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Chevron’s Effort to Collect From Extortionist Lawyer May Proceed

Dec. 10, 2019, 3:39 PM

Chevron Corp. will have its day in court to get discovery from the lawyer who led a corrupt effort to extort billions of dollars from the company through a scheme involving its operations in Ecuador, a federal court in New York ruled.

Suspended lawyer Steven Donziger asked the court to delay a Dec. 12 hearing while he faces criminal contempt charges also associated with Chevron’s discovery efforts to recover an $800,000 judgment from him.

The upcoming hearing deals with a civil contempt order, the opinion by Judge Lewis A. Kaplan of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York said. There’s nothing in the criminal contempt charges or the broader context of this case that warrants a delay, it said.

But Chevron also asked the court to prevent Donziger from asserting his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in the Dec. 12 hearing. If he asserts that right, the company said it won’t be able to cross-examine him over his declarations he’s complied with the discovery order, the company said.

Although it denied Chevron’s request, the court said Donziger must still come forward with evidence he purged himself of the civil contempt. If Donziger refuses to answer Chevron’s questions, the magistrate judge may disregard his three declarations that he has complied with the order, it said.

Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP represented Chevron. Donziger represented himself.

The case is Chevron Corp. v. Donziger, 2019 BL 471191, S.D.N.Y., No. 11-CV-0691, 12/9/19.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bernie Pazanowski in Washington at bpazanowski@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Patrick L. Gregory at pgregory@bloomberglaw.com

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