Opinion | Progressives for Contempt of Court

A group of people gather outside of a U.S. federal courthouse as a show of support for Steven Donziger on March 10.


justin lane/Shutterstock


Steven Donziger

was disbarred and rebuked by U.S. courts for a $9.5 billion shakedown of


in Ecuador. But now as he faces criminal contempt charges, progressives are lionizing him as a human-rights martyr.

Readers may recall Mr. Donziger’s legal and media campaign against Texaco (now merged with Chevron) for its alleged failure to clean up oil pits from its work in Ecuador during the 1970s. Chevron claimed it had cleaned up the pits, but Mr. Donziger used legal chicanery to obtain a $9.5 billion judgment in Ecuador.

Chevron fought back in U.S. court and won. Federal Judge

Lewis Kaplan

(a Clinton appointee) in 2014 excoriated Mr. Donziger in a 485-page ruling for engaging in judicial bribery, coercion, money-laundering, witness tampering and hiring an American consulting firm to ghostwrite an expert’s report, among other legal misconduct.

A Second Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upheld Judge Kaplan’s ruling. Yet Mr. Donziger defied the judge’s orders by selling shares in the Ecuador judgment, which he has unsuccessfully sought to enforce in foreign courts. Judge Kaplan has referred Mr. Donziger to stand trial for criminal contempt after he continued to flout court orders.

But progressives are now lobbying to get him off the hook. “It is vital that attorneys working on behalf of victims of human rights violations and negative environmental impacts of corporations not become criminalized for their work,” Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez,

Cori Bush,

Rashida Tlaib,

Jamaal Bowman,

Jamie Raskin


James McGovern

wrote to Attorney General

Merrick Garland

this week.

They want the AG to intervene in Mr. Donziger’s case, explaining in their letter that his “efforts [in Ecuador] were crucial in elevating the claims and grievances of [indigenous] communities, and his work is an important contribution in ensuring that Black, brown, and Indigenous communities across the world are represented in our legal systems.”

Mr. Donziger exploited indigenous people and the legal system of a foreign country to loot a U.S. company. He refused to comply with a court’s orders. Apparently the Congress-folk believe you can show contempt for the law as long you’re fighting fossil fuels.

Wonder Land: When progressives single out threats to “our democracy,” what they mean is their democracy. Images: Everett Collection/AFP/Getty Images Composite: Mark Kelly

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8


Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button