200 Law Students to DOJ: Investigate Chevron’s Role in Donziger Prosecution

Students from 55 U.S. law schools have signed a letter to U.S. Attorney General demanding the DOJ review Chevron-tainted prosecution of human rights lawyer Steven Donziger

New York – Over 200 students and organizations from 55 leading U.S. law schools -- including Stanford, Harvard, Yale, and Columbia, have asked in a letter to Attorney General Garland that the Department of Justice review the prosecution of U.S. human rights lawyer Steven Donziger after he helped win a $9.5 billion pollution judgment against Chevron.

“As law students who plan to represent under-resourced clients, we fear that this case will embolden further strategic lawsuits against public participation (“SLAPP”) and deter other students from representing clients seeking to redress harm by corporations,” the students wrote in a letter with signatories from students and student organizations representing 55 law schools. “A successful campaign to criminalize Mr. Donziger would suppress the public interest advocacy that is crucial to a fair justice system and social progress.”

Their letter echoes the message of a similar request by six House Democrats to review Mr. Donziger’s prosecution.

Donziger was instrumental in helping Indigenous peoples and rural farmers in Ecuador’s Amazon win the pollution judgment against Chevron in 2011 after the company was found liable for dumping 16 billion gallons of cancer-causing oil waste onto Indigenous ancestral lands. The judgment has been affirmed for enforcement purposes by 29 appellate judges, including the entire Supreme Courts of Ecuador and Canada.

After having insisted for years that the trial take place in Ecuador, Chevron’s lawyers later vowed never to pay the judgment and have threated the Indigenous groups with a “lifetime of litigation” if they don’t drop their claims. Chevron also pushed for Mr. Donziger to be held in criminal contempt of court after he appealed an apparently unlawful order that he turn over his computer and cell phone to the company – devices that contain highly sensitive and confidential attorney-client information.

The students come from an array of U.S. law schools from the entire country – among them the University of Richmond, University of Arizona, Boston College, Ohio State University, University of California at Berkeley, University of North Carolina, University of Oregon, Georgetown, Georgia State, Penn, and George Washington, among many others. Students from all ten of the nation’s top-ranked law schools are represented.

Steven Donziger