Contempt conviction upheld for lawyer who won $9.5 bln Chevron judgment

NEW YORK, June 22 (Reuters) - A divided U.S. appeals court on Wednesday upheld the criminal contempt conviction of a disbarred lawyer who won but was unable to collect a $9.5 billion judgment against Chevron Corp (CVX.N) for polluting the Ecuadorian rainforest.

In a 2-1 decision, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan rejected Steven Donziger's claim that the private lawyers who handled the prosecution on behalf of the U.S. government were unconstitutionally appointed.

Martin Garbus, a lawyer for Donziger, called the dissent "the first crack of light after ten years of prosecution," and said he hoped the U.S. Supreme Court would rule for Donziger.

The case arose after U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan in 2014 refused to enforce the $9.5 billion judgment that Donziger won in an Ecuadorian court three years earlier.

Donziger, a Harvard Law School graduate, had represented villagers in Ecuador's Lago Agrio region who sued Chevron for water and soil contamination caused by Texaco between 1964 and 1992. Chevron acquired Texaco in 2000.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Bill Berkrot

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