Full Statement of 55 Nobel Laureates In Support of U.S. Human Rights Lawyer Steven Donziger
Free Steven Donziger, Lead Lawyer in $9.5b Ruling Against Chevron
In April of this year, 29 Nobel Laureates issued a call for the release from house arrest of human rights attorney Steven Donziger, lead lawyer in an historic $9.5B ruling in 2013 against Chevron for the decades-long pollution of the Ecuadorian Amazon. Since that ruling, Chevron has not stopped its attacks on Mr. Donziger and they are legion.
Now, six months later, we again find ourselves calling for Mr. Donziger’s immediate release and for the end of the judicial harassment against him.
So far, Mr. Donziger has been held for 15 months under pre-trial house arrest in Manhattan in a criminal contempt case where the maximum punishment, if he were to be tried and convicted, is six months. His crime: refusing an unprecedented and likely illegal order to turn over his computer and cell, full of attorney-client protected materials, to Chevron. His clients, thousands of Indigenous peoples and rural farmers, are suffering from cancers and other health impacts caused by oil pollution and they now being deprived of their main lawyer who was leading actions to enforce their judgment. They too have been subject to decades of harassment and abuse by Chevron in Ecuador.
The criminal contempt charge that led to Mr. Donziger’s house arrest without trial is riddled with conflicts of interest and is a form of corporate retaliation against him - Chevron’s main critic. His prosecution is being orchestrated by Chevron, aided by pro-Chevron judges and lawyers.
In this particular case against Mr. Donziger, the Judge (Loretta Preska) is a member of the Federalist Society of which Chevron is a major donor; the prosecutor (Rita Glavin) works for a law firm that has Chevron as a client, Seward & Kissel; and the charging judge (Lewis A. Kaplan) has investments in Chevron.
Kaplan appointed both Preska and Glavin after his charges against Mr. Donziger were rejected – twice - by the New York federal prosecutor. Kaplan never disclosed Glavin’s law firm had Chevron as a client. We also note that more than 200 lawyers and 37 bar associations around the world recently filed a detailed ethics complaint against Judge Kaplan outlining years of alleged misconduct in his targeting of Mr. Donziger.
It clearly will be impossible for Mr. Donziger to receive a fair trial under the circumstances. Judge Preska has determined there will be no jury and Kaplan, Preska and Glavin are coordinating to engineer a conviction of Mr. Donziger to protect Chevron and more broadly to intimidate human rights lawyers and advocates.
As Nobel Laureates, we have a deep and abiding interest in peace and justice, in upholding our international system for the protection of human rights, and in protecting the environment. It clearly is a violation of Mr. Donziger’s rights and those of the affected communities in Ecuador for a U.S. corporation to wrest the power from government to prosecute the lawyer who helped to hold it accountable for human rights abuses, abetted by judges with their own conflicts of interest.
WE CALL FOR U.S. judicial authorities to immediately:
Release Mr. Donziger from home detention;
Dismiss the charges against him;
Cease all judicial harassment of Mr. Donziger;
Ensure that any further legal actions involving Mr. Donziger are assigned to a neutral and unbiased judge.