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President Joe Biden addresses the nation

President Joe Biden addresses the nation on January 13, 2022 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

'Atrocious': Biden Renominates Chevron Lawyer First Chosen by Trump

Human rights attorney Steven Donziger noted that the president's pick for the federal bench "was paid millions... to help jail me, attack Indigenous peoples, and cover up a massive oil spill in the Amazon."

Jake Johnson

President Joe Biden this week quietly renominated a Trump-selected federal judge whose law firm represented the oil behemoth Chevron in its yearslong legal assault on environmental and human rights attorney Steven Donziger.

Biden's renomination of Jennifer Rearden to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York—announced on the White House website Wednesday—garnered little attention in the corporate press, but it didn't escape the notice of watchdog groups, climate campaigners, or Donziger himself, who said Thursday that he was "outraged" by the news.

Rearden "was paid millions at [Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP] to help jail me, attack Indigenous peoples, and cover up a massive oil spill in the Amazon," said Donziger, who in 2011 won a multibillion-dollar settlement against Chevron over its devastating pollution of the Ecuadorian rainforests.

Chevron, which never paid the settlement, responded by launching a massive—and, according to critics, entirely unfounded and corrupt—legal campaign against Donziger that resulted in his prolonged and ongoing detention.

Trump originally nominated Rearden to the federal bench in early 2020 thanks in part to support from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), but the lawyer's nomination expired at the end of that year after the Senate didn't act to confirm her.

In a statement announcing Biden's decision to re-up Rearden's nomination, the White House said that all of the president's judicial picks are "extraordinarily qualified, experienced, and devoted to the rule of law and our Constitution."

"These choices also continue to fulfill the president's promise to ensure that the nation's courts reflect the diversity that is one of our greatest assets as a country—both in terms of personal and professional backgrounds," the White House said.

Jamie Henn, director of Fossil Free Media, called the president's move "atrocious."

The nonprofit investigative outlet Sludge reported Thursday that "in her nomination questionnaire, Rearden explains that she has mainly represented corporations."

"Rearden's corporate clients have included Home Depot, Uber, Lehman Brothers, Barclays Capital, and Patriarch Partners," noted Sludge, which also spotlighted the lawyer's political donations to erstwhile Republican presidential candidates Chris Christie and Rudy Giuliani.

Rearden also has "deep ties" to Gillibrand, as The Intercept's Andrew Fishman reported in October.

"Gillibrand played a crucial role in the nomination of Rearden—who fundraised at Gibson Dunn for the senator's campaigns—to serve on the federal bench," Fishman observed. "In a sworn affidavit... Rearden stated that her yearslong road to the nomination began when she expressed interest to Gillibrand in one of many talks about the issue with the senator and her staff."

Even as a number of Democratic lawmakers have spoken out against Chevron's campaign against Donziger—a New York resident—Gillibrand has remained conspicuously silent on the matter.

"Sen. Gillibrand has refused for a long time to even investigate my unprecedented Chevron-orchestrated detention, much less speak out about it," Donziger told The Intercept. "Obviously, the senator's extensive connections to big-money donors with ties to Chevron might be affecting her decision to ignore what is an obvious human rights violation on U.S. soil involving one of her constituents."

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