Steven Donziger

Steven R. Donziger (born September 14, 1961) is an American attorney known for his legal battles with Chevron particularly the Lago Agrio oil field case in which he represented over 30,000 farmers and indigenous Ecuadorans in a case against Chevron related to environmental damage and health effects caused by oil drilling. In 2013 Ecuadoran courts awarded the plaintiffs $9.5 billion in damages, which led Chevron to withdraw its assets from Ecuador and launch legal action against Donziger in the US. In 2011, Chevron filed a RICO (anti-corruption) suit against Donziger in New York City. As a result of this case, Donziger was disbarred from practicing law in New York in 2018, put under house arrest in August 2019 while awaiting trial on charges of criminal contempt of court, in July 2021, a US District Judge found him guilty; he was sentenced to 6 months in jail in October 2021.

Steven Donziger (July 2021)

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I’m the only lawyer ever in U.S. history to be charged with criminal contempt of court for challenging a civil discovery order on appeal. Lawyer Steven Donziger, Who Sued Chevron over “Amazon Chernobyl,” Ordered to Prison After House Arrest, Democracy Now!, October 27, 2021
  • This goes way beyond me. It goes to really what kind of society we want in America. How does one man get so targeted by an oil company such that he's being prosecuted by one of their law firms? What does that mean for other advocates? What does that mean for environmental justice advocates and corporate accountability advocates and lawyers? What does that mean for our planet? Because if you can't do this kind of legal work to hold these polluters accountable, the destruction of the earth will happen at a faster pace.
  • It has become clear to me in recent months that my unprecedented house arrest is the result of apparent misconduct and conflicts of interest by a number of people in the judiciary. It feels like Chevron has taken over the role of government to deprive its main litigation adversary of his freedom. That’s a terrifying prospect for me and my family, but also for everybody who cares about the nature of freedom and advocacy in our society. I don’t think it has ever happened before. I hope it never happens again.

Quotes aboutEdit

(most recent first)

  • The Chevron corporation’s legal onslaught against the environmental lawyer Steven Donziger continues. The oil giant and two federal judges in New York are apparently in a de facto alliance to persecute Donziger, who in 2013 helped win a landmark $9.5 billion legal victory against the company for polluting vast stretches of rain forest in Ecuador... Federal Judge Loretta Preska, who has already kept Donziger under huse arrest in New York City for the past 10 months, on May 18 refused his request to relax his confinement before his trial for contempt, which will not start until September 9. Donziger’s attorney had asked Preska to allow him out of his Upper West Side apartment for three hours a day. Preska said no. She repeated her preposterous claim that Donziger could be a flight risk, saying, “I could be to the airport and on an airplane in three hours.” Donziger lives with his wife and 13-year-old son. He has already surrendered his passport.
  • What’s disgraceful is that the maximum jail sentence that Donziger would face if he’s found guilty of contempt is six months—less than half the time he will have already spent locked up... It is this kind of questionable conduct from the federal bench that prompted Frisch to file an emergency motion on May 11 at the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit accusing Preska and Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, who has pursued Donziger since 2011, with “abuses of power and discretion.” Donziger’s supporters argue that Chevron’s own lawyers are collaborating in the effort to persecute him.

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