Steven Donzinger represented over 30,000 farmers and indigenous Ecuadorans in a lawsuit against Chevron for environmental harm and health impacts caused by oil drilling.
That makes him one of the good guys.
And it’s also why you shouldn’t think for a moment that the US justice system is in any way functional or meant to distribute anything like ‘justice.’
Donziger, an American lawyer and former journalist, is now well-known for his legal battle with oil conglomerate Chevron.
Donzinger has come to grief after the Ecuadorian courts awarded $9.5 billion in damages to his clients, the plaintiffs, which prompted Chevron to remove its assets from Ecuador and file a lawsuit against Donziger in the United States. A RICO (anti-corruption) lawsuit was filed against Donziger by Chevron in New York City in 2011, and a particularly tone-deaf judge – Lewis A. Kaplan – concluded that the Ecuadoran court’s verdict could not be implemented stateside since it was obtained “by fraud, bribery, and racketeering operations.”
In 2018, Donziger was prohibited from practicing law in New York as a consequence of this case. While awaiting prosecution on criminal contempt charges, Donziger was placed under house arrest in August 2019 when he refused to surrender electronic devices he owned and used in his work for his clients to Chevron’s forensics specialists. The edict was part of his appeal of Kaplan’s RICO judgment.
Donzinger was found guilty by US District Judge Loretta Preska in July 2021 and was summarily sentenced to 6 months in prison in October 2021.
Some twenty-nine Nobel laureates denounced Chevron’s efforts against Donziger as “judicial harassment” when he was under house arrest in 2020.
In the words of anti-corporate activists, “Chevron’s lawsuit against public engagement is an example of a ‘strategic litigation‘ turned on its head.”
Donziger’s case was referred to the Justice Department in April of 2021 by six members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights concluded in September 2021 that Donziger’s pre-trial detention was unlawful and asked for his release.
None of this will matter and Chevron will continue to pile up paperwork to torment Donzinger as long as the funds hold out and the spreadsheets indicate their efforts are still meeting financial projections.