The Work

March 7, 2011 9:46 PM

Preliminary Injunction Bars Ecuadorian Plaintiffs and Lawyers from Enforcing $9 Billion Judgment Against Chevron

Posted by Alison Frankel

From The Litigation Daily

In the three weeks since Manhattan federal district court judge Lewis Kaplan presided over a Feb. 18 hearing on Chevron's motion for a preliminary injunction to bar Ecuadorian plaintiffs and their lawyers from enforcing the Ecuadorian court's multibillion-dollar judgment against Chevron for its alleged contamination of the Lago Agrio region of the Amazon River basin, the plaintiffs have asserted a couple of risky strategies to head off an injunction.

First, as we reported last week, Keker & Van Nest lawyers for Steven Donziger--the lead U.S. lawyer for the Ecuadorian plaintiffs and a defendant in the Chevron racketeering suit before Judge Kaplan--filed a motion to transfer the RICO case out of Kaplan's courtroom, arguing that Chevron improperly manipulated the assignment system to get the case before a presumably sympathetic judge.

Then on Friday, lawyers for two of the Ecuadorian plaintiffs who are also RICO defendants filed a brief asserting that Chevron should be denied the injunction because of its own dirty hands. The March 4 filing asserts that Chevron has arranged to keep two alleged former operatives from disclosing the oil company's purported evidence tampering by "acting as a benefactor" to the operatives via cash stipends and other assistance.

But on Monday the efforts of the Ecuadorian plaintiffs and their lawyers came up completely empty. Judge Kaplan denied the Keker motion to transfer the RICO suit, finding it "without merit" because the racketeering case is related to the Chevron 1782 discovery litigation he has overseen since last summer. Kaplan also denied the plaintiffs' motion to supplement the record with evidence of Chevron's alleged payments to its former operatives.

And, most significantly, in a 131-page ruling, Judge Kaplan granted Chevron's motion for a preliminary injunction. The ruling bars the Ecuadorian plaintiffs and their lawyers from acting to enforce the $9 billion judgment rendered by the Ecuadorian court last month.

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Contact Alison Frankel at

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