Energy & Environment

Six House Democrats ask Garland to review case of lawyer placed under house arrest over Chevron suit

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Six House Democrats on Wednesday called for Attorney General Merrick Garland to review the case of a lawyer who claims his yearlong house arrest is retaliation for his work against Chevron.

In a letter Wednesday, Reps. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) and Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) called on Garland to review the case against Steven Donziger.

Donziger sued the energy company on behalf of Ecuadorian farmers and indigenous people and won $9.5 billion in an Ecuadorian court.

Chevron then took legal action against Donziger in the U.S. under the Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations statute. District Judge Lewis Kaplan ruled in the company’s favor, and Donziger has been under house arrest since August 2019 over criminal contempt charges incurred during his appeal.

Kaplan took the unusual step of appointing private counsel to prosecute the case against Donziger after prosecutors with the Southern District of New York refused.

Seward & Kissel, the firm Kaplan named in the case, has at least two clients who have received “significant funding” from an investment fund whose vice chairman sits on Chevron’s board, according to a filing from Donziger’s lawyers.

“We have deep concerns that the unprecedented nature of Mr. Donziger’s pending legal case is tied to his previous work against Chevron. 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. If these restrictions are permitted, advocates across this country will feel as though tactics of intimidation can succeed in stifling robust representation,” the letter states.

“The results of this case will have a lasting impact in the legal practice, suggesting that representation and advocacy can then impede one’s ability to exercise fundamental protections,” it adds.

A spokesperson for Chevron declined to comment.

The Hill has reached out to the Justice Department for comment.

Updated at 8:23 p.m.

Tags Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Chevron House arrest Jamie Raskin Lawsuit Merrick Garland Rashida Tlaib Steven Donziger

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