Conversations with Marianne | Chevron v. Donziger: An Update
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Steven Donziger is a Harvard law school graduate who went to Ecuador in the 1990’s. He was traveling with a team of lawyers and doctors to view the horrific evidence that Texaco, an oil giant since bought by Chevron, had poisoned a huge swath of the Ecuadorian Amazon during oil drilling in the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s. What they saw were the results of a massive and man-made environmental disaster that poisoned the water, earth and food of tens of thousands of people. Worst of all, the evidence indicated it was done deliberately as part of an engineering plan to save $3 per barrel. This horror was not an accident.
Ultimately, Steven led a team of lawyers in procuring a $9.5B judgement against Chevron that was affirmed by the Ecuadorian Supreme Court. Yet that was not the end of the story. For Chevron - while note even arguing the veracity of the disaster - chose not to pay the judgment. Instead, they chose to come after the lead lawyer who held them accountable: namely, Steven Donziger. In Donziger’s words, “The company’s goal is to silence my advocacy, bankrupt my family, and intimidate activists and environmental allies.”
Donziger has now spent more than 780 days under house arrest. He stands to be sentenced on Oct. 1 for contempt of court charges stemming from his refusal to turn over to Chevron his cell phone and computer containing confidential data on environmental activists here and in Ecuador. The Department of Justice having chosen not even to pursue the case, it was turned over- incredibly -to Chevron itself to prosecute.
Most Americans would not believe that here in the United States, a corporation could literally use an American court to criminally prosecute its critics. And yet that is exactly what has happened: a show trial that leaves an American environmental lawyer punished harshly and at risk of imprisonment, for the not-to-be-tolerated crime of standing up to Chevron.
Attorney General Merrick Garland has not intervened in this private corporate prosecution, although he should. The request has been simply that he return the case from Chevron’s law firm to the US justice system. He has not chosen to do so despite pleas from Senators, Congresspeople, legal groups and Nobel Laureates. And this point you and I have to speak up, and speak up loudly - for justice, for the earth, and for Steven Donziger.
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