NEW YORK (Legal Newsline) -- New York attorney Steven Donziger, one of the defendants in Chevron Corp.'s ongoing fraud trial, says he believes his and the Ecuadorian defendants' due process rights are being violated.
Donziger submitted a letter to Judge Lewis Kaplan, who is overseeing the trial in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Thursday. This is the fourth week of the bench trial.
"I write again to direct your attention to concerns that the due process rights of the defendants are being violated and that we are being denied our right to a fair trial as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution," Donziger wrote Kaplan. "I urge immediate corrective action be taken to end the severe prejudice being suffered by the defendants, as requested below.
"Apart from the concerns expressed in my letter to you of October 23 -- most of which are still outstanding -- the bulk of our latest concerns now relate to the lack of clarity resulting from the Court's failure to rule on several critical issues before we present our case in chief. The failure to rule we believe violates our due process rights."
Donziger said the four-page letter should be treated as a formal objection to "preserve the record."
Among the defendants' concerns: possible harassment of key witness Judge Nicolas Zambrano; the use of biased special masters; the absence of the Lago Agrio trial record in the RICO proceedings; and the federal court's failure to rule on testimonial and evidentiary objections.
Also Thursday, Jeffrey Shinder, a partner at law firm Constantine Cannon, testified that he quit mere days after being retained by Donziger because of ethical reasons.
According to Reuters, Shinder said he learned that an expert report actually was written by a consulting firm working for the Ecuadorians.
"I wanted no part of it," he testified.
Chevron filed the racketeering lawsuit in the New York federal court in 2011 in an effort to prevent Donziger and the Ecuadorians from pursuing enforcement of a $19 billion award against it.
The $19 billion judgment stems from an environmental lawsuit involving Texaco Petroleum.
In February 2011, an Ecuadorian court found Chevron liable for dumping billions of gallons of toxic waste into the Amazon, causing an outbreak of disease and decimating indigenous groups.
The oil giant has vowed never to pay the judgment. Instead, it alleges that the Ecuador suit has been used to threaten the oil company, mislead U.S. government officials, and harass and intimidate its employees -- all to extort a financial settlement from the company.
From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at email@example.com.