9/8/09 Update – Lawyer Fernando Larrea, in a September 7th interview with Ecuavisa, affirms that Judge Nunez violated the law when he accepted meetings with individuals seeking environmental remediation contracts. Judge Nunez recused himself from the case on September 4th.
9/4 – Ecuadorian Judge Juan Núñez, the judge presiding over the Chevron environmental lawsuit in Lago Agrio, made the decision Friday to recuse himself from the case. Chevron has maintained that no judge who has participated in the type of meetings shown in the video recordings (released earlier in the week) could possibly have rendered a legitimate decision.
Transcripts of a meeting recorded on June 5 clearly show the judge has prejudged the case even though evidence was still being submitted and final arguments have not been held. And the judge was willing to talk about that decision with businessmen (Hansen) seeking post-verdict remediation contracts.
– Núñez: “Any other questions for me as a judge?”
– Hansen: “Oh no, I, I know clearly how it is, you say, Chevron is the guilty party?”
– Núñez: “Yes Sir.”
– Hansen: “And the, the, the act (decision) is October or November of this year?”
– Núñez: “Yes Sir.”
– Hansen: “And it’s …?”
– Núñez: “No later than January.”
– Hansen: “January 2010. And the money is twenty-seven (billion dollars)?”
– Núñez: “It might be less, and it might be more.”
–The Amazon Defense Coalition supported and defended Judge Núñez:
Surprisingly, the Amazon Defense Coalition rushed to the defense of the judge, even though video evidence showed he was having inappropriate meetings. Rather than concede that the judges’ conduct is improper, the Amazon Defense Coalition defended Judge Núñez’s conduct, the Ecuadorian judicial process and vehemently attacked Chevron for turning over evidence of judicial misconduct.
After the videos were made public on August 31st, Karen Hinton, US spokesperson for the Amazon Defense Coalition said the following, “We have full confidence in the Ecuadorian judicial system…”
In a September 2nd interview with EFE news agency, the Amazon Defense Coalition again defended Núñez and his conduct. In the interview, attorney Pablo Fajardo states, “The judge ‘has acted straight (…) and that rectitude, honesty and openness of the judge is what terrorizes Chevron.’”
The Amazon Defense Coalition’s steadfast support for the judge despite evidence of inappropriate conduct raises important questions about the organization’s tactics and disregard for a fair and impartial hearing of this case.
–Judge’s rulings must be annulled, investigation must move forward:
Now that Judge Núñez has stepped down, it is important that his prior rulings be annulled, including numerous improper rulings to facilitate, as well as shield from scrutiny, the biased Cabrera process.
Moreover, recent statements by Ecuadorian government officials indicate an intent to attack Chevron rather than investigate potentially inappropriate actions by party officials such as Patricio Garcia and Alexis Mera.
The removal of Judge Núñez must not be an attempt to deflect attention from the serious indications of political interference with the case that appear in the video recordings.