Skip to main content

Common Dreams. Journalism funded by people, not corporations.

There has never been—and never will be—an advertisement on our site except for this one: without readers like you supporting our work, we wouldn't exist.

No corporate influence. No pay-wall. Independent news and opinion 365 days a year that is freely available to all and funded by those who support our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good.

Our mission is clear. Our model is simple. If you can, please support our Fall Campaign today.

Support Our Work -- No corporate influence. No pay-wall. Independent news funded by those who support our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. Please support our Fall Campaign today.

Attorney Steven Donziger speaks to his supporters as he arrives for a court appearance at Daniel Patrick Moynihan United States Courthouse on May 10, 2021 in New York City. (Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

 

Supporters Rally for Steven Donziger as Chevron's Trial Aimed at 'Silencing Critics' Begins

"Chevron has paid millions which they could have used to address this horrible racist dumping into the Amazon," said activist Susan Sarandon. "Instead they chose to persecute Steven." 

Julia Conley

Human rights defenders spoke at a rally in New York City Monday ahead of what they called a "show trial" for attorney Steven Donziger, who was held in contempt of court in 2019 by a prosecutor with ties to the fossil fuel industry.

Donziger won a historic $9.5 billion judgment against oil giant Chevron in 2013 over the company's dumping of 16 billion gallons of oil into the Amazon in Ecuador. That ruling has been upheld by three Ecuadorian courts, but Chevron has gone to great lengths to avoid paying the settlement.

Donziger's federal trial—without a jury—began Monday morning, with right-wing Judge Loretta Preska presiding. As Common Dreams reported last week, Preska is a leader in the conservative Federalist Society, which has backing from oil giant Chevron—the corporation at the center of the case against Donziger.

Dozens of supporters arrived at the Daniel Patrick Moynihan United States Courthouse in Manhattan to speak out against the misdemeanor charge against Donziger, which carries a potential six-month prison sentence and which, Donziger said in a video released Sunday night, is "an effort by corporate America, particularly the fossil fuel industry," to "attack and silence their critics."

Called "America's first corporate political prisoner," Donziger has been under house arrest for more than 600 days since U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan of the Southern District of New York held him in contempt of court in July 2019, after Donziger refused to disclose privileged client information to the fossil fuel industry.

Kaplan is a former corporate lawyer with investments in Chevron. Aside from Kaplan and Preska's ties to Chevron, the special prosecutor selected for the trial is a partner at a firm which once counted the oil giant as one of its clients. 

The conflicts of interest in the case have led Donziger's supporters to decry the attorney's "persecution" and deem the federal trial a "kangaroo court." Instead of paying the $9.5 billion settlement to clean up the pollution it dumped into the Amazon, activist and actress Susan Sarandon said at the rally, Chevron instead "chose to silence and persecute Steven...because it's also a signal to other activists, to other people who are trying to save our environment that you will have dire consequences if you open your mouth and if you take legal action."

Sarandon echoed the message shared by Donziger on the eve of the trial.

"I'm just a symbol that they want to go so they can use it as a weapon of intimidation to try to stop this work happening, to try to discourage lawyers and campaigners and human rights advocates, environmental justice campaigners from even doing this work," Donziger told his supporters.

Donziger also noted ahead of the trial that two Chevron lawyers dropped out at the eleventh hour after planning to appear as key witnesses for the prosecution. 

"They know when they take the oath they can't lie any longer," Donziger said. "This is what happens when the world watches."

Donziger's trial has garnered the attention of nearly 70 Nobel laureates and 200 law students who called on the Department of Justice in recent days to investigate and intervene in the case.  

"We fear that this case will embolden further strategic lawsuits against public participation ('SLAPP') and deter other students from representing clients seeking to redress harm by corporations," the students wrote in a letter released Sunday with signatories representing 55 law schools. "A successful campaign to criminalize Mr. Donziger would suppress the public interest advocacy that is crucial to a fair justice system and social progress."

Progressive lawmakers including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Cori Bush (D-Mo.), and Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) have also demanded that U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland review Donziger's case. 

Donziger called on his supporters to "bear witness" to the trial and enter the courtroom during the trial if possible.

"We need as many people as we can to bear witness to what is really set up to be a travesty of justice," Donziger said Sunday evening. 


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Breaking: FDA Panel Recommends Pfizer Covid-19 Vaccine for Kids 5 to 11

With just one abstention, the advisory panel voted 17-0 to approve the vaccine for younger children which scientific review has deemed both safe and effective against the deadly virus.

Common Dreams staff ·



Worst Polluters Spending Over Two Times More on Border Militarization Than on Climate Action

"Maybe, instead of spending a fortune to arm the borders, we should help the world transition to clean energy so people don't have to leave their homes."

Kenny Stancil ·


Democrats Urged to Seize 'Historic Chance' on Billionaire Wealth Tax

Following Sen. Kyrsten Sinema's objection to raising the corporate tax rate, the party has turned to Sen. Ron Wyden's proposal.

Julia Conley ·


Latest UN Climate Report Delivers 'Another Thundering Wake-Up Call'

"Climate change is no longer a future problem. It is a now problem," said the UNEP executive director. "The clock is ticking loudly."

Jessica Corbett ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo