(July 26)

The Monday criminal-contempt conviction of an infamously rogue lawyer should remind us all of the importance, in a constitutional republic such as ours, of maintaining and enforcing the rule of law.

U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska of New York decided that Steven Donziger, who for two decades has pressed an entirely bogus environmental case from the nation of Ecuador against oil giant Chevron, is guilty of six counts of criminal contempt of court. Another federal district judge, Lewis Kaplan, had charged Donziger with contempt for willfully and repeatedly refusing to comply with multiple court orders stemming from the Chevron case.

As the Washington Examiner reported back in 2008, Donziger and other attorneys worked with the Ecuadoran government to shake down Chevron for alleged environmental damage at oilfields once mined by Texaco but operated for years by Ecuador’s nationalized oil company. Ecuador’s government had inspected the fields and gave Texaco a clean bill of health, but then when a new, left-wing government took power, it suddenly went after Texaco and later Chevron, which had bought out Texaco in a corporate merger.

In a series of court proceedings with more twists than the worst Hollywood hack writers could invent, an Ecuadoran court ruled that Chevron should pay $27 billion for eco-damages but has never been able to collect because Chevron has blocked Ecuador’s collection efforts in court after court worldwide. Again and again, judicial bodies, including international courts at the Hague, have found Ecuador or Donziger to have acted in manifestly, even extravagantly, fraudulent ways, including using payoffs for the local judges.

Over a course of years in the United States, Kaplan has found Donziger in violation of multiple laws and rules of ethics, including violations of U.S. racketeering laws and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act…. [The full column is at this link.]


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