Keep It Classy, Chevron
Posted on March 2, 2012
I am not a partisan in the Chevron/Ecuador case, and having read a lot of the papers filed in the various proceedings, I can say that I admire the work the lawyers on both sides of the cases (I should really say the three sides of the cases, as Ecuador itself is a party to some of the proceedings) are doing. But I have the sense that zealousness in the service of accomplishing a client’s aims has sometimes crossed the line into overzealousness. Exhibit A: Some recent filings in the Second Circuit about the amount of costs the Lago Agrio Plaintiffs should be awarded after their victory in Naranjo. By way of background, the prevailing party on an appeal is entitled to recover routine costs for printing briefs and the like. The plaintiffs filed a bill of costs seeking $17,276.17 in costs. That seems like a lot, but it’s essentially all out-of-pocket costs for the court’s docketing fee and the cost of offset-printing six copies of the appendix (each had more than 12,000 pages), eighteen copies of the brief, and nine copies of the reply brief.
Chevron, as it had the right to do, opposed the bill of costs, claiming that the plaintiffs were seeking to recover the costs of printing more copies of the briefs than were necessary (for example, copies printed for Chevron!), that the plaintiffs should not have used the fancy covers and bindings that they used, and that the plaintiffs should not be able to recover for the costs of the printer’s personnel time (the plaintiffs sent the briefs to a vendor to be printed rather than printing them in-house). Chevron’s brief, appropriately, has citations to various local rules, court cases, and so forth. Given the necessary legal research and the time to write the brief, it would not surprise me if it cost Chevron nearly as much to prepare the thing as Chevron hopes to save ($9,756.99).
But here’s where things go off the rails. The plaintiffs responded in a brief of their own, pointing out that in an earlier related appeal, which Chevron had won, Chevron itself had sought the costs of fancy covers, bindings, etc!
These are the kinds of shenanigans that led to my dueling translations post, for which I’ve been suitably chastened at the China Law Blog and elsewhere. The point of that post wasn’t that preparing separate translations of a single document is a bad idea, but that parties in a high-stakes battle can sometimes lose sight of efficiency and economy as an objective and fight over every last penny.
Due to technical problems, I can’t post PDFs of the filings today, but I will try to get them up over the weekend or early next week.