WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (MA-02), alongside Representatives Cori Bush (MO-01), Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), Jamaal Bowman, Ed.D. (NY-16), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), and Jamie Raskin (MD-08) sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland calling for an immediate and thorough review into the ongoing legal case involving human rights lawyer Steven Donziger, an environmental justice advocate who has been under house arrest in New York City for over 600 days.
Donziger helped win a $9.5 billion judgment against Chevron for deliberately discharging 16 billion gallons of toxic waste in the Ecuadorian Amazon between 1964 to 1992 – subjecting Black, brown, and Indigenous communities to deadly, carcinogenic waste from oil and gas production in one of the world’s most fragile and irreplaceable regions.
“Mr. Donziger has been subjected to an unprecedented 600+ days of pre-trial house arrest while awaiting trial on a petty misdemeanor charge resulting from a discovery dispute,” wrote the Members in their letter to the Attorney General. “We have deep concerns that the unprecedented nature of Mr. Donziger’s pending legal case is tied to his previous work against Chevron.”
“For decades, Chevron deliberately discharged billions of gallons of toxic waste into some of the most vulnerable and fragile ecosystems on the planet, subjecting nearby Indigenous communities to poisonous and deadly carcinogens,” said Chairman Jim McGovern. “Steven Donziger helped expose Chevron and hold them accountable, fighting to protect the rights of Indigenous people against corporate greed and corruption. I’m unsurprised that Chevron has mounted a well-financed and public campaign to muddy the waters and deflect blame, but I’m deeply troubled by the unprecedented and unjust legal assault Mr. Donziger has faced, which appears designed to intimidate and stifle those who seek to hold polluters like Chevron accountable. We are speaking out and asking Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate the conditions surrounding Mr. Donziger’s case, including his 600+ day house arrest sentence, so we can get to the bottom of what is going on here.”
"Too often Indigenous and frontline communities are denied the justice they deserve after racist fossil fuel pollution and corporate violence put their lives and livelihoods at risk," said Congresswoman Cori Bush. "Steven Donziger’s successful lawsuit on behalf of Indigenous communities in Ecuador was a remarkable exception. His bravery and brilliance will inspire others to fight back against corporate power. Chevron’s subsequent attacks on him are a threat to safety, justice, and accountability. The Department of Justice must review this case, and end the all-too-common practice of taking political prisoners who are rising up against environmental and racial injustice. We must hold corporate actors like Chevron accountable for the harm they’ve caused and the lives they’ve taken. As members of Congress, we are speaking out because to not do so would risk further denying justice to the people and communities who need it most.”
“The fight against corporate power and greed is one of the key environmental and economic justice challenges facing our planet,” said Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib. “Indigenous Amazon communities won one of the most important class action lawsuits ever, holding Chevron accountable for environmental devastation with nearly $10 billion in damages, and ever since Chevron has sought to use its money and power to illegitimately nullify this result. I am proud to stand with my Congressional colleagues in calling for Attorney General Garland to investigate the unprecedented and unjust legal assault on their attorney Steven Donziger and to fight back against unchecked corporate power rigging our justice system.”
Beleaguered Amazon communities have stood by Mr. Donziger throughout this case. A coalition of 56 Nobel Prize Laureates, Amnesty International USA and other human rights organizations, and distinguished members of the European Parliament have issued statements, demanding Mr. Donziger’s immediate release from home detention, protesting the questionable and disparate treatment of Mr. Donziger by U.S. Courts, and requesting an investigation of potential judicial abuse. They also have called for the dismissal of the criminal contempt case against Mr. Donziger.
“We request that your office act quickly to conduct an immediate full and fair review of the deeply concerning process by which Mr. Donziger’s current case has thus far played out,” conclude the members.
Donziger’s case is scheduled for trial on May 10th in the Southern District of New York. The Members’ signed letter is available here.