‘Once a corporation is involved, justice goes out the window’: Sarandon, Williamson rip into Chevron’s hounding of lawyer Donziger
Donziger is currently being tried for criminal contempt of court, and his defense has little doubt that he will receive a guilty verdict. Supporters of the lawyer see the case as little more than a revenge campaign by oil giant Chevron.
A decade ago, Donziger helped 30,000 people in Ecuador secure a court ruling that awarded a multibillion-dollar compensation for environmental damage caused by drilling. The corporation maneuvered to avoid paying the damages, instead going after the lawyer and his clients.
US actress Susan Sarandon and author Marianne Williamson are among an army of public figures and ordinary people taking Donziger’s side. As his current case draws to a conclusion, they appeared on the ‘Rising’ program this week to explain how the lawyer’s demise sets a precedent that endangers anybody who dares to go against big money interests in the US.
“If they can torture somebody the way they [did Donziger] – he has not been able to make a living, he’s been under house arrest, and all those legal fees – then they can send that message to other activists and journalists,” Sarandon said.
Once a corporation is involved, the justice system just goes out of the window… That threatens all of us, really.
Part of Chevron’s strategy to avoid paying the Ecuadorians was to accuse Donziger and his clients of racketeering, claiming the original ruling was obtained illegally. Judge Lewis Kaplan of the District Court for the Southern District of New York passed a guilty verdict in 2014. Among other things, he ordered Donziger to hand over communications with his clients to Chevron’s lawyers.
He refused, arguing that it would violate client-attorney privileges and give the company insight into their legal strategy, as they sought ways to go after its assets in various jurisdictions. Chevron pressed on, accusing Donziger of criminal contempt of court.Also on rt.com Susan Sarandon and Roger Waters to lead protest at ‘corporate criminal’ trial of anti-Chevron lawyer
The case is heard in the same federal district court in Lower Manhattan, but the prosecutor in the case is notably not working for the corresponding federal prosecutor’s office, which refused to take the case. In an irregular move, Rita Glavin was appointed to take the role by Judge Kaplan. She is a private lawyer working for a firm that has a connection with the oil giant, which prompted Donziger’s defense team to dub her a “Chevron prosecutor.”
The lawyer’s supporters agree there is plenty of evidence that a blatant miscarriage of justice is going on in the courthouse.Also on rt.com ‘I’m a Weapon of Mass Distraction’: American lawyer who took on US oil giant held under house arrest in New York for 500+ days
“Big world giants, huge multinational corporations like this have thought that they just had impunity to treat people and to treat the Earth however they want to,” Williamson said during the interview. “And how dare any human rights lawyer, any environmentalist, any activist movement for justice or environmental responsibility dare to question them?”
Donziger’s accusers claim he was motivated by greed, hoping to get hundreds of millions of dollars in contingency fees for winning the compensation case against Chevron.
Donziger dedicated almost three decades of his life to the case. In 2019, he was disbarred by the New York Bar Association. Judge Kaplan ruled that he must pay $3.4 million for contempt and to cover Chevron’s legal fees – the largest sanction of this kind in the history of New York courts. For about two years he remained under house arrest, after the judge in his ongoing case, Loretta Preska, decided he was a flight risk.
If found guilty, he faces up to six months in a federal prison.
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