NEW YORK May 20 A U.S. filmmaker has 10 more
days to decide whether to comply with a subpoena ordering that
he give Chevron Corp (CVX.N) raw footage of a documentary on
the 17-year-old legal fight over oil pollution in the Amazon
rainforest in Ecuador, a judge ruled on Thursday.
The decision by Manhattan federal court Judge Lewis Kaplan
paves the way for "Crude" filmmaker Joe Berlinger and the
Ecuadorean plaintiffs to appeal an order by Kaplan on May 6
authorizing the issue of subpoenas. [ID:nN06267807]
Berlinger was to answer his subpoena by Friday to supply
the second-largest U.S. oil company with hundreds of hours of
film not included in the public release of "Crude" in 2009. The
judge extended the deadline to May 31.
Berlinger has neither refused to comply with the subpoena
nor been held in contempt for refusing. The film was solicited
by Steven Donziger, a U.S. lawyer for Ecuadorean plaintiffs.
It chronicles the litigation and oil production in the
Amazon rainforest and how indigenous communities accused
Texaco, bought by Chevron in 2001, of damaging their health and
the rainforest by causing river pollution.
The original lawsuit was brought in 1993 by farmers and
residents, known as the Lago Agrio plaintiffs. The dispute has
produced many twists and turns, including allegations of
bribery in the Ecuadorean court system.
Chevron, which faces potential liability of $27 billion,
says the claim against it is without merit.
Lawyers for Berlinger argued that the judge's order to hand
over outtakes undermined the ability of filmmakers and
journalists to cultivate sources and be a public watchdog.
In his order on Thursday, Kaplan wrote: "There is no
evidence that anyone who appeared in Crude is a confidential
source - so far as the record discloses, they all willingly
appeared on camera."
He also said that he respects the work of documentary
filmmakers in creating public awareness of events, but he was
not persuaded "disclosure of these outtakes would impair the
ability of Berlinger or other film makers to practice their
craft and serve the public interest."
The case is In re Application of Chevron Corporation, U.S.
District Court for the Southern District of New York, No.
(Reporting by Grant McCool, editing by Maureen Bavdek)