Caso Chevron

Donziger Faces Criminal Contempt Prosecution Team at Seward & Kissel

After the Southern District U.S. Attorney

New York Law Journal - Jack Newsham 14/08/2019

Photo: New York Law Journal

Photo: New York Law Journal

Steven Donziger, the suspended attorney who was ordered to pay an $800,000 judgment for allegedly rigging an Ecuadorian lawsuit against Chevron Corp., is now being prosecuted for criminal contempt by court-appointed attorneys at Seward & Kissel.

Donziger’s cutthroat legal war with Chevron has raged for years, but has significantly escalated in recent weeks. On July 31, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan of the Southern District of New York ordered Donziger to explain why he shouldn’t be prosecuted for allegedly failing to turn over assets to Chevron and comply with discovery orders.

In an unusual twist, the judge also appointed Rita Glavin, Brian Maloney and Sareen Armani of Seward & Kissel to prosecute Donziger for criminal contempt. In appointing a private prosecution team, the judge cited federal criminal rules and an explanation by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York that the office declined to take up the case referral ”on the ground the matter would require resources that we do not have readily available.”

The judge gave Glavin and her colleagues the power to issue subpoenas and to seek and execute search warrants.

For now, Donziger—who is represented by Andrew Frisch—is wearing an ankle bracelet and has been made to surrender his passports, according to an Aug. 9 letter filed by Glavin. Donziger has been released on $800,000 bond secured by his apartment and signed off by two people, one of whom is his wife.

The criminal case is the latest development in a long-running legal war. Donziger represents a group of Ecuadorians who sued Chevron for widespread environmental contamination and won a multibillion-dollar ruling in Ecuadorian courts. Chevron said the decision was procured by fraud, however, and has fought efforts to enforce the judgment and won a racketeering suit against Donziger.

The oil company and its legal team at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher have lately been trying to seize Donziger’s assets. Donziger and his law firm Donziger Law were ordered in July to pay Chevron $3.4 million in attorneys’ fees after Lewis agreed to hold him in civil contempt.

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