Memo: Chevron’s RICO Trial to Nowhere


Both sides will make closing arguments today, but Chevron’s multi-billion dollar Ecuador liability cannot be solved by controversial judge Lewis A. Kaplan even if he rules in favor of the oil giant, according to an analysis of the case by the plaintiffs outlined in a concluding legal memo.

Click to read/download Chevron v. Donziger et al closing memo: Chevron’s RICO Trial to Nowhere

Among Chevron’s many problems with the RICO case, according to the memo prepared by lawyers for the Ecuadorian plaintiffs:

**Judge Kaplan had no authority to conduct the RICO trial in the United States given that Chevron agreed to abide by any judgment from Ecuador’s courts, subject only to its available defenses in enforcement actions. Filing a RICO case is not a defense to enforcement actions abroad, said Gowen.

**Chevron’s RICO case violates settled principles of international comity by asking a trial court judge in the United States to rule on another country’s judicial system. Ecuador’s Supreme Court decision against Chevron “is entitled to respect by the United States and by ever other nation in the world, just as an opinion of the Supreme Court of the United States is entitled to respect,” according to the plaintiff’s analysis.

**Given that on the eve of trial Chevron dropped all damages claims to avoid a jury, it’s proposed remedy of an injunction has no basis in the law and runs counter to a previous appellate decision in the case that overturned Kaplan. In short, U.S. courts have no legal authority to impose an injunction blocking enforcement of judgments from other countries, according to the analysis.

**The RICO statute also does not authorize a private party – as opposed to the U.S. government – to seek injunctive relief of any sort. Thus, the RICO statute does not provide a basis for the remedy Chevron seeks and the case should have been thrown out when the company dropped damages claims, according to the analysis.

A press release highlighting the memo was issued today. It concludes:

As for Donziger, the memo makes clear that he will continue with his commitment to help the Ecuadorians get relief from the extensive oil contamination that afflicts their homeland. His full written witness statement is available here.

“Mr. Donziger is unbowed by the combined efforts of Chevron and Judge Kaplan to inappropriately try to quash the Ecuador legal judgment and he will continue his lawful work on behalf of his clients so they can receive a proper cleanup of their ancestral lands, adequate medical attention, and clean water,” the memo asserted.

Click to read/download the memo as a PDF document.