We are living in a time of extreme climate crisis exacerbated by a breakdown in 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 communities in Ecuador’s Amazon win a historic $9.5 billion judgment against Chevron for the deliberate dumping of billions of gallons of cancer-causing oil waste onto Indigenous ancestral lands. As part of a vicious retaliation campaign, Chevron has attacked me for years using at least 60 law firms and 2,000 lawyers with the goal of blocking my advocacy, bankrupting my family, and intimidating 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 — a former tobacco industry lawyer — 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, potentially placing my vulnerable clients 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. The federal prosecutor in Manhattan rejected the case, prompting Kaplan to appoint the Chevron law firm Seward & Kissel to “prosecute” me. The Seward firm failed to disclose until seven months into the case that Chevron is a private client — a flagrant conflict of interest. The Seward law firm has kept me under house arrest without trial for 17 months while the pandemic has caused numerous delays of my trial. For all intents and purposes, I am the only person in American history being prosecuted by a private oil company. This is frightening for me and my family, but it also represents a grave threat to the right of Free Speech and civil society everywhere. I have now been in house arrest without trial for more than six times longer than the longest sentence ever imposed in New York on a lawyer convicted of contempt. The judge appointed by Judge Kaplan to preside is a leader of the Federalist Society, a pro-corporate legal society to which Chevron is a major donor. She has denied me a jury, restricted my defenses, and removed my two lead lawyers on the eve of a previously scheduled trial. My new trial date is May 10, 2021. The outcome of this case is critical not just for me and my family but also for the larger global struggle for corporate accountability, environmental justice, Indigenous rights, and Free Speech. To meet this challenge, I need financial support urgently.
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.
If you are unable to donate, please consider joining the campaign to #FreeDonziger at freedonziger.org.
“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