Posted Nov 30, 2010 03:54 pm CST
In the latest unusual twist in a hard-fought legal battle between Chevron Corp. and individuals in Ecuador who allege environmental damage in a $27 billion class action, the oil company is contending that a new attorney for the plaintiffs is conflicted out because his law firm recently acquired a lobbying firm.
After receiving a letter from Chevron asserting the conflict and saying that he should step down from the case, James Tyrrell Jr. of Patton Boggs then made a preemptive strike and asked a federal judge in Washington, D.C., to declare that no conflict existed, reports the Capital Business blog of the Washington Post.
It’s clear that Patton Boggs did acquire Breaux-Lott Leadership Group and that the lobbying firm did hundreds of thousands of dollars of work annually for Chevron in recent years. However, the parties differ in their interpretation of how that situation should be handled.
Law firm conflict-of-interest rules don’t apply to Breaux-Lott, because it didn’t do legal work for Chevron, says Tyrrell. Going above and beyond requirements, however, “we nonetheless screened them from the lawyers working on these matters for the Ecuadorian plaintiffs.”
The chair of the litigation practice at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, which is representing the oil company, didn’t respond to the newspaper’s requests for comment about the conflicts issue, and a Chevron spokesman criticized the plaintiffs’ previous counsel.
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