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  • Donziger brought the case against Chevron which had bought out Texaco in 2001.

    Donziger brought the case against Chevron which had bought out Texaco in 2001. | Photo: Denziguer Law

Published 25 February 2020
Opinion

The lead lawyer trying to bring Chevron Corp to justice for polluting two million hectares of the Ecuadorean Amazonian region was suspended from practicing law in New York by an appeals court in July 2018.

Environmental attorney Steven Donziger, known for winning the Chevron-Texaco oil spill case for Ecuador, got a 36-page recommendation letter. The letter asks for his law license back on Monday after a suspension and house arrest in a ruling that he claimed was pushed by Chevron as retaliation. 

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"My recommendation is that his interim suspension should be ended, and that he should be allowed to resume the practice of law," the officer presiding over his bar proceedings in New York, bar referee John Horan, wrote.

"The extent of his pursuit by Chevron is so extravagant, and at this point so unnecessary and punitive, while not a factor in my recommendation, is nonetheless background to it," Horan wrote according to Court House News.

Following bar proceedings that took place last December to review Denziguer's case, Horan suggested that Donziguer was not the intriguing manipulative character depicted by Chevron.

"Several witnesses, all distinguished in their respective fields, testified as character witnesses," including Pink Floyd band member Roger Waters. "Assessment of character is not an exact science, but we can all agree that the essential components are honesty, integrity, and credibility," Horan added. "It is far from clear that [Donziger] is lacking in those qualities as the committee argues."

The principal lawyer trying to bring Chevron Corp to justice for polluting two million hectares of Ecuadorean Amazonian region was suspended from practicing law in New York by an appeals court in July 2018.

Donziger, who won a US$19 billion settlement against Chevron in 2011 - later reduced to US$9.5 billion - on behalf of communities affected by the billions of gallons of oil waste and crude left by Texaco oil company, was ruled, "a threat to the public order."

Donziger said then that the ruling was made without allowing him a hearing and that the decision by the appeals court was based on information provided by Chevron. 

Ecuador's foreign ministry reports that 15.8 billion gallons of oil waste and 28.5 million gallons of crude were left behind by Texaco in the aftermath of its excavation practices between 1964 and 1992.

The government has long claimed that Chevron promised to clean to the over 220 wells and 1,000 pools that Texaco drilled. The company never followed through on its legal obligation, says Ecuador. Chevron merely paid a company to fill over 150 of the pools with "sticks, soil, and even cement (which allows crude) to continually spout from the pools and infiltrate the groundwater sources that are used for human consumption."

In 2011 Donziger won an $18 billion judgment against Chevron in Ecuador, which was later reduced by half. That same year Chevron appealed the ruling, and in 2014, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan sided with Chevron, saying that Donziger and his legal team used bribery, coercion, and fraud to obtain the first win. Judge Kaplan barred anyone from "profiting in any way from the egregious fraud that occurred."

His ruling was later upheld by a different U.S. appeals court in 2016.

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