Environmental lawyer Steven Donziger sentenced to 6 months in jail in a victory for Chevron and other climate criminals.
The decision by Judge Preska against Donziger shows once again that the US judicial system is broken and biased.
“An astonishing lack of respect for the rule of law,” declared Judge Preska at the sentencing hearing on October 1, 2021. On this, everyone agrees. When I say “everyone”, I’m referring to Steven Donziger’s legal team, over 75 lawyer organizations(1), Amnesty International (2), the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (3), several Bar associations and environmental activists around the world, among others. But while Judge Preska was referring to Donziger’s behaviour, to everyone mentioned above, the real guilty party is in fact Chevron.
The whole saga is a good example of how corporations use the legal systems in the US to attack anyone who dares to challenge them. ‘Go against us and we will crush you,’ is their playbook.
In the case of Chevron v. Yaiguaje, Donziger successfully represented indigenous communities in Ecuador against Chevron. For decades, Chevron’s predecessor Texaco had dumped toxic waste in the waters of the Amazon. Originally, the case was started in Manhattan in 1993. When Chevron took over Texaco, it inherited the litigation and fought to move the case to Ecuador, betting on the fact that it could bribe Ecuadorian authorities more easily than Americans. When it lost the $9.5 billion case, Chevron reversed course and claimed that the case in Ecuador was corrupt. It then used this argument to aggressively challenge any attempt to recover damages in the US and Canada. Chevron’s efforts to block Canadian courts from asserting the right to enforce judgment failed.(4) In the US, its lawyers were more successful.
Chevron started a civil suit against Donziger for racketeering. This is nothing but an attempt by Chevron to use the legal apparatus in the US to subvert the rule of law. In the law suit, Donziger was ordered by the presiding judge — Judge Kaplan — to hand over electronic devices to Chevron that contained privileged communications between him and his clients. When he refused to do so, Judge Kaplan prompted a private criminal prosecution — a…