"Steven donziger is a hero to the environmental movement"
- Rex WEyler, Greenpeace co-founder
Ten Prominent U.S Lawyers Request President Biden Pardon Steven Donziger
October 27, 2021
Steven's statement on reporting to federal prison.
November 29, 2021
Nine Congresspersons demand the Department of Justice
immediately release Steven Donziger
CNN Coverage of
Environmental lawyer arbitrarily detained
On 1 October, Steven Donziger, a lawyer and environmental rights defender who successfully represented victims of oil dumping in Ecuador, was sentenced to six months in prison on a politically motivated ‘contempt of court’ charge. He has already spent more than two years under house arrest in a process that United Nations experts found lacks any legal basis and is in violation of numerous fair trial standards. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found that his detention is in retaliation for his work as a lawyer for the Indigenous communities in Ecuador. He must be released immediately and unconditionally.
Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib's DC SPEECH
Reps. Tlaib and McGovern Hold DC Press Event to Demand DOJ Release Donziger
Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Jim McGovern led a press conference on Oct. 27 on the steps of the US Capitol to demand the release of human rights attorney Steven Donziger on the day he reported to federal prison. Also speaking was actor Lucy Lawless, environmental leader Paul Paz y Mino, and several other supporters.
Please Call Attorney General Garland
Press option 2 to demand U.S Attorney General Merrick Garland and the DOJ end the nation's first corporate prosecution.
Read letter to Merrick Garland
We are calling to demand the Department of Justice take back the Chevron-financed private prosecution of human rights lawyer Steven Donziger in New York. Steven had been in home detention for over two years and now is in prison for six months on a misdemeanor charge. The United Nations Working Group recently found this case to be a violation of international law and has requested that Steven be released immediately. We respectfully request you comply with the law and not allow private corporate-financed criminal prosecutions in our country.
“What Chevron and its law firms are doing to Steven is the most grotesque thing I have observed in the American legal system in 40 years of practice. Attacking the other side’s lawyers is what defendants do if they have no defense on the merits. Chevron has made no secret of the fact that its only hope is, in their words, to ‘demonize Donziger.’ I have never met anyone more courageous or resilient than Steven Donziger.”
- Attorney Richard Friedman, President of the Inner Circle of Advocates
Dr. Nan Greer report
In blow to rule of law, US Supreme Court denies Donziger's appeal of Chevron's private prosecution. Corporate prosecutions now legal in the United States. Fight for
justice now goes to international courts.
A message from Steven Donziger
Friends and colleagues,
In April I was released from 993 days of detention but I am still not free. In fact, as I work to hold Chevron accountable for the dumping of billions of gallons of toxic waste into the Amazon, I live in a constant state of peril. Chevron confiscated my passport and took my law license to retaliate after our team helped Indigenous peoples win a historic $9.5 billion pollution judgment in Ecuador. Chevron can still seek my renewed detention through a pending civil case. In Ecuador, thousands of Indigenous peoples and farmers continue to face an imminent risk of death for being exposed to Chevron's poisonous waste. These communities need lawyers to enforce their judgment so lives and cultures can be saved and restored. My own legal expenses are growing as I try to protect myself and my right to be a human rights advocate. While these are formidable challenges, nothing can change the fact that our team won what might be the world's most significant corporate accountability and environmental legal case. It is our incredible success that Chevron wants to destroy by attacking me and my clients.
The outcome of the Ecuador case is critically important to me and my family, environmental justice, restoring the health of the planet, and rebuilding our democracy which is being undermined by the fossil fuel industry's insidious strategy to silence those frontline defenders who challenge its planet-destroying practices.
We urgently need to fight back and hold Chevron fully accountable while sending the industry a powerful message that we will never go away until the job is finished. Please help us.
Days Steven spent in detention on a misdemeanor where maximum sentence is 180 days:
STEVEN has been released, but the fight continues.
A personal note from Steven Donziger:
For the last decade, Chevron and dozens of its law firms have been trying to undermine my work as an environmental justice lawyer and jail me for helping Amazon communities in Ecuador win a historic $9.5 billion pollution judgment against the company. These scorched-earth attacks threaten to destroy my professional career, undermine democratic freedoms, and accelerate the destruction of the planet. I need your help urgently to fight back.
