Chevron Files for Dismissal of Ecuador Lawsuit
Chevron has filed a petition in an Ecuador Superior Court seeking dismissal of an ongoing environmental lawsuit that has descended into a judicial farce, constituting a denial of Chevron's right to a fair and impartial trial based on evidence and the rule of law.
Chevron's petition to dismiss cites multiple examples of inappropriate interference in the civil proceeding by the executive branch of the government, judicial misconduct and misconduct by the plaintiffs' attorneys as well as their technical staff. The petition also argues that the court has failed to recognize the overwhelming volume of admissible evidence and irrefutable legal defenses that exonerate Chevron and cites the court's lack of jurisdiction, lack of due process and demonstrated bias (see Note to Editors).
"Chevron has acted in good faith throughout this trial, producing significant, scientifically sound evidence disproving the allegations of the plaintiffs' attorneys. A verdict delivered today and based on the only credible and properly submitted evidence presently before the court would exonerate Chevron," said Charles James, Chevron vice president and general counsel. "However, too many improper, unethical and illegal events have occurred, and the court must dismiss this case if it is to preserve any semblance of credibility. For the case to proceed in its current form would constitute a denial of Chevron's right to a fair trial based on evidence and the rule of law."
Chevron's legal team has demonstrated through volumes of credible scientific evidence that the allegations of the plaintiffs' attorneys are without merit. The petition outlines a long list of actions during the trial that, taken together, constitute a denial of justice.
"The court has now abandoned the law of the case and the Ecuadorian Code of Civil Procedure and has denied Chevron due process by acquiescing (likely as a result of political pressure and nationalistic bias) to plaintiffs' requests," Chevron states in its petition. "In the absence of a complete dismissal, therefore, this matter will result in a violation of Ecuador's Political Constitution. Moreover, a failure by this court to dismiss this case -- followed by any judgment against Chevron on the plaintiffs' unproven claims -- would likely constitute a violation of Ecuador's obligations under international law."
Further, the petition states that Petroecuador, which has exclusively owned the oil fields since 1992 and has operated them for more than 17 years, never fulfilled its remediation obligations and has operated the oil fields in a manner that has caused numerous environmental problems, including frequent spills. Petroecuador officials admitted publicly that Petroecuador -- not Texaco Petroleum Co. (Texpet, a third-tier subsidiary of Texaco Inc.) -- is responsible for cleaning up the remaining well sites in the former Consortium area that were not remediated by Texpet.
In its petition, Chevron describes the various efforts of the plaintiffs' attorneys and their supporters to politicize the lawsuit by convincing senior members of the government of Ecuador to offer their support to the civil lawsuit. For example, in April 2007, plaintiffs' attorneys, activists and senior members of the Ecuadorian government held a joint news conference and a highly publicized visit to certain former Petroecuador-Texpet consortium sites. With the plaintiffs' supporters at their side during one of these visits, senior members of the administration offered "the national government's full support" to the plaintiffs. Also in April, the executive branch of the government issued a news release announcing the government's intention to provide plaintiffs with "assistance in gathering evidence" against Chevron.
According to Chevron's petition filed before the court, "This manner of interference by the executive branch in a private civil dispute certainly suggests an ulterior motive (i.e., the avoidance of Petroecuador's liability), and it intolerably offends the most basic tenets of due process ... this illegitimate conduct has unfairly prejudiced Chevron, changed the course of the trial, and caused the court to deny the due process to which Chevron, like all litigants, is entitled."
Chevron's petition argues that the court's failure to follow the law of Ecuador or even its own procedural orders casts serious doubt over its adherence to the rule of law. The failure to address legitimate legal defenses, while simultaneously absolving plaintiffs of any obligation to substantiate their claims with legally qualified evidence, amounts to a clear denial of justice for Chevron. If not addressed by the court, these violations of the most basic and fundamental principles of universal justice will destroy any legal legitimacy for the results of this proceeding and sentence the litigants on both sides to a lifetime of appellate and collateral litigation. Accordingly, Chevron has requested the judge to dismiss the lawsuit in its entirety.
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