Some stories are so vast and ghastly that they overwhelm our consciousness, beggaring our ability to hold them in our heads all at once. This is one of them, and it involves Chevron and what amounts to genocide, where the only person headed to jail is the victims' lawyer.


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Back when Chevron was Texaco, the company engaged in a campaign of environmental genocide on indigenous land in Ecuador, abetted by the brutal military dictatorship. Its recklessness - thousands of open-air, unlined pits of heavy metal waste - poisoned five communities.

The indigenous people Chevron poisoned lived in abject, toxic poverty, with carcinogens saturating their food, water and air. They and their children contracted cancer at terrible rates, and died and died and died.


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The environmental lawyer Steven Donziger sued Chevron, winning an unprecedented $9.5B judgment. Chevron responded by threatening a "lifetime of litigation" if their victims tried to collect and circulated an internal memo laying out a plan to "demonize Donziger."

Enter SDNY Judge Lewis A Kaplan, a former tobacco co lawyer with undisclosed Chevron holdings. Chevron sued Donziger in Kaplan's court, proposing an obviously fraudulent theory that he had bribed the Ecuadoran judge.


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The case was so flimsy (the Ecuadoran judge had received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Chevron prior to his accusation, and then later recanted it under oath at a World Bank tribunal) that NY prosecutors wouldn't take itup.

So Kaplan used an obscure legal maneuver to appoint a corporate law-firm (with extensive ties to Chevron) to privately prosecute Donziger.


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As part of this kangaroo court proceeding, they demanded that Donziger turn over his laptop and phone, including lawyer-client privileged confidential files, to Chevron's lawyers. Naturally, Donziger refused.

Kaplan charged him contempt and ordered him held in pre-trial detention (house arrest). He's been locked up for more than a year.


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Now things are coming to a head.

Kaplan has announced his intent to proceed with Donziger's trial, reopening the SDNY's criminal court for the first time since March, jumping Donziger ahead of accused rapists and murderers.

Donziger is the ONLY PERSON IN THE ENTIRE USA in pretrial detention for a misdemeanor. His detention - 13 months - is four times longer than the longest sentence EVER SERVED by a lawyer facing the same charge.


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If Donziger goes to trial on Sept 9, it will be without adequate representation. Kaplan has removed BOTH of his in-state lawyers on a flimsy pretense, and the dozens of other pro-bono lawyers representing him are out of state and cannot travel safely.


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Donziger has been denied his petition to delay the trial until December. He's also been denied the right to trial by jury. If he loses, the judge can send him to prison immediately for a sentence of six months, in the midst of the pandemic - a potential death-sentence.

Look, I know this sounds unbelievable. Don't take my word for it. Have a look at this in-depth article by the Pulitzer-winning investigative journalist Chris Hedges.


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And then check out this judicial complaint against Kaplan, co-signed by organizations representing 500,000 lawyers worldwide and 200 individual US lawyers:

They are joined by 29 Nobel laureates, a coalition of global human rights groups, and many others who have decried Kaplan's conduct and Donziger's legal jeopardy.


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Here's a petition where you can add your name to the list of Donziger's supporters (I signed):

And here's where you can donate to Donziger's legal defense fund (I donated):


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@pluralistic C'est, avec ma contribution au fond de défense de Christophe Dettinger (cf coeur de boxeur), le don le plus singulier que je n'ai jamais fait: aider un avocat à se défendre! Faites comme moi!

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