Chevron’s Legal Strategy Derailed, Ecuadoreans Score Major Victory

posted by Rainforest Action Network

Chevron oil handYesterday, Chevron’s legal strategy to evade cleaning up its oil pollution in Ecuador went off the rails. An appeals court in New York lifted a ban on the $18 billion judgment against the company for contaminating the Amazon.

The decision comes after a hearing last Friday in which Chevron’s lawyers were all but laughed out of a New York courtroom while attempting to defend the “worldwide injunction” that barred enforcement of the judgment.

I had the pleasure of being in the courtroom that day, and needless to say, I left feeling some justice was finally served. After months of watching Chevron’s lawyers have their way in their attempts to shield the company from having to clean up its mess in Ecuador, it finally seems there is an American court willing to hear both sides.

The legal details: The Second Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the preliminary injunction ordered by US Federal Judge Lewis Kaplan, which would have prohibited the Ecuadorean plaintiffs from enforcing the $18 billion judgment outside of Ecuador. This is a major victory for the 30,000 Ecuadoreans affected by Chevron’s oil pollution in the Amazon. It’s unusual for a court of appeals to completely reverse a lower court’s decision, but in this case it was obvious that Chevron and their legal hacks have continued to abuse the law and that Judge Kaplan rushed to implement a judgment without considering the overwhelming evidence against Chevron.

Jim Tyrrell, the attorney who argued for the Ecuadoreans before the Second Circuit, said of the court’s ruling: “We are very excited that the court has reached this decision,” calling it “a triumph of the rule of law over the sensationalism created by Chevron’s PR department.”

The preliminary injunction was probably futile and potentially illegal anyway, according to several international law scholars who reviewed the case. Why Judge Kaplan issued an injunction so far outside of his jurisdiction is anyone’s guess. He continually refers to the plaintiffs as the “so-called Ecuadorean plaintiffs,” as if their existence or the horrifying conditions they live in is somehow in question. He even allegedly suggested to Chevron’s lawyers that they should file racketeering charges against the Ecuadoreans and their US lawyers – which Chevron did.

In its decision, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals also indefinitely stayed the trial over the racketeering charges, which was scheduled to begin later this month.

In the meantime, I wanted to say thank you to everyone who shared Servio Curipoma’s story last week to let Chevron and Judge Kaplan know that the Ecuadorean plaintiffs are very real and for over 20 years have continued to fight for justice.

It’s important that we celebrate this historic milestone, but just as important that we continue to push Chevron to redirect the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on litigation and PR into cleaning up its toxic legacy in the Ecuadorian Amazon.