Ecuador Court Names Another New Judge In Chevron Case

QUITO (Dow Jones)

The provincial court of Sucumbios has picked a new judge, Leonardo Ordonez Pina, to preside over the Court.

The new judge will take up the case involving a multi-billion-dollar lawsuit against Chevron Corp. (CVX).

Leonardo Ordonez, 64, was named by the Court last Thursday. The new judge confirmed to Dow Jones Newswires on Monday that he will take his position in the coming days, when an administrative process is completed.

The change was part of the regular rotation of judges in the Ecuadorian Courts.

Ordonez will replace Judge Nicolas Zambrano, who took over the Chevron case in October, after the court accepted the recusal of Judge Juan Nunez.

Nunez withdrew from the case after Chevron released videos in August that it says implicated the judge in improper dealings.

Nunez has denied any wrongdoing, and said the videos were doctored. Chevron maintains that the videos are authentic and haven't been manipulated.

Ordonez is the sixth judge in the case.

Both sides, plaintiffs and Chevron, said that the change won't have any impact on the case.

Pablo Fajardo, who leads the team of the plaintiffs, said, however, that "the change maybe could help the process because the new Judge lives in Sucumbios, knows the region problems and has around 25 years as lawyer in the region. He could allow an agile process."

Meanwhile, Chevron spokesman James Craig said that the new judge should make a decision on the company's request to throw out a report done by Richard Cabrera, a court-appointed expert who in November 2008 told the court that Chevron should pay more than $27 billion in compensation for alleged environmental damages.

In a motion filed recently to the court, Chevron said that Cabrera has financial conflicts of interest because he is the main shareholder and manager of an environmental remediation company that is registered to do business with Ecuadorian oil company Petroecuador, a fact that Chevron alleges Cabrera didn't disclose to the judge when he was asked to assess the case in 2007.

The company said that the appointment of Cabrera must be held null and void and his report should be thrown out.

Chevron is facing a lawsuit in Ecuador for alleged contamination by Texaco in the Amazon city of Lago Agrio, before its 2001 merger with Chevron.

The company is accused of having used out-of-date technology that led to environmental damage. Chevron denies the accusations.

The complaint started in 1993 with a lawsuit in New York courts, which ruled that the case should be heard in Ecuador, where the damage allegedly occurred.

In May 2003, several indigenous groups filed a lawsuit against the company in Lago Agrio, in Sucumbios province.

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