Victories have been few and far between for Steven Donziger, and (for reasons I’ve given) probably rightly so. But there is one aspect of the civil contempt finding against Donziger that I’ve previously written was probably wrong. Donziger appealed from that aspect of the contempt finding and argued the appeal pro se this week, and I think he’s right about it. The issue is whether Judge Kaplan, who issued an injunction and letter clarified it, prohibited Donziger from receiving pay from interests in the Lago Agrio judgment that he helped his clients to sell in order to finance their litigation. As I read the record, Judge Kaplan construed his own injunction in such a way that I think Donizger reasonably understood that he could receive those payments, and so I think it’s unfair to hold him in contempt for doing just what Judge Kaplan told him he could do.
Whether what I expect will be a victory for Donziger on this issue will have a broader impact remains to be seen. There were other contempt findings from which Donziger has not appealed. Still, I think Donziger deserves to win this one.