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Chevron

Environment roundup

by Walter Olson on June 18, 2014

  • Coming to other towns soon: new stormwater regs ban car wash fundraisers at schools in Arlington, Va. [ArlNow]
  • Krugman hides the ball on coal-fired utility regs [David Henderson]
  • Coming in September: book on Chevron/Ecuador case by Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s Paul M. Barrett [Business Roundtable]
  • Simplified narrative of “business versus environmental regulation” obscures so much [Tim Carney, Washington Examiner]
  • Environmental disclosure panel from Vermont Law School “Disclosure Debates” [video, summary by Caitlin Stanton for VLR's Environmental Health, links to all videos, background]
  • California: “Attorney General Posts 2013 Proposition 65 Settlement Numbers” [Cal Biz Lit]
  • “Silent Spring at 50: The False Crises of Rachel Carson” [Cato panel with Andrew Morriss, Richard Tren]

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Ethics roundup

by Walter Olson on May 13, 2014

  • If you doubt lawyers can be heroes, consider Rashid Rehman, gunned down after defying death threats to represent university lecturer in Pakistan blasphemy case [BBC]
  • Some asbestos lawyers may have reason to be nervous as Garlock documents pave way for fraud-checking [Daniel Fisher/Forbes, Legal NewsLine, Rochester Democrat & Chronicle] Given consumer groups’ zeal for making litigation data public, they’ll support greater transparency in asbestos settlements, right? [WLF]
  • “Colloquium: The Legal Profession’s Monopoly on the Practice of Law” with John McGinnis and Russell Pearce, Benjamin Barton and others [Fordham Law Review]
  • “BP’s Billions Draw Scam Artists” [Amanda Bronstad, NLJ; NYTimes ("They told us we don't even need a lawyer"); Insurance Journal]
  • “South Carolina: LegalZoom is not the Unauthorized Practice of Law” [Legal Ethics Forum]
  • Black lung series with legal ethics angle wins Pulitzer [Chris Hamby/Center for Public Integrity, earlier]
  • Much more to come in Chevron saga as oil company seeks $32 million in attorneys’ fees from adversary Donziger [Roger Parloff] Ted Boutrous, who repped both defendants, on parallels between Chevron and Dole scandals [USA Today]

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The large law firm, which is also Washington, D.C.’s biggest lobbying firm, will pay $15 million, express regret and withdraw from representing Ecuadorian environmental complainants to settle the oil company’s charges that it had participated in a litigation scheme that Chevron has called fraudulent and extortionate. “It also agreed to assist Chevron with discovery against the Ecuadoran plaintiffs and their New York-based lawyer, Steven Donziger,” as well as hand over its five percent share of any moneys the plaintiffs happen to win when the whole thing is over. [Washington Post; Paul Barrett, Bloomberg Business Week; our coverage of the case over years]

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Environmental roundup

by Walter Olson on March 12, 2014

  • Environmental advocates and their fans in the press come off badly in Chevron/Ecuador litigation scandal [Coyote, earlier]
  • Drought disaster unfolds in California’s Central Valley, where project water is allocated by fiat, not bid for in market [Allysia Finley, WSJ; San Jose Mercury-News]
  • Other large democracies resist the idea of packing environmental terms into trade treaties, and maybe they’re right [Simon Lester, Cato]
  • “A Tough Day in Court for the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Regulations” [Andrew Grossman]
  • R.I.P. leading environmental law professor Joseph Sax [NYT, I discussed his work in Schools for Misrule]
  • Lawyers have hijacked Endangered Species Act [Congressional Working Group report via Washington Examiner editorial]
  • When science begins bringing extinct animals back to life, watch for unintended legal consequences [Tyler Cowen]

“U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in New York said he found ‘clear and convincing evidence’ that attorney Steven Donziger’s legal team used bribery, fraud and extortion in pursuit of an $18 billion judgment against the oil company issued in 2011.” [Reuters, Bloomberg, 485-pp., 1842-footnote opinion; SFGate, Kevin Williamson, Quin Hillyer, Ira Stoll (New York politicians including Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli roped in as allies of Donziger)] We’ve been covering the story for years.

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The partner from the prominent plaintiff’s and class-action firm testified that he signed on to the much-ballyhooed environmental suit against Chevron, then backed out almost immediately after seeing the ethical issues [Reuters]

P.S. Testimony from Philadelphia attorney Joseph Kohn of Kohn, Swift, & Graf also appears unhelpful, to say the least, to Steven Donziger’s case [Paul Barrett, Bloomberg Business Week]

“The judge, Alberto Guerra, took the stand … in Manhattan federal court during the trial in a racketeering suit in which Chevron alleged that the verdict in Ecuador was procured through fraud. Guerra has said in a declaration filed with the court that he was paid thousands of dollars by lawyers for the plaintiffs to steer the case in their favor.” A spokesman for Steven Donziger, Chevron’s adversary at the trial, calls the former jurist an “extortionist.” [Bloomberg Business Week, Christie Smythe and Paul M. Barrett; Bernard Vaughan, Reuters; earlier]

More: Roger Parloff/Fortune; earlier Bloomberg (“[Donziger's] media campaign … helped to secure an article in Vanity Fair”).

