The Corner

Law & the Courts

Donziger Disbarred

Attorney Steven Donziger speaks with reporters outside the United States Court of Appeals in New York City, April 20, 2015. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Steven Donziger, the attorney with connections to the Obama and Cuomo administrations who was at the center of a massive effort to extort billions of dollars out of Chevron, has been disbarred for “corruption of a court expert and ghostwriting his report, obstruction of justice, witness tampering, and judicial coercion and bribery.”

From the court’s statement:

Respondent has been found guilty of egregious professional misconduct, namely, corruption of a court expert and ghostwriting his report, obstruction of justice, witness tampering, and judicial coercion and bribery which he steadfastly refuses to acknowledge and shows no remorse for. In recommending an end to respondent’s interim suspension and his reinstatement, the Referee was too dismissive of the severity of the misconduct at issue (and he arguably exceeded his authority in permitting respondent to continually offer protestations of innocence notwithstanding this Court’s prior orders).

Not only did the Referee understate the magnitude of respondent’s egregious misdeeds, he also failed to recognize (nor even discuss) the relevant precedent in which the sanction of disbarment has been imposed for comparable misconduct (see e.g. Matter of Zappin, 160 AD3d 1 [1st Dept 2018], appeal dismissed, 32 NY3d 946 [2018], lv denied 32 NY3d 915 [2019]; Matter of Fagan, 58 AD3d 260 [1st Dept 2008], lv dismissed 12 AD3d 813 [2009]).

The AGC’s evidence in aggravation, particularly Judge Kaplan’s civil contempt findings (which the Referee failed to address in his report [see Matter of Savitt, 170 AD3d 24, 28 [1st Dept 2019], appeal dismissed 33 NY3d 1118 [2019] [Court opined that referee erroneously failed to recognize civil contempt finding and failure to purge as aggravation]), only add to the case for disbarment.

Accordingly, respondent’s motion to confirm the Referee’s report and recommendation should be denied. The Committee’s cross motion to disaffirm the Referee’s report and recommendation should be granted, and respondent disbarred from the practice of law retroactive to the date of his July 10, 2018 suspension, and his name stricken from the roll of attorneys and counselors-at-law in the State of New York.

Donziger’s racketeering project involved a number of prominent Democrats and environmental activists, some of whom had a direct financial interest in the case in the form of a percentage of the settlement. They should be prosecuted as what they are: participants in a criminal conspiracy.

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