The Corner

Law & the Courts

Donziger Facing Prosecution in Chevron Saga

Steven Donziger outside the Court of Appeals in New York, April 2015 (Reuters: Mike Segar)

Steven Donziger is going to have his day in court, again — this time as a criminal defendant.

Donziger, the lawyer, Obama buddy, and climate activist who tried to extort a few billion dollars from Chevron, is the target of an order from district judge Lewis Kaplan, who has on his own authority appointed three lawyers to prosecute Donziger on criminal contempt charges.

Donziger’s shakedown was, by my reckoning, the largest extortion attempt in human history, and the case involved everybody from activist rock stars such as Roger Waters to Democratic operatives such as Karen Hinton, sometime contributor to Politico and the Huffington Post.  

From Judge Kaplan’s original ruling:

This case is extraordinary. The facts are many and sometimes complex. They include things that normally come only out of Hollywood — coded emails among [lead plantiffs’ attorney Steven] Donziger and his colleagues describing their private interactions with and machinations directed at judges and a court appointed expert, their payments to a supposedly neutral expert out of a secret account, a lawyer who invited a film crew to innumerable private strategy meetings and even to ex parte meetings with judges, an Ecuadorian judge who claims to have written the multibillion dollar decision but who was so inexperienced and uncomfortable with civil cases that he had someone else (a former judge who had been removed from the bench) draft some civil decisions for him, an 18-year old typist who supposedly did Internet research in American, English, and French law for the same judge, who knew only Spanish, and much more.

As I wrote at the time: “What’s notable here is that Chevron’s complaint is under the RICO law, meaning that it implies the existence of an ongoing criminal organization. What we have here, if the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York is correct, is the new face of organized crime, and one of the most spectacular attempts at extortion in recorded history.”

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