Today in a New York Courtroom, Chevron’s campaign to evade accountability for its environmental and human rights abuses in Ecuador officially enters a new, egregious, ridiculous stage.
This morning, in Judge Lewis Kaplan’s courtroom on the 21st floor of the Daniel Patrick Moynihan U.S. Courthouse in New York, Chevron’s team of lawyers assembled on one side, while long-time advocate for the Ecuadorian rainforest communities, Steven Donziger and his team assembled on the other. Some journalists and supporters of the fight to hold Chevron accountable filled out the courtroom and fidgeted, while waiting for whatever would come next.Missing from the courtroom as Judge Kaplan called the first day’s hearing to order was Javier Piaguaje, Secoya indigenous leader from the community of San Pablo, deep in the Ecuadorian Amazon. He has consistently rejected the New York court’s jurisdiction but traveled here to represent the thousands of Ecuadorian victims of Chevron’s pollution who are being victimized even now by Chevron’s ongoing scorched earth campaign to crush their righteous fight for justice.
Earlier in the morning, Javier stood beneath the Flaming Sword of Justice Monument to briefly address a large crowd of people gathered in Foley Square; members of the Ecuadorean community in New York, and supporters of human rights and the environment who came out in solidarity.
High above Foley Square, Judge Kaplan began the proceedings without a single representative from the affected Ecuadorian communities. A few minutes later, finally, Javier joined Steven in the courtroom, along with their lawyers. Javier had been delayed by long lines at the entrance check-point; security was tight for the high-profile arraignment of a terror suspect.
But as the proceedings continued, the scene grew only more bizarre.
In its opening statement, Chevron failed to mention a single element of law against the Ecuadorian defendants. It seems clear that the court has no choice but to dismiss the entire matter against the Ecuadorians.
In fact, Chevron’s opening statement displays an absolute obsession with Donziger, but an utter lack of legal basis to proceed in the show trial now underway. Chevron even failed in its opening statement to suggest any sort of relief they may be seeking from the court, suggesting they don’t have a legal basis for relief.
At the outset, besides the overarching fact that this whole RICO case is merely a weapon of mass distraction designed to explode the landmark verdict won by the Ecuadorian plaintiffs after one of the most litigated environmental cases in history, Chevron’s case has a couple obvious major problems from a legal standpoint: the company can’t meet the elements of law, and there’s no relief available anyway.
And all of that became clear within the first hour or two. Stay tuned…