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October 14 roundup

by Walter Olson on October 14, 2013

  • “Kerr received a 37-page temporary restraining order last Friday which seeks to shut down her [too-popular] haunted house.” [Silver Spring, MD; ABC News]
  • Blockbuster “60 Minutes” on the federal Social Security disability program, if you haven’t seen it yet [CBS; Chris Edwards, Tad DeHaven at Cato; ABA Journal on Kentucky lawyer and more]
  • Chevron complaint against attorney Donziger over Ecuador shenanigans reaches trial Tuesday [Daniel Fisher] More: Michael Goldhaber, American Lawyer (“A Dickensian Cheat Sheet”);
  • Ombudsman on South Dakota Indian foster care case: NPR “reporters and producers tried to push the story beyond the proof that they had. I don’t know why.” [NPR ombudsman]
  • In America we use lawyers for that: “Rabbis Arrested in Plot to Kidnap, Torture Husbands to Force Divorce” [WSJ, CNN] From 1845, a British judge’s exquisitely arch observations on the then state of divorce law [Sasha Volokh]
  • “Salvage company that lost $600M sunken ship case must pay $1M to Spain for ‘abusive litigation’” [ABA Journal]
  • How Canada lost gun freedom [Pierre Lemieux, Liberty and Law]

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Ethics roundup

by Walter Olson on August 13, 2013

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July 8 roundup

by Walter Olson on July 8, 2013

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Ethics roundup

by Walter Olson on May 22, 2013

  • “Robo-litigation”: ethical issues of the mass-foreclosure mess [Dustin Zachs, SSRN, via Legal Ethics Forum]
  • Roger Parloff on Chevron counterclaims against Patton Boggs [Fortune] “Judge Grudgingly Lets Donziger’s Lawyers Out Of Chevron Case” [Daniel Fisher; Reuters]
  • Should Australia dilute or abolish the “cab rank” rule? [John Flood via LEF]
  • “Ethical Limits on Civil Litigation Advocacy: A Historical Perspective” [Carol Andrews (Alabama), SSRN; Legal Ethics Forum]
  • “When Is a Demand Letter (Arguably) Extortion?” [John Steele, more, ABA Journal (Martin Singer demand letter threatening to expose target's sexual indiscretions]
  • Fifth Circuit denies Dickie Scruggs’s latest appeal [YallPolitics]
  • When crowdfunding meets litigation finance, watch out world [Richard Painter]
  • “Judge Orders Prenda Law Group Beamed Out Into Space” [Lowering the Bar, TechDirt]

Environment roundup

by Walter Olson on April 18, 2013

  • Better hope a Portland municipal arborist never takes an interest in you [Tod Kelly, League of Ordinary Gentlemen]
  • California’s Prop 65 and Gresham’s Law of Warnings (bad warnings drive out good) [David Henderson]
  • Bombshells just keep on coming in the Ecuador Lago Agrio story: “Litigation finance firm in Chevron case says it was duped by Patton Boggs” [Roger Parloff, Fortune; last Saturday's bombshell] Grounds for embarrassment at CBS “60 Minutes” [CJR]
  • Brad Plumer interview with Jonathan Adler, “What conservative environmentalism might look like” [WaPo]
  • “The light-bulb law was a matter of public policy profiteering” [Tim Carney via @amyalkon] To get ahead in D.C., a well-known conservative group adopts some concrete priorities [same]
  • “No one’s tried that. It’s not worth taking the risk.” Social-conservative, environmentalist themes have much in common [A. Barton Hinkle]
  • “BP Loses Bid to Block ‘Fictitious’ Oil Spill Claims” [Amanda Bronstad, NLJ; more]

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In the latest remarkable development in the long-running case, the expert consultancy that assisted the plaintiffs, after being sued by Chevron, has flipped:

Stratus Consulting, based in Boulder, Colo., said in a press release today that it “was misled” by [lead plaintiff's attorney Steven] Donziger. Stratus went on to say that the plaintiffs’ legal team used its extensive research as the basis of a 4,000-page report filed with the court in Lago Agrio, Ecuador. The report was supposed to be neutral and independent, but it was not, Stratus said. The consulting firm described a court process in Ecuador that “was tainted by Donziger and the Lago Agrio plaintiffs representatives’ behind-the-scenes activities.”

The Donziger camp fights back — and personally attacks veteran legal reporter Paul Barrett of Bloomberg BusinessWeek, who wrote the above summary — in comments here and here. Much more from Daniel Fisher at Forbes; you can read the damning affidavits from relevant actors at Stratus Consulting here and here.

