Lago Agrio: The RICO Trial Starts Today

The trial of Chevron’s claims against the Lago Agrio plaintiffs and Steven Donziger starts today in New York. Unfortunately, all of Letters Blogatory’s staff reporters are busy on other assignments, so I will not have live coverage. Here are a few updates from the docket in the final lead-up to the trial:

  1. The Surprise Documents. We have been following the story of the mysterious documents that an anonymous person sent to Margaret Petito, Eric Ambler-style, and that Ms. Petito then passed on to a lawyer Chevron brought in to review them for privilege. The documents apparently seemed on their face to be privileged communications belonging to the Republic of Ecuador, and Ecuador sought to intervene to protect the privilege. Magistrate Judge Francis has now granted Ecuador’s motion to intervene and ruled on the privilege issues. He held that the disclosure of the documents to Ms. Petito was not a waiver of the privilege, “particularly as the ROE can hardly be expected to explain how she came to receive them from an anonymous source.” He held that several of the documents were privileged; several were not privileged; and several were irrelevant. It’s unclear whether the non-privileged, relevant documents, which are to be turned over to Chevron, will be made publicly available.
  2. The New Lawyers. Steven Donziger has been acting pro se, but recently three lawyers have entered appearances for him: Richard H. Friedman, Zoe B. Littlepage, and Rainey C. Booth. Perhaps coincidentally, one of the three, Ms. Littlepage, was previously sanctioned by none other than Judge Kaplan in an unrelated case. It’s unclear what role the new lawyers will play in the trial. I am very interested to know why the lawyers would agree to come into such a big case so late in the day—could they possibly master the case in time for the trial?
  3. PR. I heard through the grapevine that Donziger had set up a new website. Here it is. It’s an attractive site, though I have always wondered about the usefulness of the PR “blogs” both sides have published. I trust that Donziger had someone doing this for him, i.e., that he was not spending time in the week before trial on PR!

I’ll keep you posted on what I learn about the goings-on in New York.

About Ted Folkman

Ted Folkman is a shareholder with Murphy & King, a Boston law firm, where he has a complex business litigation practice. He is the author of International Judicial Assistance (MCLE 2012), a nuts-and-bolts guide to international judicial assistance issues, and of the chapter on service of process in the ABA's forthcoming treatise on International Aspects of US Litigation, and he is the publisher of Letters Blogatory, the Web's first blog devoted to international judicial assistance, which the ABA recognized as one of the best 100 legal blogs in 2012, 2014, and 2015.

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