Lago Agrio: Supreme Court Relists Donziger’s Case Again

Steven Donziger speaking to reporters
Steven Donziger. Credit: Zennie Abraham (CC-BY-ND)

The Supreme Court has once again put off a decision on Steven Donziger’s petition seeking review of his criminal conviction. The petition was first distributed for discussion at the justices’ January 13 conference, but since then it has been relisted for discussion on January 20, February 17, and now February 24.

What does this mean? It tells us that the court did not think this petition is an easy “no.” That in itself is an achievement for Donziger. I could imagine a judge looking at the circus that has occurred in and around every court where Donziger has had a hearing and asking why the judge should volunteer to join the circus, especially in the absence of a circuit split. On the other hand, the Supreme Court has to have a pretty thick skin, and the issues raised in the petition (Is a special prosecutor in a contempt case exercising the judicial power, or the executive power? If executive, is the special prosecutor sufficiently subject to the Attorney General’s supervision? If judicial, is that constitutional?) are deep and difficult.

Perhaps next week will be the week that the Court tells us whether it will take Donziger’s case. If it does, prepare for the PR campaigns from both sides, which I expect will focus many interesting aspects of the Lago Agrio/Donziger case but little if at all on the separation of powers question that is the only question to be reviewed. Ditto if the Court denies the petition.

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