November 30, 2018
Lawyers Dopico and Goldstein Seek Court Order to Deny Human Rights Lawyer Public Hearing Where He Can Challenge His Suspension
Lawyers from the New York bar grievance committee are seeking an extraordinary court order to block U.S. human rights attorney Steven Donziger from presenting explosive evidence of Chevron’s fraud and witness bribery that he says was relied on to illegally suspend his law license without a hearing after helping Ecuadorian Indigenous groups win a landmark $12 billion pollution judgment.
Earlier this week, New York bar staff attorneys Jorge Dopico and Naomi Goldstein obtained an order from a New York appellate judge staying Donziger’s two-day fact hearing which had been scheduled to begin Dec. 4 in Manhattan. Donziger, whose law license was suspended in July without a hearing, was going to present the evidence of Chevron’s fraud after a court-appointed referee issued a hugely important ruling last month allowing the attorney to challenge the 2014 pro-Chevron findings of federal judge Lewis A. Kaplan in a civil racketeering case.
The stay will allow a New York court time to determine whether it will overturn the bar referee’s procedural decision favoring Donziger in the middle of an ongoing attorney disciplinary proceeding – something that is virtually unprecedented in the history of New York, according to several attorneys in the state. “It appears to our team that the bar staff lawyers in New York are nervous about letting Steven expose the truth about Chevron’s fraud, which might embarrass Judge Kaplan and other judges to whom the staff attorneys must answer,” said Patricio Salazar, the Ecuadorian lawyer against Chevron and a colleague of Donziger.
The referee in the case, John Horan, had examined the Kaplan RICO trial and concluded there might be support for Donziger’s long-held contention he did not get a fair trial. He also questioned whether Kaplan violated Donziger’s constitutional right to due process by denying him a jury of impartial fact finders even though he was effectively facing criminal charges, albeit in the context of a civil case with a relaxed evidentiary standard.
Long known as a pro-business judge who maintained undisclosed investments in Chevron during his trial, Kaplan effectively “created a criminal indictment” and tried Donziger for conspiracy, said Horan. “It is doubtful that is an indictment in the same terms had been brought by the United States Attorney, (Donziger) would have elected to have a trial by a single judge and would have waived his right to a trial by jury,” Horan wrote.
Donziger has categorically challenged each of the Kaplan findings, saying they are based primarily on false or decontextualized evidence and Kaplan’s stubborn refusal to consider the voluminous scientific evidence of Chevron’s environmental contamination in Ecuador.