MANHATTAN (CN) – The 2nd Circuit on Wednesday declined to quash a subpoena granted to Chevron, which has been seeking discovery in courts around the country to invalidate a $113 billion environmental lawsuit it faces in Ecuador.
Chevron has claimed that it has not faced a fair trial in Lago Agrio, Ecuador, where it is being sued over contamination caused by its subsidiary, Texaco, during 30 years of drilling in the country.
U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan permitted the oil giant to subpoena Steven Donziger, the American lawyer who organized the Ecuadorians lawsuit.
Chevron says Donziger’s misconduct is the key to its exoneration in Lago Agrio, while lawyers for Donziger argued that his documents are protected under attorney-client or work-product privileges.
“After an independent review of the record, we conclude, substantially for the reasons stated by the district court in its orders of November 10 and November 30, 2010, that the district court did not abuse its discretion,” the three-judge appeals panel ruled. “We therefore affirm the October 20 and November 29, 2010, orders of the district court and we remand the cause to the district court for further proceedings consistent with this order.
The court issued a similar order last month.
“This decision has nothing to do with the merits of the case,” said Karen Hinton, spokeswoman for the Ecuadorians suing Chevron. “Chevron continues to avoid responsibility for one of the world’s largest oil disasters by engaging in a sideshow to delay and derail the litigation.”
Chevron says that discovery it has conducted to date has confirmed its suspicions of misconduct.
The appellate judges added that if Chevron’s need for discovery were not so pressing – because two of its attorneys face criminal proceedings in Ecuador – it could have allowed “a more probing (and time-consuming) review” of the parties’ privilege claims.
The order also lauded Kaplan’s handling of the case.
“In light of the complexity of this case and the urgency of its adjudication, we wish to note the exemplary manner in which the able district judge has discharged his duties,” the unsigned order states.