House progressives urge Garland to intervene in ex-environmental lawyer Steven Donziger's case

Nine House Democrats on Tuesday called on Attorney General Merrick GarlandMerrick GarlandMellman: Voting rights or the filibuster?  A new Bureau of Prisons director gives administration a chance to live up to promises  Lawmakers coming under increased threats — sometimes from one another MORE to intervene in the case of a former environmental lawyer who has alleged his prison sentence is in retaliation for his work against Chevron.

The lawmakers sent the letter ahead of Steven Donziger’s appeal of his six-month sentence on contempt charges. The letter notes President BidenJoe BidenBiden says he didn't 'overpromise' Finland PM pledges 'extremely tough' sanctions should Russia invade Ukraine Russia: Nothing less than NATO expansion ban is acceptable MORE’s assertions of U.S. leadership on climate at the COP26 summit in November, saying “the entire world is watching whether our actions will match our words.”

“That an internationally respected human rights lawyer sits in prison right now while Chevron avoids billions in judgments for intentionally destroying the rainforest is an outrage that highlights just how critical our fight against corporate greed is to our future,” Rep. Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibHouse Democrats inquire about possible census undercount in Detroit, other communities Michigan redistricting spat exposes competing interests in Democratic coalition Tlaib announces run in new Detroit district with Lawrence retiring MORE (D-Mich.), who co-led the letter, said in a statement.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Chevron is setting a dangerous precedent that other corporate polluters will follow to avoid responsibility for the devastation they cause, and the DOJ should intervene immediately to rectify this situation or risk endorsing it as a blueprint for turning victims and their lawyers into criminals,” Tlaib added.

In addition to Tlaib, the letter is signed by Democratic Reps. Chuy GarciaJesus (Chuy) GarciaFour states to feature primaries with two incumbents in 2022 House Democrats call on Biden to unfreeze Afghan central bank reserves House progressives urge Garland to intervene in ex-environmental lawyer Steven Donziger's case MORE (Ill.), Cori BushCori BushMissouri State Highway Patrol: Ignore Gotham City alert The Memo: Biden's overpromising problem Centrist Democrats urge progressives to tamp down rhetoric MORE (Mo.), Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezLouisiana Rep. Troy Carter announces positive COVID-19 test Joining Pelosi, Hoyer says lawmakers should be free to trade stocks Schumer prepares for Senate floor showdown with Manchin, Sinema MORE (N.Y.), Jamaal Bowman (N.Y.), Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyHouse votes to award medal to Willie O'Ree, first Black NHL player It's time for President Biden to use his vast clemency power Ayanna Pressley says she has tested COVID-19 positive in breakthrough case MORE (Mass.), Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarSenate needs to confirm Deborah Lipstadt as antisemitism envoy — Now Overnight Defense & National Security — DOD watchdog to review extremism screening Omar calls for closure of Guantánamo Bay prison after 20 years of 'lawlessness and cruelty' MORE (Minn.), Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeTreasury rolls out quarters featuring Maya Angelou, first Black woman on the coin A presidential candidate pledge can right the wrongs of an infamous day Rep. Bobby Rush tests positive in breakthrough case MORE (Calif.) and Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.).

Donziger sued Texaco in the 1990s on behalf of indigenous Ecuadorians and farmers and secured an $8.5 billion judgment in 2011 in an Ecuador court. That year, Chevron, which acquired Texaco in 2001, countersued Donziger, alleging he secured the judgment through bribery and evidence tampering.

A federal judge overturned the award and charged Donziger with contempt, after which he was placed under house arrest for over two years. U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska sentenced Donziger to six months in October.

Donziger’s prosecution has also attracted international condemnation, including from the United Nations’ Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which noted Donziger has already been under arrest for longer than the maximum sentence for the charges. Critics have also noted that Judge Lewis Kaplan took the unusual step of appointing private attorneys to prosecute the charges after federal prosecutors declined.

Tlaib also grilled Chevron CEO Michael Wirth about the Donziger case at a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing with energy CEOs. In April, she joined Ocasio-Cortez, Bowman and Bush, as well as Reps. James McGovernJames (Jim) Patrick McGovernLawmakers seek 'assurances' Olympic uniforms not linked to forced labor Lawmakers call on NBC to address China human rights abuses in Olympic broadcasts More than 100 House Democrats urge Biden to lift restrictions on Cuba amid crisis MORE (D-Mass.) and Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinCarville advises Democrats to 'quit being a whiny party' Biden makes final Fed board picks House Democrats inquire about possible census undercount in Detroit, other communities MORE (D-Md.), in a letter calling on Garland to review the case.

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