NEW YORK, Sept 26 A U.S. appeals court on
Thursday rejected a bid by Ecuadorean villagers to remove a
judge overseeing a trial next month in a decades-old dispute
between the villagers and Chevron Corp.
At the trial, Chevron is seeking to prove that the
Ecuadoreans and a lawyer who works on their behalf used fraud
and bribery to obtain an $18 billion pollution award against
Chevron in an Ecuadorean court.
Lawyers for the Ecuadoreans have said U.S. District Judge
Lewis Kaplan, who is overseeing the upcoming trial, has
disregarded a ruling in their favor by the 2nd U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals and asked for him to be replaced.
In a brief order on Thursday, a three-judge panel of the
appeals court denied the request.
The judges gave no reasoning in their order, but at a
hearing hours earlier the judges suggested the request was
The Ecuadoreans will be able to appeal if they lose at
trial, Circuit Judge Barrington Parker said at the hearing. "You
can come back here and get that judgment set aside," Parker
said. "If you're right, you'll win."
Another circuit judge, Debra Ann Livingston, questioned what
was "so extraordinary" to warrant action by the appeals court
before the trial, scheduled for Oct. 15, has even started.
Christopher Gowen, a lawyer for the Ecuadoreans, said the
2nd Circuit's ruling had failed to stop an "impending travesty"
of justice, and called on Kaplan to empanel a jury rather than
decide the case alone.
Morgan Crinklaw, a spokesman for Chevron, said the company
is pleased with the ruling.
The case stems from environmental contamination in the
Amazon jungle between 1964 and 1992 by Texaco, which Chevron
bought in 2001.
An Ecuadorean court awarded the plaintiffs - people affected
by the contamination - $18 billion in 2011.
That year, Kaplan issued an injunction blocking enforcement
of the judgment. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals later
reversed that order, saying in part that it would encourage
people to challenge the legitimacy of foreign courts in New
Kaplan's decisions ahead of the upcoming trial violated that
2nd Circuit decision, according to the arguments rejected by the
appeals court on Thursday.
The case is In Re Hugo Geraldo Camacho, 2nd U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals, No. 13-772.