in Ecuador.
During a teleconference, U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska cited the coronavirus pandemic as the reason a planned June trial could not go forward and scheduled the bench proceeding to begin on Sept. 9.
The judge agreed with Donziger’s assertion that a trial in June would be untenable in light of the risks of the COVID-19 outbreak would pose to participants’ health.
“I certainly take Mr. Donziger’s point that the current pandemic makes it impossible to hold any trial, jury or bench, in mid-June,” Judge Preska said.
The lengthy and unusual battle between Chevron and Donziger stems from his role in landing a $9.5 billion environmental judgment against the oil company in 2011 in Ecuador. The judgment stemmed from allegations that Chevron predecessor Texaco Inc. contaminated the Amazon rainforest, part of Donziger’s decades of work for tens of thousands of people in Ecuador who said they’d been hurt by environmental pollution caused by the company.
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