As background, I have spent much of my professional life helping Indigenous peoples and rural communities in Ecuador’s Amazon win a historic $9.5 billion pollution judgment against Chevron for the deliberate dumping of billions of gallons of cancer-causing oil waste onto their ancestral lands. Chevron discharged the waste into streams and rivers relied on by local residents for drinking water, bathing, and fishing. Thousands have either died of cancer or face a grave risk of death. After an 8-year trial in Ecuador where Chevron accepted jurisdiction, the country’s Supreme Court in 2013 found the oil company committed a mass industrial poisoning to save $3 per barrel. Chevron vowed never to pay the judgment and recently threatened the Indigenous peoples with a “lifetime of litigation” unless they drop the case. As part of a vicious retaliation campaign, Chevron has tried to demonize me by using at least 60 law firms, 2,000 lawyers, six public relations firms, and multiple fake news websites to smear my reputation. The company’s goal is to silence my advocacy, bankrupt my family, and intimidate other activists and environmental allies who do the critically important frontline work to save our planet.
Given the refusal of the Ecuadorian communities to capitulate, Chevron upped the ante in 2019 by targeting me in New York with the first corporate prosecution in the history of the United States. Not only was this corporate prosecution a threat to the rule of law, it was also a dangerous attack on the very fabric of our democracy. Pro-industry judge Lewis Kaplan (a former tobacco industry lawyer) appointed the Chevron law firm Seward & Kissel to "prosecute" me on a misdemeanor contempt charge after the regular federal prosecutor rejected the case. I had just appealed an unprecedented order from Kaplan that I turn over my computer and cell phone to Chevron – an order that would have forced me to violate attorney-client privilege and put the lives of my vulnerable clients at grave risk. The private prosecutor from the Chevron law firm (Rita Glavin) promptly had me locked up at home in August of 2019. After being found “guilty” in July 2021 in a non-jury trial by another judge with financial ties to Chevron, I served the maximum 6-month sentence, including 45 days in a federal prison after having been under house arrest for well over two years awaiting trial. In all, I served 993 days under house and prison for a charge where the maximum sentence under law was 180 days. I believe Kaplan's order violated the most basic sanctity of the attorney-client privilege and placed my vulnerable clients in the Amazon at severe risk of grave bodily harm or even death. I also believe the entire private prosecution is unconstitutional; five esteemed jurists from the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in 2021 ruled my detention was arbitrary and violated international law.
The restrictions on my life have been devastating to me, my wife Laura, and son Matthew who is now 16. I was confined to our small apartment with an ankle bracelet shackled to my leg 24/7. It never came off; I slept with it, showered with it, and ate with it. It even beeped and awakened us in the middle of the night when the battery ran low. This obviously was frightening on a personal level, but the ankle bracelet also represented a direct attack by the fossil fuel industry on the rule of law and the free speech rights of all advocates.
The irregularities in my private prosecution run deep. The judge overseeing Judge Kaplan's charges, Loretta Preska, was not assigned through random lot as required by court rules but was appointed by Judge Kaplan directly. This also was by design: Preska is a leader of the pro-corporate Federalist Society to which Chevron is a major funder. Preska denied me a jury of my peers, refused to let me present my defense, and prevented my lawyers from taking discovery related to the flagrant conflicts of interest involving Chevron and the private prosecutor. Preska also allowed the private prosecutor to orchestrate a contempt “trial” against me that was financed in large part by Chevron’s law firms. Given that she knew the outcome before hearing evidence, Preska was even reading the newspaper while witnesses were testifying.
Dealing with the aftermath of this horrific trial, my ongoing appeal, protecting my family, implementing the U.N. release order, and also advancing the underlying case against Chevron on behalf of the Ecuadorian communities entails considerable time and financial cost. The outcome of this battle is critical not just for me and others involved but also for the larger global struggle for environmental justice, Indigenous rights, and Free Speech. To meet these challenges, we need financial support urgently to cover significant legal and advocacy expenses. If we can demonstrate that a human rights lawyer can beat back a powerful corporation with grassroots funding from around the world, it will create even more possibilities for the environmental and corporate accountability movements to achieve its critical goals including putting the entire planet on a sustainable path to survival.
I am deeply indebted to everyone for the support as we continue to build our campaign to ensure the Indigenous peoples of Ecuador are fully compensated for the harms done and that Chevron is held fully accountable for its misconduct.
Funds raised are not tax-deductible. They will be held in trust and administered by the Friedman Rubin law firm in Seattle, Washington. Richard Friedman, the principal, has represented Steven pro bono Since 2012. Funds will pay for legal costs, advocacy, and basic living expenses. Donations of all amounts are appreciated.