Criminal Justice

Disbarred lawyer who fought Chevron gets prison time for disobeying court orders

  • Print


Chevron Refinery in Richmond, California. Photo by Todd A. Merport/

Disbarred environmental lawyer Steven Donziger was sentenced to six months in prison Friday for refusing to surrender his electronic devices and disobeying other court orders in a suit against him by the Chevron Corp.

U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska of the Southern District of New York said Donziger willfully disobeyed court orders in the Chevron Corp.’s civil RICO suit, which contends that Donziger obtained a $9.5 billion pollution judgment against the oil company in Ecuador through fraud.

Law360, Reuters and Courthouse News Service have coverage of the sentence and Preska’s comments during the hearing.

Donziger “has spent the last seven-plus years thumbing his nose at the U.S. judicial system,” Preska said. “It seems that only the proverbial two-by-four between the eyes will instill in him any respect for the law.”

Preska found Donziger guilty of criminal contempt in July. Besides failing to turn over his electronic devices, Donziger refused to surrender his passport, refused to timely transfer his contingent fee interests in the Ecuador judgment to the Chevron Corp., and tried to monetize his interest in the judgment in contravention of a court order, Preska said.

Donziger maintained that he is innocent of the charges but said he accepts responsibility for his actions. He said he voluntarily chose civil contempt to protect the planet from pollution and to protect his clients from having to turn over privileged communications, according to Law360.

But the court-appointed special prosecutor, Rita Glavin, said Donziger had an opportunity to create a privilege log but didn’t do it. As a result, he waived his privilege, she said.

Donziger has already spent about 780 days in home confinement.

Outside the courthouse before the hearing began, supporters staged a rally, according to Courthouse News Service.

Among those who attended was Roger Waters, the 78-year old founding member of English rock band Pink Floyd.

“How about a sentence of time already served, yeah, that sounds about right, time already served,” Waters said.

See also: “In closing brief, disbarred environmental lawyer claims his prosecution is ‘run by an oil company’” “Lawyer blasted by judge for conduct in Chevron case should get his law license back, ethics referee says” “Suspended lawyer ordered to pay $3.4M in attorney fees to Chevron as contempt sanction”

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.