| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Nov 15 Steven Donziger, the lawyer
accused by Chevron Corp of using bribery to secure a $19
billion judgment over pollution in Ecuador, has never been shy
about his opinion of U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan.
"What he's doing is not judging," Donziger said of Kaplan,
who is presiding over a non-jury trial on Chevron's claims in a
federal court in New York. "He's prosecuting."
Donziger, who spoke to reporters on Friday, is expected to
take the stand on Monday to testify in his own defense. The
trial is entering its sixth week.
His appearance will be a dramatic moment in the years-long
legal battle that has pitted the vast resources of a global oil
company against Donziger and the group of villagers in
northeastern Ecuador that he advised.
In a draft of his testimony provided to the press, Donziger
accused Kaplan of bias while criticizing Chevron for "the most
well-funded corporate retaliation campaign in history."
"I challenge at the most fundamental level the legitimacy of
this proceeding," he wrote.
A court spokeswoman said Kaplan would have no comment. In
2011, Kaplan rejected Donziger's request that the judge recuse
himself for partiality. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
later upheld his decision on appeal.
The case centers on contamination between 1964 and 1992 from
an oil field operated by Texaco, which was later acquired by
Chevron. In 2011 an Ecuadorean judge, Nicolas Zambrano, issued
an $18 billion judgment - later increased to $19 billion -
against Chevron in favor of a group of villagers who lived
Ecuador's highest court upheld the decision this week but
slashed the amount to $9.5 billion. Chevron claims that Texaco
cleaned up the site after ceasing Ecuadorean operations in 1992
and handing the field over to state-controlled Petroecuador.
The villagers have sought to enforce the judgment in courts
in Canada, Brazil and Argentina, since Chevron no longer has
assets in Ecuador. If Chevron wins at trial, it would likely use
the ruling to bolster its case against enforcing the judgment in
During the trial, a former Ecuadorean judge, Alberto Guerra,
testified that he was paid to ghostwrite Zambrano's opinion and
that Donziger was aware of the scheme.
"Chevron has no evidence that I had any involvement in
bribing any judge apart from Guerra's thoroughly false and
corrupt testimony," Donziger said in his written testimony. He
said Guerra openly asked for a bribe at one point, which
Zambrano said on the witness stand that he wrote the opinion
on his own and did not accept any payments.
In a statement, a Chevron spokesman called Donziger's draft
testimony "nothing more than 60 pages of distraction,
distortion, fabrication and irrelevance." He also said it did
nothing to refute the evidence Chevron has presented at trial,
including experts who said Zambrano could not have written the
opinion alone and in the time frame he claimed.
Donziger also claimed Chevron acted improperly during the
Ecuadorean case, meeting with judges without opposing counsel
present and using "back channels" to pressure government
As both sides have done with previous witness statements,
Chevron is expected to ask Kaplan to strike portions of
Donziger's submission as inadmissible.
Donziger said in his testimony that he held secret meetings
with an expert who prepared a report on Chevron's liability in
Ecuador and that his team paid the expert, but he said he
believed that those actions were in keeping with Ecuadorean law.
On Friday afternoon, Donziger spoke with reporters for 90
minutes in a crowded loft apartment where 14 lawyers, activists
and volunteers on his team have been sleeping during the trial.
He and one of his lawyers, Zoe Littlepage, said they fully
expect Kaplan to rule against them and are already contemplating
the basis for an appeal.
Besides their claim that Kaplan is biased, they said they
would argue that Chevron's lawsuit improperly seeks to use the
federal racketeering statute to stay enforcement of a foreign
The case is Chevron Corp v. Steven Donziger et al, U.S.
District Court for the Southern District of New York, No.