Reposted from ELAW Advocate
When a court in Ecuador ordered Chevron in February 2011 to pay $18 billion to compensate Ecuadorians for damage to their communities, ecosystems, and health, Chevron executives responded by vowing to never pay a dime. Chevron filed a suit in New York against the Ecuadorian plaintiffs and their lawyers and began pursuing people and organizations that had helped with the case in Ecuador.
In May, Chevron's lawyers trained their sights on ELAW. ELAW partner Pablo Fajardo is the lead lawyer in the case against Chevron in Ecuador, and ELAW partners from around the world filed a "friend of the court" brief in the court in Ecuador. ELAW also hosted Pablo for an ELAW Fellowship in 2009, which enabled him to study English at the University of Oregon's American English Institute.
Chevron started by demanding documents from ELAW. Chevron's New York lawyers sent ELAW a 24- page subpoena demanding a wide range of documents going back more than eight years. ELAW worked with Eugene attorney Charlie Tebbutt to respond to Chevron's demands. ELAW staff spent many hours searching for documents that might respond to Chevron's demands. ELAW sought to comply with the legal obligation to produce documents, while protecting confidential information.
Chevron's lawyers then demanded to depose ELAW Executive Director Bern Johnson. In September, two Chevron lawyers from New York traveled to Eugene and questioned Bern under oath, for a full day.
Chevron attorneys then demanded still more documents from ELAW and another deposition. ELAW appealed to the federal court in Eugene, and Judge Thomas Coffin ruled that Chevron was making "unduly burdensome" demands for information from ELAW.
Bern said: "ELAW works to protect communities and ecosystems from environmental abuses. That work can make powerful corporations mad, and sometimes they try to silence you. Many of ELAW's partners have faced this kind of harassment, and worse. Fortunately, in this case the legal system worked to protect ELAW from harassment."