"Steven donziger is a hero to the environmental movement"
- Rex WEyler, Greenpeace
UPDATE: Danbury Prison Officials Release Steven Donziger to Serve Remainder of Sentence At Home; Biden Administration Continues to Ignore United Nations Decision ORDERING FULL RELEASE
DAYS in detention:
Days served in prison:
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The Free Donziger Team is asking Steven's supporters to post this image on social media THIS FRIDAY to create awareness of Chevron's toxic dumping in the Amazon and to generate pressure for Steven's release.
Please tag the United States Justice Department (@TheJusticeDept on Twitter and Instagram).
FRIDAY, JAN. 21ST
Nine Congresspersons demand the Department of Justice
immediately release steven Donziger
CNN COVERAGE OF DONZIGER SENTENCING
Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib's DC SPEECH
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.
DC Press Conference
On October 27th at 11:00 am ET, dozens of speakers including Roger Waters, Susan Sarandon, and Jim McGovern will gave testimony to Steven's unconstitutional corportate prosecution. This is in an effort to persuade the Biden Administration and Attorney General Merrick Garland to intervene on his case prior to his prison sentence.
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
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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 judgement against the company. These scorched-earth attacks threaten to destroy my professional career. 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 judgement and recently threatened the Indigenous peoples with a “lifetime of litigation” unless they drop their claims. 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 websites to smear my reputation. The company’s goal is to silence my advocacy, bankrupt my family, and intimidate activists and environmental allies who do the 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 is this corporate prosecution a threat to the rule of law, it is 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 contempt charges after the regular federal prosecutor rejected his case. I had just appealed a shocking 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 in danger. The 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 now face a 6-month sentence in a federal prison after having been under house arrest for well over two years. The longest sentence ever given a lawyer for my supposed "crime" of misdemeanor contempt is 90 days of home confinement; I have now served more than 8 times that amount at home. 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 recently found my detention to violate international law and ordered the U.S. government to release me and pay compensation.
The restrictions on my life have been devastating to me, my wife Laura, and son Matthew. As I write this, I am confined to our small apartment with an ankle bracelet shackled to my leg 24/7. It never comes off; I sleep with it, shower with it, and eat with it. It even beeps and wakes us up in the middle night when the battery runs low. This obviously is frightening on a personal level, but the ankle bracelet also represents a direct attack by the fossil fuel industry on the rule of law and the free speech rights of all advocates.
The irregularities in the 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 then denied me a jury of my peers, refused to let me present my defense, and has 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. Preska was even reading the newspaper while witnesses were testifying. Dealing with this trial, my impending prison sentence, organizing an 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 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. It will also increase the odds that I can get through this personally and save my family in the process.
Whatever support you can give will be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much!
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 me pro bono in many aspects of the litigation. Funds will pay legal costs, basic living expenses and to raise awareness. Legal expenses alone are expected to surpass $1 million. Donations of all sizes are deeply appreciated.