U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan has issued his full opinion explaining his earlier order that Steven Donziger, the U.S. trial lawyer, answer the questions of Chevron’s attorneys about his orchestration of the $113 billion lawsuit against the company in Ecuador.
Released Friday in the Southern District of New York, Kaplan’s order denies Donziger’s claims that, among other arguments, being forced to submit to depositions would violate attorney-client privilege. But Donziger isn’t admitted to practice law in Ecuador where the litigation is taking place, and he does not play a counsel’s role. Judge Kaplan refers to Donziger as the “field general” of the anti-Chevron campaign.
Donziger is at the center of this controversy. While he is a member of the New York Bar and years ago worked on a predecessor to the Lago Agrio lawsuit that was brought in this Court, he is not qualified to practice law in Ecuador. He does not serve as litigation counsel there. He nevertheless has been extremely active in support of the Lago Agrio plaintiffs.
The evidence before this Court shows that Donziger has attempted to (1) intimidate the Ecuadorian judges, (2) obtain political support for the Ecuadorian lawsuit, (3) persuade the GOE to promote the interests of the Lago Agrio plaintiffs, (4) obtain favorable media coverage, (5) solicit the support of celebrities (including Daryl Hannah and Trudie Styler) and environmental groups, (6) procure and package “expert” testimony for use in Ecuador, (7) pressure Chevron to pay a large settlement, and (8) obtain a book deal. Among his efforts was his persuasion of Joseph Berlinger, a documentary film maker, to make a documentary about the Lago Agrio litigation from the plaintiffs’ point of view. That film, entitled Crude, purports to tell the story of the Lago Agrio litigation. It is no exaggeration to say that Donziger is the star of the film, much of which focuses on his words and activities.
And it’s the outtakes of “Crude” that document so much of the wrongdoing, in the process destroying any vestige of legal or moral standing the plaintiffs could claim in their suit against Chevron. (continue reading…)