| Steven Donziger |
|Born||14 September 1961|
Steven R. Donziger is an American attorney known for his legal battles with Chevron, particularly the Lago Agrio oil field case in which he represented over 30,000 farmers and indigenous Ecuadorians in a class action case against Chevron related to environmental damage and health effects caused by oil drilling. The Ecuadorian court awarded the plaintiffs $9.5 billion (equivalent to $11,444,000,000 in 2021) in damages, which led Chevron to withdraw its assets from Ecuador and launch legal action against Donziger in the US.
In 2011, Chevron filed a RICO (anti-corruption) suit against Steven Donziger in New York City. The case was heard by US District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, who determined that the ruling of the Ecuadorian court could not be enforced in the US because it was procured by fraud, bribery, and racketeering activities. As a result of this case, Donziger was disbarred from practising law in New York in 2018.
House arrest and jail
Steven Donziger was put under house arrest in August 2019 while awaiting trial on charges of criminal contempt of court, which arose during his appeal against Kaplan's RICO decision, when he refused to turn over electronic devices he owned to Chevron's forensics experts. In July 2021, US District Judge Loretta Preska found him guilty, and Donziger was sentenced to 6 months in jail in October 2021. While under house arrest in 2020, twenty-nine Nobel laureates described the actions taken by Chevron against Donziger as "judicial harassment." Human rights campaigners called Chevron's actions an example of a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP). In April 2021, six members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus demanded that the US Department of Justice review Donziger's case. In September 2021, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights claimed that the pre-trial detention imposed on Donziger was illegal and called for his release. Having spent 45 days in prison and a combined total of 993 days under house arrest, Donziger was finally released on 25 April 2022.
"Donziger: A Tale For Our Times"
On 28 April 2022, Craig Murray wrote a long article entitled "Donziger: A Tale For Our Times" which began:
:"Texaco operations in Ecuador from 1962 to 1994 dumped 70 billion litres of 'wastewater', heavily contaminated with oil and other chemicals, into the Amazon rainforest, plus over 650,000 barrels of crude oil. They polluted over 800,000 hectares.
- "It is one of the worst ecological disasters in history — 30 times greater than the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska and 85 times greater than the Gulf of Mexico spill by British Petroleum (BP) in 2010. During the supposed clean up in the provinces of Sucumbios and Orellana, before it left Ecuador, Texaco hid over a thousand different swamps of toxic waste throughout the rainforests, dumping a layer of topsoil over them.
- "Texaco was taken over by Chevron in 2000. Chevron claims that Texaco only ever extracted $490 million in profit from Ecuador over 30 years. The accounting of that is hotly contested by the Amazon Defense Coalition which claims Texaco made $30 billion profit. One thing for sure is that even the Chevron figure is at historic values, not real terms, and would be worth vastly more today.
Murray went on to compare what Texaco did in Ecuador to what Shell did in Nigeria in their similarly massive pollution of the Niger Delta. He also drew parallels showing how the legal cases against Steven Donziger and Julian Assange were badly affected by the retirement in 2017 of Rafael Correa as President of Ecuador, when "the CIA was again firmly in control through the traitorous President Lenin Moreno."
- "Not only was Donziger entitled on absolute grounds to refuse to hand over attorney-client communication, there was now a real danger the indigenous people and other locals involved in the case might be targeted for reprisals in Ecuador by Moreno and the CIA.
- "There is again a startling resonance with the Assange case. When Moreno removed Assange’s diplomatic immunity, and Assange was grabbed from the Ecuadorean Embassy in London and imprisoned, all of Assange’s papers were seized by the Ecuadorean government and shipped back to Quito, where they all were handed over to the CIA. These specifically included thousands of documents relating to Assange’s defence against extradition, documents which were covered by attorney-client privilege. Again, when dealing with an 'enemy of the state' like Assange or Donziger, the judges decided that this did not matter."
- "Donziger has been disbarred as a lawyer. Chevron have a lien on his home and all his assets for compensation. They have paid nothing to the victims of their pollution of the Amazon.
- "I really cannot think of any individual story that better incorporates so many aspects of the dreadful corruption of modern western society. We are all, in a sense, the prisoners of corporations which dictate the terms on which we live, work and share knowledge. Justice against the powerful appears impossible. It is profoundly disturbing, and I recommend everyone to take a few minutes to reflect about the full meaning of the Donziger story in all its many tangents.
- "Lawyer Who Beat Chevron in Ecuador Faces Trial of His Own"
- "Lawyer who took on Chevron in Ecuador is disbarred in New York"
- "Lawyer who sued Chevron sentenced to six months in contempt case"
- "Nobel laureates condemn 'judicial harassment' of environmental lawyer"
- "House Dems Ask AG Garland to Review Chevron's 'Unjust Legal Assault' on Steven Donziger"
- "Chevron foe Donziger released from prison under COVID waiver"
- "Donziger: A Tale For Our Times"