Cheating in a game of high-stakes legal tactics has backfired in the ongoing Chevron-Ecuador case, potentially leaving villagers with nothing
A favourite weapon of green campaign groups, the class action lawsuit, is under threat after a ruling in the long-running Chevron-Ecuadorian oil pollution case.
Critics call it “greenmail”: using the threat of an extended public relations nightmare and expensive courtroom battle to extort settlement payments from deep-pocketed corporations. Advocacy groups of course see it differently: one of the few ways in which the powerless and aggrieved can tip the uneven scales of power and justice.
These two contrasting narratives were on sharp display in the wake of a recent ruling in New York, where federal judge Lewis Kaplan eviscerated the tactics of class action lawyers in the decade-long Chevron case.
Ecuadorian complainants represented by New York based lawyer Steve Donziger have been contending that Texaco, the company absorbed by Chevron that had operated in the Amazon for decades, had created a petroleum-laced “Rainforest Chernobyl” in the fragile ecosystem.
What makes this case so unusual is that Kaplan was not empowered to rule on the merits of the pollution case; rather he focused on Donziger’s prosecution of it. This case was litigated under what are known as Rico statutes – US racketeering law under which a lawyer’s legal tactics are scrutinised.
In what has been...
June 2014, London
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