“The appeals court correctly recognized that the illegal conduct of the plaintiffs’ attorney and the environmental activists involved in this matter cannot be excused by pointing to their alleged commitment to a cleaner environment. The continued integrity of our legal system demands that those unwilling to abide by the rule of law be severely punished.”
—Richard Samp, WLF Chief Counsel.
WASHINGTON, DC—In a major victory for the Washington Legal Foundation (WLF), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit today affirmed a district court judgment holding attorney Richard Donziger and several associates liable under RICO (the federal anti-racketeering law) for the corrupt way they pressed tort claims against Chevron Corp. in an Ecuadoran court. The appeals court upheld findings in Chevron Corp. v. Donziger that Donziger engaged in a massive fraud in the courts of Ecuador, including ghostwriting the trial court’s decision and bribing the judge to issue it as his own, in order to obtain a multi-billion-dollar judgment against Chevron.
Donziger represented a group of Ecuadoran citizens who sought to hold Chevron responsible for alleged pollution of the Ecuador rain forest, allegedly caused by an oil company later purchased by Chevron. In a brief filed in the Second Circuit, WLF argued that the district court’s judgment was well support by evidence that Donziger engaged in extortion, wire fraud, money laundering, obstruction of justice, witness tampering, and bribery of foreign officials.
The appeals court agreed with WLF that RICO authorizes federal courts to issue injunctive relief to plaintiffs victimized by racketeering activity. The appeals court upheld the trial court’s injunction, which prohibits Donziger from seeking to enforce the Ecuador judgment in a U.S. court and bars him from ever profiting from that judgment—by requiring him to indemnify Chevron should the Ecuador judgment ever be enforced by a foreign court.
Upon hearing the appeals court’s decision, WLF issued the following statement by Chief Counsel Richard Samp: “The appeals court correctly recognized that the illegal conduct of the plaintiffs’ attorney and the environmental activists involved in this matter cannot be excused by pointing to their alleged commitment to a cleaner environment. The continued integrity of our legal system demands that those unwilling to abide by the rule of law be severely punished. Donziger has somehow managed to avoid criminal prosecution thus far, but he should not be permitted to evade civil liability too.”
WLF is a public-interest law firm and policy center that regularly litigates in support of upholding legal ethics and defending the rule of law against plaintiffs’ lawyer depredations.