Plaintiffs Lawyer Donziger Suspended in Wake of Judge’s Findings of ‘Fraud’ and ‘Coercion’ in Chevron Pollution Case – New York Law Journal
Steven Donziger, the New York lawyer who won a $8.6 billion judgment against Chevron Corp. for environmental damage to Ecuador by a predecessor company, has been suspended from practice indefinitely by a panel in Manhattan state appellate court.
The New York state judges relied on a federal judge’s finding that Donziger won the judgment through fraud and coercion.
In 2014, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan of the Southern District of New York found after a seven-week trial that Donziger, who represented plaintiffs who claimed they were harmed by toxic sludge, obtained the award through corruption and defrauding the Ecuadorian judiciary.
Kaplan had also issued an injunction barring Donziger from collecting on the judgment anywhere in the United States.
In a ruling issued on Tuesday, a panel of the Appellate Division, First Department, said that Kaplan’s findings “constitute uncontroverted evidence of serious professional misconduct which immediately threatens the public interest.”
The decision was joined by Justices John Sweeny Jr., Dianne Renwick, Rosalyn Richter, Sallie Manzanet-Daniels and Marcy Kahn.
Naomi Goldstein appeared for the Grievance Committee; and George A. Davidson of Hughes Hubbard & Reed appeared in the case as pro bono special counsel for the committee.
Donziger, who has been in practice since 1997, appeared pro se in the disciplinary proceeding. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In the fallout from Kaplan’s ruling, law firm Patton Boggs—now Squire Patton Boggs—which had stood alongside Donziger in representing the plaintiffs in the case, apologized for its role and agreed to pay $15 million to Chevron.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed Kaplan’s ruling and denied Donziger’s bid to rehear the case en banc; the U.S. Supreme Court also denied cert to hear the case.
Additionally, a group of indigenous Ecuadorians brought suit against Donziger in New York claiming that he was trying to keep the judgment money for himself, but the Second Circuit said Ecuador was the proper venue for the claim.
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