In testimony, lawyer will deny bribery in Chevron-Ecuador case

Fri Nov 15, 2013 6:07pm EST
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By Joseph Ax

NEW YORK Nov 15 (Reuters) - Steven Donziger, the lawyer accused by Chevron Corp of using bribery to secure a $19 billion judgment over pollution in Ecuador, has never been shy about his opinion of U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan.

"What he's doing is not judging," Donziger said of Kaplan, who is presiding over a non-jury trial on Chevron's claims in a federal court in New York. "He's prosecuting."

Donziger, who spoke to reporters on Friday, is expected to take the stand on Monday to testify in his own defense. The trial is entering its sixth week.

His appearance will be a dramatic moment in the years-long legal battle that has pitted the vast resources of a global oil company against Donziger and the group of villagers in northeastern Ecuador that he advised.

In a draft of his testimony provided to the press, Donziger accused Kaplan of bias while criticizing Chevron for "the most well-funded corporate retaliation campaign in history."

"I challenge at the most fundamental level the legitimacy of this proceeding," he wrote.

A court spokeswoman said Kaplan would have no comment. In 2011, Kaplan rejected Donziger's request that the judge recuse himself for partiality. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals later upheld his decision on appeal.

The case centers on contamination between 1964 and 1992 from an oil field operated by Texaco, which was later acquired by Chevron. In 2011 an Ecuadorean judge, Nicolas Zambrano, issued an $18 billion judgment - later increased to $19 billion - against Chevron in favor of a group of villagers who lived nearby.   Continued...