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Commentary: Don’t let Big Oil open a new front in its war on environmental defenders

"Don’t let Big Oil open a new front in its war on environmental defenders (commentary)", 11 August 2020.

...Multiple courts have found that from the late 1960s to 1992, Texaco deliberately dumped billions of gallons of cancer-causing oil waste across 1,500 square miles of previously pristine rainforest, poisoning groundwater and rivers residents depended on for drinking, bathing, and fishing...After years of fighting in courts in the U.S., Ecuador, and Canada, the coalition won an unprecedented $9.5B in damages. Several appellate courts and a total of 17 appellate judges affirmed the case unanimously, and Canada’s Supreme Court ruled the Ecuadorians had the right to enforce their judgment...

Chevron unveiled another component of its strategy to try to prevent the Indigenous plaintiffs from receiving a cent. The central feature was filing a civil RICO suit in U.S. federal court against me as well as all 47 Ecuadorian community leaders who signed the lawsuit, claiming that the entire case on which I had spent 18 years of my life had been nothing more than a “racketeering” conspiracy designed to “extort” money from the company. Judge Lewis Kaplan denied us a jury, refused to review any of the voluminous scientific proof of Chevron’s pollution, and then ruled in Chevron’s favor...largely because I would not turn over my computer and cell phone to Chevron (an order that many experts believe to be a violation of attorney-client privilege and one that I have appealed), Kaplan tried to prosecute me criminally for contempt....While I await my day in court, I’m now under house arrest. (I believe I’m the only lawyer in U.S. history detained pretrial on a contempt charge.)...two retired U.S. federal judges provided a big boost. The Hon. Nancy Gertner (Harvard Law School) and the Hon. Mark Bennett (Drake University Law School) criticized their former colleague Kaplan in the news journal Law360 for the way he’s handled this case. I’m grateful for their courage, because it’s extremely rare for federal judges to call out colleagues publicly...

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