Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Cartoon Highlights Gibson Dunn's "Legal Thuggery" On Chevron's Behalf

Latest installment of satirical cartoon series calls out Chevron's threats against those who want to hold the oil giant accountable for the mess it made in the Amazon.

By Katie Rucke | Reposted from MintPress

Last week Amazon Watch released the third installment in its animated short series, "The Adventures of Donny Rico and Chevron: How to Pollute the Amazon and Get Away Wit' It!" which focuses on "the unethical and underhanded tactics of Chevron's key law firm Gibson Dunn & Crutcher in their RICO suit against the own victims in Ecuador."

Created by Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist Mark Fiore, the satirical series was created to draw the public's attention to the threats Chevron has leveled against environmentalists, journalists, scientists and locals who have tried to hold the company accountable for dumping 18 billion gallons of toxic oil waste into rivers and streams, spilling millions of gallons of crude oil, and abandoning hazardous waste in hundreds of unlined open-air pits littered throughout the Amazon region.

The third episode of the series was released about five months after Chevron filed court documents in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, claiming that people were trying to extort the company through "web videos" and "cartoons," following the release of the first "Donny Rico" episode.

Although Chevron was ordered by the court twice to pay $9.5 billion to clean up the damage from the oil spill in the Amazon rainforest that affected more than 30,000 indigenous people, the company has pledged to never pay the fines and is working to discredit the environmentalists and their lawyers.

As the second installment in "Donny Rico" pointed out, Chevron has paid former Ecuador judge Alberto Guerra $12,000 a month for at least two years; has given Guerra a home in the U.S., as well as a car to use; and is paying Guerra's legal fees so he can obtain status as a political refugee in the United States. The catch is that in return, the former judge must testify that one of the environmental lawyers representing the people of Ecuador, Steven Donziger, bribed him to rule in favor of the people of the Amazon – a reason Chevron says it shouldn't have to pay the $9.5 million in cleanup fees.

But as Amazon Watch points out, Guerra was removed as a judge because he accepted bribes of as little as $200. Even Judge Lewis Kaplan, who has long sided with Chevron, recognized that Guerra was corrupt, but still allowed him to testify and used that testimony to rule in favor of Chevron.

Now that groups such as Amazon Watch are poking holes in Guerra's testimony, proving that not only did Donziger never bribe Guerra, but he wasn't even in the country on days Guerra claimed the American attorney was busy persuading him to rule in favor of the Ecuadorian people, Chevron has turned to other tactics to discredit the Ecuadorians' case, including spying on and threatening witnesses.

"One could write hundreds of pages detailing Gibson Dunn's dirty tactics, but we'll leave it to Donny on this note," Amazon Watch wrote in the video description for the third "Donny Rico" episode. "As [Donny] mentions, Gibson Dunn's lead lawyer Randy Mastro personally met in Chicago with Chevron's key witness – disgraced ex-judge Guerra – to negotiate the exchange of huge sums of money and other benefits in exchange for his 'factual' testimony.

"They also doctored video evidence and possibly engaged in fraud on the Ecuador court by failing to disclose that its technicians were ordered to hide dirty soil samples."

Chevron's latest move has been to hire the law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, a firm known for "throwing ethics to the wind" in order to help their clients by targeting lawyers and witnesses working against their high-profile corporate clients, and running character assassination and defamation campaigns against those who dare to challenge these big money organizations.

Among other incidents that have contributed to Gibson Dunn's nasty reputation, the law firm has been found guilty of engaging in "legal thuggery" and "blatant and malicious intimidation" tactics by the Montana Supreme Court, while a U.S. federal judge said the law firm maintained "a culture [of] obstruction and gamesmanship."

In the case of the pollution of the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador, Gibson Dunn has filed dozens of discovery lawsuits in courts across the U.S. on behalf of Chevron, for about $36 million. The law firm has bounced around from courtroom to courtroom is partly because most courts have refused to hear these "trumped up allegations," Amazon Watch explains.

One federal appellate court in Philadelphia actually reversed the order for discovery, stating "[t]he circumstances supporting [Chevron's] claim of fraud largely are allegations and allegations are not factual findings." The court also criticized Chevron's attacks on the judicial system in Ecuador as well as the people of Ecuador.

"The list of unprecedented attack on justice waged by Chevron and Gibson Dunn goes on and on," Amazon Watch says. "Increasingly disturbing to many is that their 'pioneering' work could make it easier for other corporations to do the same without having to spend nearly as much.

"Kaplan's verdict, though likely to be overturned, could set a dangerous precedent by criminalizing First Amendment protected activities by environmental, human rights and corporate accountability groups," which is why the group says its work is far from over and plans to release the fourth episode in the "Donny Rico" series soon.

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