Violates Federal Court Order By Sending Filings to Media
Amazon Defense Coalition
16 August 2010 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Karen Hinton at +1.703.798.3109
New York, NY – In an explosive legal filing, lawyers for Ecuador's Amazonian communities suing Chevron for environmental damage have submitted evidence that the oil giant is attempting to mislead a U.S. Federal Court with "wild, superficial allegations" based on "snippets" of private video outtakes from Joe Berlinger's award-winning documentary film CRUDE.
Representatives of the 30,000 rainforest residents, who have suffered from nearly 50 years of living in and around oil contamination, responded in their own legal filing to Chevron's misleading use of the video clips by claiming Chevron is hiding "massive evidence of its own misconduct" contained in the footage.
CRUDE chronicles part of the 17-year legal battle between the Ecuadorian Amazonian communities and Chevron, which the residents accuse of creating the worst oil-related disaster on Earth.
Chevron had pressed to have U.S. federal judge Lewis Kaplan decide its motion before the plaintiffs could review the entire 500 or hours of film clips, as Chevron refused to share them after receiving them from Berlinger under court order. Review of even a small sample of clips by lawyers for the communities shows clearly that Chevron had attempted to mislead the Court and had violated a court order by turning over excerpts from the outtakes to the media before even serving opposing counsel.
According to the motion filed by the communities:
"Now it is clear why Chevron hid the full outtakes from the Court and from Plaintiffs, and pressed to have this motion decided before Plaintiffs could even review the evidence. Chevron and its counsel have rushed to mislead the Court and the public with a McMotion based on sound-bites and highly-edited, de-contextualized snippets constituting less than 0.1% of the outtakes. It did so while concealing massive evidence in the outtakes of its own misconduct. And it did so in plain violation of a Second Circuit order."
The motion also pointed out that Chevron provided its filing to a blogger previously paid by Chevron, Carter Wood, and sent out a press release and Tweet around two hours before it served opposing counsel. In direct violation of the court order, Chevron then produced transcripts of the outtakes directly to the San Francisco Chronicle, according to a report in that newspaper.
The legal brief for the communities showed Chevron's bad faith and selective editing of the film clips, including Chevron's false assertion that consultants for the Amazon communities admitted they have no evidence of groundwater contamination, when in fact those consultants said repeatedly that the groundwater is contaminated.
"Chevron's failure to accurately describe the evidence is part of a larger scheme by the Chevron lawyers to hide the company's misconduct in Ecuador," said Jonathan Abady, an American attorney for the Amazonian communities.
"Chevron is engaged in a desperate attempt to distract attention from the environmental disaster and public health crisis it caused in Ecuador," he added.
Chevron also came under fire from Berlinger for violating a federal court order prohibiting use of the materials for press or public relations purposes, noting Chevron's distribution of the material on Twitter and to bloggers hours before it was served on opposing lawyers.
Chevron's lawyers also suggested that an "enterprising" law student copy the outtakes from the court and post them on the Internet, in an apparent violation of the order, according to a blogger.
In his own court filing, Berlinger accused Chevron of making "false and misleading" statements about the film outtakes. He told Fortune magazine that he was "dismayed at the level of mischaracterizations in Chevron's Memorandum brief... The footage citations are being taken out of context and not being presented to the court in its entirety, creating numerous false impressions, precisely what we feared when we were first issued the original subpoena."