Documentarians Are Obliged to Follow the Law, Too

By September 9, 2010Briefly Legal, Energy

From Daniel Fisher’s “Full Disclosure” blog at, “Judge To “Crude” Filmmaker: You’re Part Of The Story“:

Judge Lewis Kaplan’s Sept. 7 order requiring filmmaker Joe Berlinger to undergo a deposition over what he saw and heard while filming the documentary “Crude” is more than a refutation of Berlinger’s argument of journalistic privilege. It’s a warning to future plaintiff lawyers not to let sympathetic filmmakers follow them around, camera in hand. And it offers a glimpse into how Kaplan or another federal judge might view any attempt by attorney Steven Donziger to enforce any judgement he obtains in Ecuador. Kaplan drops enough hints about his concerns over unethical and possibly illegal goings-on down in Ecuador that Donziger’s team should be on notice they will face fierce scrutiny if they ask a U.S. court to enforce their judgment here.

Fisher’s blog quotes a federal judge’s separate ruling in New Mexico, which we also cited in a post at the Manhattan Institute’s legal blog, Point of Law, “Damning revelations in outtakes from anti-Chevron movie, ‘Crude’.” District Judge Lorenzo F. Garcia summarized the revelations originally concealed in Berlinger’s footage:

The release of many hours of the outtakes has sent shockwaves through the nation’s legal communities, primarily because the footage shows, with unflattering frankness, inappropriate, unethical and perhaps illegal conduct. In the film itself, Attorney Donziger brags of his ex parte contacts with the Ecuadorian judge, confessing that he would never be allowed to do such things in the United States, but, in Ecuador, everyone plays dirty. The outtakes support, in large part, Applicants’ contentions of corruption in the judicial process. They show how nongovernmental organizations, labor organizations, community groups and others were organized by the Lago Agrio attorneys to place pressure on the new Ecuadorian government to push for a specific outcome in the litigation, and how the Ecuadorian government intervened in ongoing litigation., the blog of the National Association of Manufacturers, makes a brief appearance, as well. Judge Kaplan recognized that  bloggers and members of the public know how to download public documents from the federal courts’ electronic filing system.

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