Marjorie Cohn : Human Rights Attorney Sentenced to Prison After Winning Case Against Chevron

Charles Keener

In a move calculated to shield Chevron and deter other lawyers from suing giant corporate polluters, U.S. human rights attorney Steven Donziger was sentenced on October 1 to the maximum of six months in prison for criminal contempt. Donziger, who had won a $9.5 billion judgement for his Indigenous clients against the oil giant for polluting the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador, refused to provide Chevron with his confidential client communications. Before his sentencing, Donziger spent two years on house arrest wearing an ankle bracelet and confined to his home.
“When the next book is written touting the American judicial system as one built on the rule of law, that shows the ways in which the rule of law prevailed over powerful and moneyed interests,” Donziger attorney Ron Kuby told Truthout after the sentencing, “I can assure you the Donziger case will not be included.”
U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska — a leader of the Federalist Society, a group dedicated to getting conservatives on the bench and promoting a radical right-wing ideology (and which is financially backed by Chevron) — was hand-picked to try the contempt case. She found Donziger guilty of six counts of criminal contempt. As Preska sentenced Donziger, she stated, “It seems that only the proverbial two-by-four between the eyes will instill in him any respect for the law.”

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