Thursday, January 26, 2012

US Court Delivers Serious Rebuke to Chevron's Abusive Legal Tactics

Victory for Ecuadorians Seeking Justice in the Amazon

Today, a three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals delivered a major blow to Chevron's efforts to evade responsibility for the devastation it caused in the Amazon rainforest of Northeastern Ecuador.

The appeals court reversed an order by District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan that purported to block enforcement of an $18 billion judgment delivered by an Ecuadorian court in February 2011, and upheld in full on appeal just weeks ago.

As the Associated Press reports:

"The Ecuadorean plaintiffs appealed Kaplan's ruling to the 2nd Circuit. The appeals court heard oral arguments and then issued an order in September lifting Kaplan's block on collection efforts. On Thursday, it went a step further, tossing out the portion of Chevron's challenge to the judgment that sought to block its enforcement anywhere in the world."

U.S. spokesperson for the Ecuadorians, Karen Hinton, said that the ruling sets right a "grave injustice against the Ecuadorians," and "rebukes Chevron's abusive legal tactics of the past two years designed solely to malign the very people who suffer as a result of the company's deliberate poisoning of their homeland."

Craig Smyser, a lawyer working with the plaintiffs' legal team, also made a statement in response to the appeals court ruling:

"Instead of confronting its environmental despoliation, Chevron has engaged in an international smear campaign of lawyer- and court-bashing. As a result of the 2nd Circuit's opinion today and the confirmation of the Ecuadorian trial court's judgment by the Ecuadorian appellate court, the wheels of the law are bringing Chevron to justice."

Also today, U.S. Magistrate Judge Gary Austin delivered more bad news for Chevron. He allowed the Republic of Ecuador to move forward with discovery proceedings that will allow lawyers for the Republic of Ecuador to subpoenas documents and depose an expert witness for Chevron, Dr. Douglas Mackay.

As Ms. Hinton said in her statement regarding the appeals court ruling:

"Chevron's fraud includes the deliberate use of substandard operational practices all designed to further inflate company profits at the expense of human life, the manipulation of scientific evidence during the trial and the launching of a smear campaign to distract attention from its own misconduct."

The plaintiffs believe there's that discovery proceedings against Dr. Mackay by the government of Ecuador – related to Chevron's last-ditch effort to pursue arbitration against Ecuador at the Hague – will likely bring some of the company's widespread fraud to light. Dr. Mackay was paid by Chevron to review the company's sampling of polluted sites during the trial in Ecuador. The oil giant created a "Judicial Inspection Playbook" to help Chevron's technical team take samples that would minimize detection of toxins, and then doctored this internal document before delivering it to Dr. Mackay, who reviewed an altered version for a report to the court. It appears that Dr. Mackay, a University of California professor, may be just one more victim of Chevron's fraud and deceit.

At least they didn't ravage his community, poison his water, and then smear him for telling the truth. At least not yet.

– Han Shan

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