Chevron opponent Steven Donziger is appealing his conviction to the U.S. Supreme Court


Lawyer Steven Donziger, who won a multi-billion dollar judgment against Chevron on behalf of Ecuadorian villagers. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

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  • Donziger won a $9.5 billion judgment against Chevron for pollution in Ecuador
  • A Chevron lawsuit against him led to contempt charges and a lengthy house arrest

(Reuters) – Steven Donziger, a lawyer who won a $9.5 billion judgment against Chevron Corp for polluting Ecuador’s forest but was later found guilty of criminal contempt asked the Supreme Court on Tuesday to review his conviction.

Donziger, 61, told the U.S. Supreme Court that the court-appointed attorneys who sued him were acting without the supervision of the Justice Department or other executive branch officials, which violates the principles of separation of powers.

The Harvard Law School graduate, who was sentenced to six months in prison for misdemeanor contempt in addition to more than 900 days of house arrest, said the case has wider implications beyond his conviction. If left in place, the logic of the two lower courts would confuse the authority of court-appointed prosecutors and create a “constitutional no man’s land between the branches”.

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The case stems from a 2014 ruling by US District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan, who refused to enforce the $9.5 billion judgment Donziger won in an Ecuadorian court three years earlier. .

Donziger won that judgment after representing villagers in Ecuador’s Lago Agrio region who blamed water and soil contamination on Texaco, later acquired by Chevron.

Kaplan said in his decision that Donziger obtained this judgment after bribing the judge, writing a court opinion and an environmental report, tampering with witnesses and extortion.

Chevron then sought to recover money from the attorney and Kaplan charged him with contempt in 2019 after he refused to hand over his electronic devices to the California-based company’s forensic experts for examination.

The Manhattan U.S. attorney declined to pursue those charges, citing a lack of resources, prompting Kaplan to appoint private attorneys.

993 DAYS of house arrest

U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska found Donziger guilty of six misdemeanor contempt charges in July 2021 and sentenced the attorney to six months in prison. Donziger was released in April after 993 days of house arrest and 45 days in prison – a detention decried by human rights activists, the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. man.

A federal appeals court upheld the conviction in June in a split decision, with Circuit Judge Michael Park writing for the majority that the lower court had the power to appoint prosecutors, who are then subject to the oversight of the U.S. Attorney General .

Dissenting, Justice Steven Menashi said giving judges the power to prosecute but the power of the executive to oversee them “undermines the constitutional principle that all ‘executive power’ belongs to the sole President”.

The US Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The case is Steven Donziger v. United States, United States Supreme Court, not immediately available.

For Donziger: Stephen Vladeck of the University of Texas Law School; Erik Jaffe, Gene Schaerr, H. Christopher Bartolomucci, Hannah Smith, Kathryn Tarbert, and Schaerr Jaffe’s James Heilpern; Zuckerman Spaeder’s William Taylor and David Reiser

For the US Government: Not immediately available

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