EDITORIAL: Assassination threat by Chevron accusers

Judge: Plaintiffs’ lawyer flirts with criminal liability

Question of the Day

Should Congress make English the official language of the U.S.?

View results

Courts continue to expose the skulduggery of an Ecuadorean lawsuit against American oil giant Chevron Corp. On Tuesday, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals smacked down the plaintiffs and backed District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan’s order allowing Chevron to continue discovery efforts to prove the lawsuit is fraudulent. Judge Kaplan’s Nov. 4 decision in the case uses particularly scathing terms to describe the conduct of the plaintiffs’ American lawyer, Steven R. Donziger.

Damning new evidence was found in “Crude,” a purported documentary commissioned by Mr. Donziger. After detailing a raft of ethically suspect activity caught on the final version of the film, Judge Kaplan writes that unused footage contains: “statements by Donziger that the Ecuadorian court system is corrupt, that the Lago Agrio plaintiffs can prevail only by pressuring and intimidating the courts, and that the facts have to be twisted to support the plaintiffs’ theories. Donziger’s own words raise substantial questions as to his possible criminal liability and amenability to professional discipline.”

Even more frightening are the lawyer’s references to using assassination threats to get what the plaintiffs want. As Judge Kaplan details, “Donziger participated in a dinner conversation about what might happen to a judge who ruled against the Lago Agrio plaintiffs. One or more other participants in the conversation suggested that a judge would be ‘killed’ for such a ruling. Donziger replied that the judge ‘might not be [killed], but he’ll think - he thinks he will be … which is just as good.’ “

This opens a dark new chapter in the $113 billion lawsuit claiming Texaco - since bought by Chevron - left behind ecological damage in 1992 when a 20-year drilling partnership with state-owned Petro-Ecuador ended. The suit, which ignores that a previous Ecuadorean government absolved Texaco of all responsibility in 1998, has been rife with corruption. One Ecuadorean judge assigned to the case was filmed discussing what sounded like a bribery scheme; supposedly independent expert Richard Cabrera was found to be the main shareholder of an environmental remediation company that could profit from the suit; and a U.S.-based expert for the plaintiffs swore under oath that plaintiffs’ lawyers had submitted fraudulent reports under his name.

What makes recent court developments interesting is that Judge Kaplan - appointed by President Clinton and confirmed by a Democrat-majority Senate - is neither overtly pro-business nor conservative. He oversaw - and issued the key ruling that weakened the U.S. government’s case in - the trial that ended Wednesday in acquittal of former Guantanamo detainee Ahmed Ghailani on 284 of 285 counts. In the Chevron case, however, he’s all no-nonsense. “The evidence of irregularities is powerful,” he wrote. This man has presided over Mafia trials and knows shady tactics when he sees them.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

blog comments powered by Disqus
TWT Video Picks
You Might Also Like
  • Maureen McDonnell looks on as her husband, former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, made a statement on Tuesday after the couple was indicted on corruption charges. (associated press)

    PRUDEN: Where have the big-time grifters gone?

  • This photo taken Jan. 9, 2014,  shows New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie gesturing as he answers a question during a news conference  at the Statehouse in Trenton.  Christie will propose extending the public school calendar and lengthening the school day in a speech he hopes will help him rebound from an apparent political payback scheme orchestrated by key aides. The early front-runner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination will make a case Tuesday Jan. 14, 2014, that children who spend more time in school graduate better prepared academically, according to excerpts of his State of the State address obtained by The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

    BRUCE: Bombastic arrogance or humble determination? Chris Christie’s choice

  • ** FILE ** Secretary of State Hillary Rodham testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the deadly September attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador J. Chris Stevens and three other Americans. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

    PRUDEN: The question to haunt the West

  • Get Breaking Alerts