On April 20 a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit heard an appeal of a RICO judgment obtained by Chevron to prevent villagers in the Oriente region of Ecuador from enforcing a $9 billion judgment by an Ecuadoran court against Chevron. The three judges hearing the case were Amalya L. Kearse, Barrington D. Parker, and Richard C. Wesley. Judge Richard Wesley stunned both sides by asking at oral argument whether the Second Circuit had the power to order the entire dispute retried from scratch in federal district court. Counsel for the plaintiffs in the Ecuadoran lawsuit responded that the court could make such an order, while Ted Olson, arguing for Chevron, stated that he “couldn’t agree” to such a proposal. Judge Wesley also questioned why Chevron was simultaneously pursuing an arbitration action against the state of Ecuador and the RICO action and asked what would happen if they reached contradictory conclusions.
Judge Parker noted that the Ecuadoran plaintiffs had failed to argue that the findings made by district judge Kaplan in support of his RICO judgment were “clearly erroneous,” the legal standard for overturning them on appeal. Judge Kearse’s only question was what impact the RICO judgment would have on the villagers in Ecuador who were plaintiffs there and defendants in the New York RICO suit. Judge Wesley responded with anger when Chevron’s counsel argued that the corporation should not be bound by a prior commitment to accept the judgment of the Ecuadoran courts in return for the case initially being dismissed from New York courts. “I’m not terribly interested in legalistic arguments” about the terms of Chevron’s merger with Texaco, Judge Wesley exclaimed. Chevron made a commitment in federal court, he stated, and should be bound by it. Roger Parloff, Judge Asks Puzzling Questions at Chevron v. Donziger Appeal, Fortune, April 20, 2015 (http://fortune.com/2015/04/20/judge-asks-puzzling-questions-at-chevron-v-donziger-appeal/).
Today four additional blog posts from students in my Global Environmental Law seminar have been posted on my parallel blog at: http://www.globalenvironmentallaw.com. Just click on the "Students" tab on the top of the opening page. Jonah Nelson writes about India’s new environmental tribunals. Ashley Wetzel discusses how effective environmental courts have been and whether they would work in the U.S. Pejmon Pashai reviews environmental law in Iran and Aminah Zaghab argues for recognizing environmental accountablity as a new human right.