Join us! Please sign the petition for Steven.
Dear Friends, We are living in a time of extreme climate crisis exacerbated by a breakdown of many of our democratic institutions. We know that dependence on fossil fuels and the power of the oil industry have contributed extensively to these crises. I have spent much of my life as a lawyer helping Indigenous peoples and rural communities in Ecuador’s Amazon win a historic $9.5 billion pollution judgment against Chevron for the deliberate dumping of billions of gallons of cancer-causing oil waste onto Indigenous ancestral lands. Much of the oil waste was discharged into streams and rivers relied on by local residents for drinking water, bathing, and fishing. Courts found Chevron committed a mass industrial poisoning to save $3 per barrel of oil produced. The company refuses to pay the pollution judgement and has threatened the Indigenous peoples with a “lifetime of litigation” unless they drop their case. As part of a vicious retaliation campaign, Chevron has tried to demonize me for years using at least 60 law firms and 2,000 lawyers. The company’s goal is to silence my advocacy, bankrupt my family, and intimidate activists and environmental allies.Chevron recently orchestrated my criminal contempt prosecution and detention in New York by one of the company's private law firms, Seward & Kissel. This happened after I appealed a shocking and unprecedented order from trial judge Lewis A. Kaplan that I turn over my computer and phone for review by Chevron lawyers. This order violated the most basic sanctity of the attorney-client privilege and placed my vulnerable clients in the Amazon at severe risk of grave bodily harm or even death. As my appeal of this order was pending, Judge Kaplan charged me with criminal contempt and appointed a private prosecutor from the Chevron law firm to target me after the U.S. Attorney declined to take the case -- a situation that my lawyers say is unconstitutional and illegal under international law. I have now been locked up in my New York apartment with an ankle bracelet shackled to my leg for almost two years when the longest sentence ever imposed on a lawyer for my supposed “crime” is 90 days of home detention. I am also the only person in American history being prosecuted directly by a private corporation. This is frightening for me and my family, but it also represents a direct attack by Chevron on the rule of law and the free speech rights of all advocates.I have now been under home confinement for more than eight times longer than the longest sentence ever imposed in New York on a lawyer convicted of contempt. The judge on my case (appointed by Judge Kaplan in violation of rules requiring random assignment of cases) is Loretta Preska, a leader of the Chevron-funded Federalist Society. Preska has denied me a jury of my peers, severely curtailed my ability to mount a defense, and refused demands that she disclose facts related to her ties to Chevron and other flagrant conflicts of interest involving the private prosecutor. Preska recently orchestrated a contempt “trial” that was a charade: it was financed in large part by Chevron’s law firms and Preska was reading the newspaper while witnesses were testifying. She is certain to find me “guilty” at which point she will have the right to sentence me to prison while I must organize and mount an appeal. All of this entails considerable financial cost to me, my family, and my clients in Ecuador.The outcome of this case is critical not just for me and others involved but also for the larger global struggle for corporate accountability, environmental justice, Indigenous rights, and Free Speech. To meet this challenge, we need financial support urgently. If we can set the precedent that a human rights lawyer can beat a powerful corporation with grassroots funding, it will create enormous possibilities for the environmental and corporate accountability movements and will dramatically increase the odds we can save our planet. Whatever support you can give will be graciously accepted and greatly appreciated.
Funds raised are not tax-deductible. They will be held in trust and administered by the Friedman Rubin law firm in Seattle, Washington. Richard Friedman, the principal, has represented me pro bono in many aspects of the litigation. Funds will pay legal costs, basic living expenses and to raise awareness. Legal expenses alone are expected to surpass $1 million. Donations of all sizes are deeply appreciated.
“Steven is a true hero of the environmental movement.”
“What Chevron and its law firms are doing to Steven is the most grotesque thing I have observed in the American legal system in 40 years of practice. Attacking the other side’s lawyers is what defendants do if they have no defense on the merits. Chevron has made no secret of the fact that its only hope is, in their words, to ‘demonize Donziger.’ I have never met anyone more courageous or resilient than Steven Donziger.”
Steven Donziger: Eco-Justice HeroRolling Stone: "Warhorse Lawyer"The Nation: Battle for JusticeGreenpeace: Chevron's Intimidation ModelHuffington Post: Irrefutable Truths About Chevron's PollutionCollateral Estoppel - The Harvard Law RecordChevron Toxico - The Campaign for Justice in Ecuador