On May 18, New York federal judge Loretta Preska issued an outrageous order dripping with bias and partiality that further prolongs the arbitrary detention of U.S. human rights lawyer Steven Donziger after he helped his Indigenous clients in Ecuador win a $9.5 billion pollution judgment against Chevron. After appealing an unprecedented order that he turn over his computer and cell phone to Chevron, Mr. Donziger has now been in home detention without trial for 11 months when the maximum sentence if convicted is six months imprisonment and the longest sentence ever imposed on a lawyer for the same charge is 3 months of home confinement. After the Ecuadorians won their lawsuit, Chevron vowed to “demonize Donziger” and have utilized thousands of lawyers and millions of dollars to attempt just that—while refusing to pay a dime of the clean up costs several courts ordered them to pay. The recent Order issued by Judge Preska, and the lack of justice afforded to Mr. Donziger, appears to illustrate bias, partiality and retaliation on behalf of a fossil fuel corporation and the Judges assigned to this case that violates due process and international law.
Twenty-nine Nobel laureates and 475 lawyers and bar associations have sharply criticized Preska and her fellow judge and longtime friend Lewis A. Kaplan (a former tobacco industry defense lawyer) for ganging up on Mr. Donziger based on false witness testimony provided by Chevron, personal animus, and obvious desire to protect Chevron from a valid foreign court judgment over its undisputed pollution in Ecuador’s Amazon. The contempt charges were written by Judge Kaplan and rejected by the U.S. Attorney. Kaplan then appointed Preska after bypassing local rules requiring random assignment of cases; he also appointed a lawyer from a corporate law firm (Seward & Kissel) to prosecute Mr. Donziger without disclosing that the firm had Chevron as a client.
“It appears that the industry is using its power, money and connections in an attempt to chill public interest plaintiff’s lawyers from suing fossil fuel corporations for the harm they have caused to people and the planet by “demonizing” and attempting to destroy lawyers such as Steven Donziger. We call for the immediate release of Mr. Donziger and the dismissal of all contempt charges on the grounds of prosecutorial and judicial misconduct and fundamental justice.” said Lauren Regan, attorney for Steven Donziger and Director of the Civil Liberties Defense Center.