Dear Friends,Chevron is trying to destroy my life as an environmental justice lawyer and jail me for winning a historic pollution judgement against the company on behalf of Amazon communities in Ecuador; we must not let them succeed. I need your help urgently.As background, I have spent much of my life 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. Chevron discharged the waste into streams and rivers relied on by local residents for drinking water, bathing, and fishing; thousands have either died of cancer or face a grave risk of death from oil-related diseases. After an 8-year trial in Ecuador where Chevron accepted jurisdiction, the Supreme Court of Ecuador in 2013 found the company committed a mass industrial poisoning to save $3 per barrel of oil. The company refuses to pay the judgement and recently threatened the Indigenous peoples with a “lifetime of litigation” unless they drop their claims. As part of a vicious retaliation campaign, Chevron has tried to demonize me for years by 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.Given my refusal to capitulate, Chevron recently upped the ante even further. It targeted me with the first corporate criminal prosecution in the history of the United States. Private lawyers at the Chevron law firm Seward & Kissel were appointed by Judge Lewis Kaplan to "prosecute" me on contempt charges after I appealed a shocking and unprecedented order from Kaplan that I turn over my computer and cell phone for review by Chevron. The Chevron law firm promptly had me locked up at home, where I have remained for over two years. Kaplan's 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. Even more shockingly, Kaplan -- a former tobacco industry lawyer -- appointed the Chevron law firm after the federal prosecutor in New York rejected his contempt charges. My lawyers say this prosecution is blatantly illegal. The restrictions on my life have been devastating to me and my family including my young son. As I write this, I have been confined to our small apartment with an ankle bracelet shackled to my leg for roughly 750 days when the longest sentence ever imposed on a lawyer for the supposed “crime” of contempt is 90 days of home detention. This is frightening for us to even think about. But it also represents a direct attack by Chevron and its judicial allies on the rule of law and the free speech rights of all advocates.The judge on my contempt case (also 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 denied me a jury of my peers, refused to let me defend myself, and denied demands that she disclose facts related to the flagrant conflicts of interest involving the private prosecutor. Preska recently allowed the Chevron law firm to orchestrate 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 predictably found me “guilty” and has said she plans to sentence me on October 1 while I must organize and mount an appeal. All of this entails considerable financial cost.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 demonstrate that a human rights lawyer can beat back a powerful corporation with grassroots funding, it will also 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 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