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Striking new ruling (PDF) from Judge Lewis Kaplan denying lawyers’ request to be excused from a subpoena (courtesy David McGowan, Legal Ethics Forum). “Chevron has established at least probable cause to believe there was fraud or other criminal activity in the procurement of the Judgment and in other respects relating to the Lago Agrio litigation in which that Judgment was rendered and in certain litigations in the United States relating to the Ecuadorian litigation.” Kaplan proceeds to lay out over 70 or so pages the aromatic history of the litigation both in Ecuador and stateside.

  • Let’s hope not: is Kony case reconciling conservatives to International Criminal Court? [New Republic] Sea Shepherd case shows Alien Tort Statute can serve “conservative” as well as “liberal” ends [Eugene Kontorovich, earlier]
  • “Why the U.S. Shouldn’t Sign On to Empty Human Rights Treaties” [Eric Posner, Slate, earlier]
  • Or maybe non-empty? U.N. Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities said to require enactment of strong Europe-wide equivalent of ADA [Disability Law]
  • A questionable free speech victory at the U.N. on defamation of religion [Jacob Mchangama]
  • Tales of “independent” court reports that weren’t: “Chevron-Ecuador case expert switches sides” [SF Chron, December]
  • New Kenneth Anderson book getting lots of recommendations: Living with the UN: American Responsibilities and International Order [Amazon]
  • “Revive Letters of Marque and Reprisal to Launch Cyber-Attacks Against China?” [Julian Ku/OJ]

Via an AP dispatch, the Washington Post covers another round, from Argentina, in the long squabbling over whether American-led lawyers can get foreign courts to enforce a $19 billion environmental judgment from the Ecuadorian courts. You’d think this would have made a good occasion for AP or the Post to mention, at least, the sensational developments of three days ago, in which Chevron filed with a court a sworn affidavit in which a former Ecuadorian judge said that he and a second judge had allowed plaintiff’s lawyers to ghostwrite their judgment in exchange for a promised bribe of $500,000. Those allegations were dramatic enough to generate prompt, substantial coverage in places like Fortune, Reuters, Bloomberg, and Forbes, yet the Post still hasn’t mentioned them, unless you count a vague reference in the AP item to longstanding charges of fraud on both sides.

Roger Parloff at Fortune on eye-popping new allegations in a case we’ve been following for a long time (e.g.):

In Manhattan federal district court this morning, Chevron filed the declaration of a former Ecuadorian judge, Alberto Guerra, who describes how he and a second former judge, Nicolás Zambrano, allegedly allowed the plaintiffs lawyers to ghostwrite their entire 188-page, $18.2 billion judgment against Chevron [in the Lago Agrio environmental litigation] in exchange for a promise of $500,000 from the anticipated recovery.

The bribery charge is completely new, and the ghostwriting charge is more sweeping and better substantiated than before.

Since some readers may be having a hard time keeping all the case’s scandals straight, here’s a précis. Chevron has now presented evidence of two distinct, large-scale, ghostwriting frauds which, among other problems, it maintains, taint the Ecuadorian judgment.

Complicating Chevron’s claims of vindication — and opening an avenue for the plaintiff’s camp to argue against giving any credence to the new allegations — the oil company acknowledges that it has made and intends to go on making payments of “living expenses” to the former Ecuadorian judge, now resident with his family in the United States. Read the whole thing here.

More from Kevin Williamson at National Review Online:

Curious fact: As a senator, Barack Obama did see fit to intervene in the Chevron case — on the side of the Ecuadoran government. After meeting with an old basketball buddy — the abovementioned Mr. Donziger, who stands to make billions of dollars as the plaintiffs’ attorney in the case — Barack Obama wrote a letter to the U.S. trade representative arguing that Ecuador’s actions should not be held against the regime when negotiating trade privileges. Donziger, with the help of a $10,000-a-month lobbyist, also got Andrew Cuomo to threaten to intervene in the case, even though the jurisdiction of the Empire State stops well north of Ecuador.

Yet more: Daniel Fisher, Forbes.

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International law roundup

by Walter Olson on December 13, 2012

  • U.N. children’s-rights treaty oversight committee seeks ban on foundling baby boxes [Global Post, Telegraph, Vancouver Province]
  • BoJo has mojo: as sentiment burgeons in UK to quit European Union in whole or part, London Mayor Boris Johnson is listening [Reason]
  • History of Chevron Lago Agrio litigation to date [Seeking Alpha, earlier]
  • In Dubai talks, Western nations putting up stouter resistance to proposed International Telecommunications Union takeover of internet governance [Chicago Tribune, earlier here, etc.]
  • Obama backs global arms trade treaty, Second Amendment groups deeply suspicious [David Kopel, Zachary Snider/TheDC, earlier, Ryan Scoville/Prawfs with contrary view)]
  • 130-page resource guide to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act [DoJ/SEC, earlier]
  • “The immensely complex and burdensome conflict minerals disclosure debacle” [Bainbridge, earlier here, etc.]