Federal Judge Concludes Ecuador in Bed with U.S. Trial Lawyer

By November 30, 2010Briefly Legal, Energy, Trade

U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan of the Southern District of New York has just ruled that U.S. trial lawyer Steven Donziger had to respond fully by supplying documents sought by Chevron so it can defend itself from the $113 billion lawsuit/shakedown over environmental damage in Ecuador. In his memorandum order, available here, Judge Kaplan describes the documents Donziger has so far resisted producing:

At this point, Donziger has produced some of the documents demanded by the subpoena. Instead of producing the balance, however, he submitted, on November 15, 2010, a purported privilege log – which is over 2,000 pages long and claims privilege as to 8,652 documents – and contends that he now should be permitted to litigate those privilege claims. The log includes claims of privilege as to approximately 2,500 or more documents sent or disclosed to a public relations person, the founder of the Amazon Defense Front or La Frente, Amazon Watch, the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg News, Conde Nast, The New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times. Moreover, the 8,652-item privilege log lists not even one document that was written by or addressed to any of the Lago Agrio plaintiffs – the clients whose privilege supposedly is being asserted.

That’s big, but probably to be expected. Where Kaplan breaks new ground is his forceful rebuke to the Government of Ecuador for (GOE) trying to intervene so late in the process:

The eleventh-hour attempt by the GOE to intervene – after the Court ruled that Donziger and his clients were obliged to produce the documents and the Court of Appeals had denied a stay pending appeal to assert a supposed common interest in the Lago Agrio plaintiffs’ privilege – supports that view. The GOE has been working closely with Donziger for years and stands to gain billions for Ecuador if the Lago Agrio plaintiffs prevail against Chevron. Its belated attempt to get into this case has all the hallmarks of an attempt to pull Donziger’s chestnuts out of the fire.

Our emphasis. So the leftist government of Rafael Correa is in bed with U.S. trial lawyers attacking a U.S. company. This strong statement, background and arguments by a federal judge should destroy Ecuador’s attempt to maintain its advantages under the Andean Trade Preferences Act.

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