Chevron’s has conducted an unprecedented legal campaign against environmental and human rights lawyer Steven Donziger over his role in 2013 by securing a $9.5 billion judgment in the case held in Ecuador—the largest human rights and environmental court judgment in history. In 2014, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan refused to enforce the judgment, saying it had been secured through bribery, fraud and extortion.
A federal judge has found him guilty of six counts of criminal contempt of court after he refused to turn over his computer and cellphone.
"It's time to pay the piper," U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska wrote in a 241-page decision, following a five-day trial with no jury in May.
The charges against him were brought not by the public court system, but by private prosecutors—a first for the American judiciary - led by Rita Glavin, who at the time of her appointment was a partner at the law firm Seward & Kissel. In April 2020, Seward & Kissel admitted that it had represented Chevron as a client as recently as 2018—a major conflict of interest.
Judge Preska, who convicted Donziger and also placed him on house arrest back in 2019, wasn’t randomly assigned to oversee the case as is typical. Instead, she was handpicked for the role by Judge Lewis Kaplan, who presided over a 2012 RICO case against Donziger in an unprecedented and highly suspect process. Preska serves as an advisor to the pro-business Federalist Society, to which Chevron has donated massive sums.
Donziger led a case against the energy giant Chevron on behalf of 30,000 Indigenous residents and peasant farmers in the Amazon. The firm’s pollution, which leached into local soil and drinking water and has been linked to increased rates of cancer and birth defects, left a legacy so toxic that it’s been compared with Chernobyl.