Lawyers for Donziger and Ecuadorians file post-trial briefs: Chevron’s RICO case faces ‘dead end’


Lawyers for Steven Donziger and the Ecuadorian villagers he has long advised in their legal effort to hold Chevron accountable for its Amazon contamination filed post-trial legal briefs this week in response to the company’s retaliatory racketeering case.

The 70-page brief, filed last night by lawyers for New York attorney Steven Donziger and available here, also argues that U.S. Judge Lewis A. Kaplan wrongly allowed Chevron to bring its case under the RICO statute and that Chevron failed to prove the alleged fraud that villagers say was a ruse manufactured by the oil company to evade paying a $9.5 billion judgment against it for discharging billions of gallons of toxic waste into the Amazon, decimating indigenous groups and causing a spike in cancer rates.

Highlights of the final brief submitted by Donziger include:

**An introduction (pp. 1-7) that summarizes the legal and factual flaws in Chevron’s case, including Judge Kaplan’s lack of jurisdiction: “Having been held responsible by a court of law for one of the worst environmental disasters in history, Chevron wants an order from a U.S. trial judge preventing enforcement of the judgment of an Ecuadorian court…. But this Court lacks jurisdiction to even consider that request” under clear authority established by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which oversees Kaplan.

The brief said the worldwide injunction sought by Chevron would violate established legal authority in the U.S. and also “would do violence to principles of international comity, disrupt our diplomatic relations with friends and allies, and invite scorn around the world. It would be an affront not only to the Republic of Ecuador but to the legal system of every other sovereign nation, each assumed incapable of deciding for itself whether to enforce the judgment.”

(Because Chevron refuses to pay the Ecuador judgment, the Ecuadorian villagers have filed enforcement lawsuits against Chevron in Canada, Argentina, and Brazil—all of whom have their own laws governing such actions.)

**A factual statement outlining Chevron’s long history of toxic dumping in Ecuador, efforts to bribe judges and government officials to fraudulently cover up the pollution, and how the harm caused by the company continues to this day.  (pp. 7-30).  The brief states:  “Chevron’s “pump and dump” operations violated Ecuadorian law and left behind massive amounts of poison and pollution to ravage the communities of the Amazon. Toxic—and in many cases carcinogenic—chemicals continue to infect the waters that tens of thousands of indigenous people depend on for every facet of their lives.”  Because the

**A section deconstructing the criminal history and lack of credibility of Chevron’s star witness, former Ecuadorian judge Alberto Guerra.  (pp. 31-41).  The brief points out how Guerra’s testimony is “riddled with inconsistencies” and changed after Randy Mastro, Chevron’s lead outside lawyer, personally negotiated a lucrative deal to pay Guerra hundreds of thousands of dollars in violation of U.S. law.

**A detailed legal section (pp. 43-72) that explains how Chevron “has not alleged a single concrete injury that could be remedied by the relief it seeks” (p. 45) and how the company’s case must fail for myriad reasons.  Reasons Chevron’s case must fail include First Amendment protections for litigation; Judge Kaplan’s lack of authority to overrule a foreign judgment; rules barring U.S. courts from issuing advisory opinions; the fact the RICO statute does not authorize private parties to seek injunctive relief; and the fact Chevron never contested the underlying merits of the Ecuador judgment, thus conceding that the Ecuador case is legitimate.

Click here to read a press release announcing the filing of the post-trial brief.

Click here to read and/or download the brief (PDF).