NEW YORK (Legal Newsline) - Two appeals briefs have been filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit asking the court to reverse a district court's order prohibiting the enforcement of a $9.5 billion judgment against Chevron in the Ecuadorian pollution suit.
Burt Neuborne, counsel for Hugo Gerardo Camacho Naranjo and Javier Piaguaje Payaguaje, filed his brief on behalf of the Ecuadorians. Deepak Gupta filed his brief on behalf of attorney Steven Donziger, who has been named by Chevron in a racketeering lawsuit.
"This litigation has lost its way," Neuborne's brief states.
"Commenced twenty-one years ago in an effort to invoke the rule of law on behalf of 30,000 indigenous peoples residing in the Amazon basin of Ecuador whose habitat had been ravaged in the search for oil, the litigation's current focus has been skillfully diverted from the central issue of Chevron's legal duty to remediate the ravaged land, to a distasteful sideshow featuring unremitting assaults on the integrity of...Donziger, a lawyer for the Ecuadorian victims, in connection with the issuance of a disputed Ecuadorian trial court judgment, dated February 14, 2011, requiring Chevron to pay approximately $9 billion to remediate environmental damage to Ecuador's Amazon basin, and an additional $9 billion to its inhabitants in the form of punitive damages."
Both Chevron and the district court are in "deep denial concerning the legal consequences of the $8.65 billion intermediate appeals court remediation judgment, and its affirmance by the National Court of Ecuador," according to Neuborne's brief.
"Accordingly, whatever the district court's power to issue injunctive relief designed to prevent Mr. Donziger from profiting financially from his alleged wrongdoing, no power existed in the district court to enjoin either Hugo Camacho Naranjo or Javier Piaguaje Payaguaje from seeking to enforce the judgment of the Sala Única of the Provincial Court of Justice of Sucumbios throughout the United States in an effort to begin the long-delayed process of remediating their habitat and their culture," Neuborne's brief states.
Donziger filed a lawsuit against Chevron for the damages done to the Ecuadorian villagers and in February 2011, after an eight-year trial, a court in Ecuador issued a $19 billion judgment against Chevron for causing the environmental disaster.
Chevron obtained an injunction from U.S. District Court in 2011 against enforcement of the Ecuadorian verdict and filed its RICO suit against Donziger, the Law Offices of Steven R. Donziger and others, claiming Donziger participated in extortion and criminal conspiracy under the RICO statute.
The RICO suit spent three years in court before Kaplan issued a ruling that said the judgment against Chevron was the product of fraud and racketeering.
In March, Chevron asked for $32.3 million in attorneys fees in the RICO case, reflecting 36,837 hours billed by Chevron's outside counsel at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, and 139,747 hours billed to Chevron by attorneys at Huron Consulting Group and Merrill Communications LLC.
Donziger is seeking a stay pending appeal.
In May, Patton Boggs agreed to pay $15 million to Chevron, issue a statement of regret and withdraw from the Ecuador case.
Chevron operated in Ecuador's Amazon from 1964 to 1992 under the Texaco brand.
The Ecuadoreans have also sued Chevron in Brazil, Argentina and Canada, where the company has assets that can be seized.
The Court of Appeal for Ontario ruled in December that the 47 villagers have the right to pursue Chevron's Canada assets. The other cases are pending.
In Gupta's brief, he states that for the second time, the district court has granted Chevron an "extraordinary injunction."
"It bars collection anywhere on the globe of an Ecuadorian court's judgment in favor of Ecuadorian citizens, based on Ecuadorian law, arising from pollution of the Ecuadorian rainforest," Gupta's brief states. "Last time, this court warned the district court not to sit as a 'transnational arbiter' and 'dictate to the entire world which judgments are entitled to respect and which countries' courts are to be treated as international pariahs.'"
This time, Gupta states, Chevron circumvented that warning by painting the rainforest communities' two-decade-long quest for justice as a RICO conspiracy.
"Drawing on its bottomless war chest, Chevron has shifted the focus from its own wrongdoing in the Amazon to trumped-up allegations of corruption and misconduct against the Ecuadorian trial judge, advocates for the rainforest communities and every branch of Ecuador's government," Gupta's brief states. "In pursuing this effort, Chevron has left no stone unturned, amassed staggering discovery-hundreds of hours of raw footage from a documentary filmmaker, two decades' worth of litigation files and even the personal diary of the American lawyer, Steven Donziger, at whom Chevron takes principal aim."