U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan of the Southern District of New York has delivered another body blow to the shakedown lawsuit against Chevron by the U.S. trial lawyers and their Ecuadorian allies. On Tuesday, the federal judge ordered a temporary injunction preventing the plaintiffs in the so-called Lago Agrio litigation from trying to seize any of Chevron’s assets if an Ecuadorian court rules against the company.

In his order (available here), Kaplan wrote:

The Court is satisfied, for the present purpose, that Chevron is faced with a serious threat of immediate and irreparable injury. This is most assuredly true if the anticipated judgment were rendered and influenced by corruption or undue influence. It would be true in any case, however, as the threatened multiplicity of enforcement actions around the world invokes the traditional equitable ground for relief against a multiplicity of suits, particularly where, as here, there appears to be evidence that the purpose and effect of the multiplicity of actions may be to create so much disruption to Chevron’s operations as to coerce a settlement without regard to the merits of the case for enforcement of any Ecuadorian judgment.

The Court is satisfied also, on the existing record, that the balance of hardships tips decidedly in favor of Chevron. The Lago Agrio plaintiffs would not be injured in any material way by a delay in judgment enforcement proceedings of sufficient length to permit determination of the preliminary injunction motion whereas Chevron likely would be seriously injured in the interim in the absence of a temporary restraining order.

Finally, there appear to be at least sufficiently serious questions going to the merits of Chevron’s claims that the anticipated judgment cannot properly be enforced to make them a fair ground for litigation.

A hearing is scheduled for next Tuesday, Feb. 18, for further action on the restraining order. Chevron has filed a RICO suit against the plaintiffs and is seeking to prevent them from having any access to Chevron’s global assets if, as expected, the Ecuadorian court hands down some unjustified award drawn from an extortionate lawsuit and judicial corruption.

Meanwhile, one of the plaintiffs’ legal representatives, the law firm of Emery Celli, has moved to withdraw from the case. Sauve qui peut! (Or the Spanish equivalent.)

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