The lawyer who tried to shake down Chevron loses his law license.
Plaintiff attorney Steven Donziger’s attempted looting of Chevron for spurious environmental crimes in Ecuador ranks among the biggest legal scams in history. The law finally caught up to Mr. Donziger this week as a New York court pulled his legal license.
Readers may recall Mr. Donziger’s years-long effort to shake down Texaco (now merged with Chevron) for its alleged failure to clean up oil pits that it had drilled in Ecuador during the 1970s. Chevron claimed it had cleaned up the pits, but the plaintiff attorney exploited the left’s loathing of Big Oil and Ecuador’s shaky legal system. Many in the American media fell for it too.
An Ecuadorian court held Chevron liable for $8.6 billion in damages. But Chevron fought back, and federal Judge Lewis Kaplan in 2014 exonerated the company. In a 485-page decision, Judge Kaplan rebuked Mr. Donziger for engaging in judicial bribery, coercion, witness tampering and hiring of an American consulting firm to ghostwrite an expert’s reports, among other offenses against legal ethics.
Mr. Donziger once bluntly told a documentary filmmaker: “We have concluded that we need to do more, politically, to control the court, to pressure the court. We believe they make decisions based on who they fear the most, not based on what the laws should dictate.”
Luckily U.S. judges aren’t as corruptible. A Second Circuit Court of Appeals panel unanimously upheld Judge Kaplan’s ruling in 2016, but the shameless Mr. Donziger has continued to importune other countries where Chevron has assets to enforce the fraudulent Ecuadorian judgment. An appeals court in Argentina and Brazil’s Superior Court of Justice recently rejected Mr. Donziger’s petitions.
On Tuesday New York’s first Appellate Division took a step toward reining in Mr. Donziger’s marauding by suspending his license to practice. “Judge Kaplan’s findings constitute uncontroverted evidence of serious professional misconduct which immediately threatens the public interest,” the court declared.
Mr. Donziger’s foot soldiers in other countries continue to try to enforce the judgment, but credit to the New York court for sending a strong message to conniving trial lawyers that their shenanigans won’t be tolerated in American courtrooms.
To read the original story on the Wall Street Journal, click here.