Judge rules that head plaintiffs’ lawyer Steven Donziger must testify on his role in the Chevron Ecuador lawsuit:
A U.S. lawyer advising the plaintiffs in a $27 billion environmental case in Ecuador has been ordered to comply with a deposition request by defendant Chevron Corp. (CVX).
The lawyer, Steve Donziger, has been prominent in helping indigenous tribes in Ecuador’s Amazon lead a multi-year legal battle against the U.S. oil major over alleged pollution in Ecuadorean operations formerly owned by Texaco Inc. Chevron inherited the lawsuit when it acquired Texaco in 2001.
In a ruling last Wednesday, a judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York denied Donziger’s requests to quash the petition for deposition submitted by Chevron, which aims to prove alleged wrongdoing by the legal team advising the plaintiffs.
Plaintiffs denied any wrongdoing and say that they are considering all legal options, including an appeal.
Karen Hinton, a spokeswoman for the plaintiffs, said that Chevron is trying to open all private communications between lawyers and their clients for the entire 17-year duration of the litigation, “as part of its stratagem to evade accountability in Ecuador.”
Over the past months, some federal and district judges in the U.S. have granted requests by Chevron to take depositions and obtain documents for use in the Ecuadorian case.
As part of its U.S. legal offensive, Chevron also won the right to order Joe Berlinger, director of the documentary “Crude,” to deliver 600 hours of outtakes from the documentary, which provided the legal base to request testimony from Donziger.
In his opinion, U.S. judge Lewis Kaplan said that the outtakes from Crude “contain substantial evidence” that Donziger and other advisers had secret meetings with the Richard Cabrera, the court-appointed expert that put the $27 billion price tag on the case and may have provided some or all of the conclusions of the final report the expert presented in the Ecuadorean court.
According to Hinton, plaintiffs have followed Ecuadorian court procedures which allow meetings with experts and presentation of materials.
“We broke no laws or rules,” she added. “A full rebuttal of Chevron’s allegations requires knowledge of a 200,000-page trial record in Ecuador as well as familiarity with Ecuador’s laws, procedures and rules.”
Meanwhile, Chevron said that it is confident that the evidence obtained in this process “will provide additional proof of the fraud and corruption perpetrated by Mr. Donziger and his associates in the trial against Chevron in Ecuador.”
Plaintiffs accuse Chevron of having used out-of-date technology that led to rain-forest and river pollution, causing environmental damage and personal injuries in Ecuador. Chevron has denied the accusations.