Press Release: IRAdvocates Stands in Support of Steven Donziger
Chevron’s campaign against Steven Donziger in retaliation for Donziger’s efforts to bring justice to the victims of horrific pollution in the Lago Agrio region of Ecuador illustrates the extent to which large corporations control and influence our judicial processes. We stand in solidarity with Donziger as he faces criminal prosecution for trumped-up contempt charges. As Donziger has noted, the U.S. Attorney declined to prosecute Donziger for these charges, showing that they were not viewed as very serious. Instead, Donziger is being prosecuted by an attorney for a private law-firm with possible ties to Chevron. The two judges who have aggressively pursued Donziger, Kaplan and Preska, also have possible links to Chevron through the Federalist society. In any event, they are clearly not impartial, showing much deference to Chevron throughout the initial RICO litigation and the later contempt case.
Any alleged improprieties by Donziger in his pursuit of justice in Ecuador pale in comparison to the grievous miscarriage of justice in the witch hunt against him. Chevron has lavishly paid off an Ecuadorian judge as a witness against Donziger.
The RICO statute which was used against Donziger must be amended to protect first amendment activities, such as the right to petition courts for redress. Attorneys should not be retaliated against for pursuing legal remedies in good faith for their clients. There are other remedies in place if a crusading attorney files a frivolous case, such as Rule 11 sanctions. These SLAPP suits pose a threat to our democracy by allowing large corporations to hamstring plaintiffs’ attorneys and tie-up their resources in defending against these suits.
IRAdvocates has itself been a target of two frivolous SLAPP suits, one for RICO and one for defamation, brought by Drummond Company, the Alabama coal giant that funded the AUC’s crimes against humanity in Colombia while providing “security” for Drummond. We will ultimately prevail in these cases, but we have been forced to spend a tremendous amount of time and resources to defend these bogus claims.