Gowen Group Law Office
3 October 2013 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Karen Hinton at +1.703.798.3109
New York, NY – Chevron is now trying to bar any and all evidence of environmental contamination in Ecuador from its RICO case as part of a strategy to deny rainforest villagers and their New York attorney Steven Donziger a fair trial, according to recent court filings.
The latest development comes on top of Chevron's decision earlier this week to drop $60 billion in damages claims against Donziger just so it could avoid a jury in the case, which is scheduled for trial Oct. 15 in New York federal court. Donziger and his clients are due to file a motion tomorrow explaining why the law still requires a jury rather than allowing a bench trial before Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, who has a documented history of bias in favor of Chevron. Chevron's latest moves are yet another sign it is running from its own RICO case on the eve of trial and trying to choreograph a show for the public, said Gowen.
"Chevron obviously is so afraid of its own wrongdoing that it wants to have an environmental trial without talking about the environment," said Christopher Gowen, a spokesman for Donziger and the Ecuadorians, Hugo Camacho and Javier Piaguaje. "That's what corporate polluters do when they get caught with their pants down."
Chevron's attempts to restrict evidence are "stunning in breadth and scope" and show the oil giant is seeking a quick proceeding where it can use the result to try to block international enforcement of the Ecuador judgment even if due process rights get trampled in the process, said Gowen.
Chevron has asked Judge Kaplan to bar Donziger and the Ecuadorians from using any of the overwhelming scientific evidence that proved the company's guilt when it was found liable by the Ecuador court for $19 billion in damages. Such evidence is absolutely necessary to prove the judgment is valid and not obtained by fraud as Chevron alleges, said Gowen.
Chevron also has asked Judge Kaplan to bar Donziger and the Ecuadorians from presenting evidence related to "environmental and human conditions" in the affected area of Ecuador's rainforest and to exclude the use of any scientific studies related to the contamination. The Ecuador court relied on such studies as well as tens of thousands of chemical sampling results to find Chevron liable in the case.
There are also numerous independent health studies of the area that show high rates of cancer and other oil-related diseases. Under Chevron's plan, Kaplan would exclude any mention of the studies.
Those proposed restrictions are simply the tip of the iceberg, said Gowen.
In various court filings, Chevron also has asked Judge Kaplan to bar Donziger and the Ecuadorians from presenting evidence of:
- Chevron's repeated contacts with high-level government officials in Ecuador to try to illegally quash the case;
- Chevron's many private contacts with Ecuadorian judges and independent court experts;
- Chevron internal videos showing company technical experts in Ecuador laughing at the pollution while discussing ways to hide it from the court;
- Personal testimony from individuals about pollution and health impacts that was relied on by the Ecuador court;
- Chevron's sting operation against an Ecuador judge where the company tried to orchestrate a fake bribery scandal to derail the trial;
- Chevron's creation of dummy companies to hide its control of a supposedly independent laboratory that processed soil samples for the court;
- Evidence that the legal team for the rainforest communities received death threats and were harassed during the trial;
- Evidence of Chevron's surveillance of Donziger, Ecuadorian lawyer Pablo Fajardo, and others;
- Evidence of Chevron's lobbying contacts in the U.S. designed to pressure Ecuador's government to quash the case.
"If just one of these outrageous requests by Chevron is granted by Judge Kaplan, the notion of a fair trial is dead," said Gowen.
Donziger has repeatedly said he cannot get a fair trial before Judge Kaplan, who already ruled any evidence of environmental contamination would not be elicited during the discovery phase of the case. John Keker, Donziger's former counsel, withdrew from the case last May after concluding that Judge Kaplan has shown nothing but "implacable hostility" toward his client, who has worked for his Ecuadorian communities since 1993.
The lead lawyer for the rainforest communities in Ecuador, Pablo Fajardo, has refused to appear before the New York court because it has no jurisdiction over citizens in a foreign country.
"We thoroughly reject Chevron's blatant attempt to rig the trial before Judge Kaplan by barring the decades of accumulated evidence of its environmental crimes, fraud, and misconduct in Ecuador," said Fajardo, who represents 80 indigenous and farmer communities in the rainforest who live in the area where Chevron (operating under the Texaco brand) admitted to dumping billions of gallons of toxic oil waste when it operated there from 1964 to 1992. Gowen also criticized Judge Kaplan.
"The most fundamental principle in our nation's Constitution is the ability of all defendants to get a fair trial without a judge favoring one side," he said.
"To bar the Ecuadorian victims and Steven Donziger from introducing evidence of the massive environmental damage in Ecuador during a trial about that very subject flies in the face of this sacred American principle," Gowen added.
Gowen said Judge Kaplan should recuse himself should he grant Chevron's request for a non-jury trial to avoid actual bias and the appearance of bias. Kaplan has called the Ecuadorians the "so-called" plaintiffs and said the litigation in Ecuador was a "giant game" invented by American lawyers "to fix the balance of payments deficit" of the United States.
The Second Circuit Court of Appeals already reversed Judge Kaplan in an earlier phase of the case when the judge had issued an illegal injunction purporting to block the Ecuadorians from enforcing their judgment against Chevron outside the U.S.
Copies of Chevron's court filings where it is seeking to bar the evidence can be found here. A summary of the overwhelming evidence of Chevron's contamination can be read here, while a video summary of the case can be seen here.
In the end, Chevron's RICO action in New York has little to do with enforcement actions targeting billions of dollars of Chevron assets currently pending in Canada, Brazil, and Argentina. All three of those actions are pending, with more such actions to be filed in other jurisdictions, said Fajardo.