Lawyer who represented Ecuadorians in suit against Chevron oil is suspended in New York

Jul 12, 2018

A lawyer who has spent years pursuing multi-billion-dollar litigation blaming Chevron Corp for polluting the Ecuadorean rain forest was suspended on Tuesday from practicing law in New York by a state appeals court.

Attorney Steven Donziger meets with Ecuadorian villagers in 2011.

Representatives for the lawyer, Steven Donziger, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Donziger in 2011 won an $18 billion judgment, later reduced to $9.5 billion, against Chevron in Ecuador, where he represented villagers who blamed environmental contamination between 1964 and 1992 on Texaco, which Chevron later bought.

But in 2014, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan said Donziger and his legal team used bribery, coercion and fraud to obtain the judgment, and barred them from “profiting in any way from the egregious fraud that occurred.”

In Tuesday’s decision, a five-judge panel of the Appellate Division, First Department in Manhattan granted an order sought by the department’s attorney grievance committee finding Donziger guilty of professional misconduct.

It said that while Donziger had appealed Kaplan’s decision, which ran nearly 500 pages, he “chose not to challenge the underlying factual findings” addressing such conduct as bribery, witness tampering, and the ghostwriting of a court opinion.

“Because Judge Kaplan’s findings constitute uncontroverted evidence of serious professional misconduct which immediately threatens the public interest, respondent should be immediately suspended,” the appeals court said.

Donziger was admitted to practice law in New York in 1997.

He has been trying to enforce the Ecuadorian judgment in other countries, including Argentina, Brazil and Canada. The U.S. Supreme Court refused in June 2017 to take up his case. Earlier this week, Ecuador’s Constitutional Court upheld the original judgment.

Chevron has said it never had any assets in Ecuador, although it admits Texaco did. The company is based in San Ramon, California.

Credit: Reuters News

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