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Steven Donziger: convicted of criminal contempt

Date: Jul 30, 2021

Here are relevant excerpts (footnotes omitted) from the’s 245-page-long decision by United States District Judge Loretta A. Preska, rendered earlier this week:

“The events giving rise to this criminal contempt case mark the latest chapter in a sprawling legal saga—spanning multiple continents and over twenty-five years of fierce litigation— between Defendant Steven Donziger and Chevron Corporation CVX -1.3% (“Chevron”) regarding oil pollution in the Orient region of the Ecuadorian Amazon. This case, however, is wholly unconcerned with the debate regarding any responsibility Chevron might bear for that pollution. Yet, this case is no less important to a society, like ours, that holds the rule of law among its cardinal virtues. Indeed, at stake here is the fundamental principle that a party to a legal action must abide by court orders or risk criminal sanctions, no matter how fervently he believes in the righteousness of his cause or how much he detests his adversary.

“By order to show cause dated July 30, 2019 (the “Order to Show Cause”), Judge Lewis A. Kaplan charged Mr. Donziger with six counts of criminal contempt arising from Mr. Donziger’s refusal to comply with multiple court orders in Chevron Corp. v. Donziger…. By repeatedly and willfully defying Judge Kaplan’s orders, that is precisely what Mr. Donziger did. It’s time to pay the piper. Because the Special Prosecutors have proven each element of criminal contempt of a court order beyond a reasonable doubt, the Court finds and renders a verdict of GUILTY on each of the six counts of criminal contempt charged in the Order to Show Cause…. Contrary to Mr. Donziger’s assertion that his conviction was “pre-ordained,” the Court finds him guilty on each count for one reason and one reason only: Mr. Donziger did that with which he is charged.”

Steven Donziger has already been disbarred for his connivance with others to purchase a mammoth Ecuadorean judgment against Chevron, as has been detailed in many earlier columns.. In 2014, a federal judge in Manhattan found that he and others had conspired to fabricate evidence, and blocked him from enforcing the judgment and collecting more than $550 million in legal fees. He is now convicted criminally of defying court orders to, among other things, turn over evidence in that racketeering lawsuit and to assign to Chevron his rights to the fees. The oil giant has engaged in a successful, and extremely expensive, decade-long fight to defend itself against the fraud and to prevent the Ecuadorean judgment from being accepted elsewhere.

To read the full story on Forbes, click here.