When Chevron foe Steven Donziger goes on trial for criminal contempt starting Monday, it will mark a milestone in a bitter feud that has been raging for nearly three decades since the now-disbarred human rights lawyer helped indigenous Ecuadorians sue the oil giant over pollution in the Amazon rainforest.
Human rights advocates see Donziger’s case as a test of whether public-interest lawyers can do their work without fear of reprisal. But some corporate lawyers believe the case actually shows a concerted effort to extort an ultrawealthy company defendant via the legal system.
To University of Maryland environmental law professor Robert Percival, the saga continues only because both sides’ lawyers “developed this unbelievable animus toward each other. They hate each other so much that it’s made it impossible for this to end.”
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