Chris Hedges Law Original

The Anonymous Executioners of the Corporate State

Imprisoning the David to Chevron's Goliath is the latest outrage by a US judiciary now engineered to always favor the interests of capital.
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Original illustration by Mr. Fish

By Chris Hedges / Original to ScheerPost

Judge Loretta Preska, an advisor to the conservative Federalist Society, to which Chevron is a major donor, sentenced human rights attorney and Chevron nemesis Steven Donziger to six months in prison Friday for misdemeanor contempt of court after he had already spent 787 days under house arrest in New York. 

Preska’s caustic outbursts — she said at the sentencing, “It seems that only the proverbial two-by-four between the eyes will instill in him any respect for the law” — capped a judicial farce worthy of the antics of Vasiliy Vasilievich, the presiding judge at the major show trials of the Great Purges in the Soviet Union, and the Nazi judge Roland Freisler who once shouted at a defendant,”You really are a lousy piece of trash!” 

Donziger, a graduate of Harvard Law School, has been fighting against polluting American oil companies for nearly three decades on behalf of indigenous communities and peasant farmers in Ecuador. His only “crime” was winning a $9.5 billion judgment in 2011 against Chevron for thousands of plaintiffs. The oil giant had bought Texaco oil company holdings in Ecuador, inheriting a lawsuit alleging it deliberately discharged 16 billion gallons of toxic waste from its oil sites into rivers, groundwater, and farmland. Since the verdict, Chevron has come after him, weaponizing litigation to destroy him economically, professionally, and personally. 

The sentencing came a day after Donziger petitioned the court to consider an opinion by the United Nations human rights council that found his house arrest a violation of international human rights law. The U.N human rights council said his house arrest counted as detention under international law and it was therefore illegal for Judge Preska to demand an additional six months in jail. Amnesty International also called for Donziger’s immediate release. 

Donziger and his lawyers have two weeks to appeal the judge’s order that Donziger be sent immediately to jail. Preska denied Donziger bail claiming he is a flight risk. If the Federal Court of Appeals turns down Donziger’s appeal he will go to jail for six months. The irony, not lost on Donziger and his lawyers, is that the higher court may overturn Preska’s ruling against him, but by the time that decision is made he will potentially have already spent six months in jail.

“What Judge Preska is trying to do is force me to serve the entirety of my sentence before the appellate court can rule,” Donziger told me by phone on Monday. “If the appellate court rules in my favor, I will still have served my sentence, although I am innocent in the eyes of the law.”

Donziger, his lawyers have pointed out, is the first person under U.S. law charged with a “B” misdemeanor to be placed on home confinement, prior to trial, with an ankle monitor. He is the first person charged with any misdemeanor to be held under home confinement for over two years. He is the first attorney ever to be charged with criminal contempt over a discovery dispute in a civil case where the attorney went into voluntary contempt to pursue an appeal. He is the first person to be prosecuted under Rule 42 (criminal contempt) by a private prosecutor with financial ties to the entity and industry that was a litigant in the underlying civil dispute that gave rise to the orders. He is the first person tried by a private prosecutor who had ex parte communications with the charging judge while that judge remained (and remains) unrecused on the criminal case.

“No lawyer in New York for my level of offense ever has served more than 90 days and that was in home confinement,” Donziger told the court. “I have now been in home confinement eight times that period of time. I have been disbarred without a hearing where I have been unable to present factual evidence; thus, I am unable to earn an income in my profession. I have no passport. I can’t travel; can’t do human rights work the normal way which I believe I am reasonably good at; can’t see my clients in Ecuador; can’t visit the affected communities to hear the latest news of cancer deaths or struggles to maintain life in face of constant exposure to oil pollution. In addition, and this is little known, Judge [Lewis A.] Kaplan has imposed millions and millions of dollars of fines and courts costs on me. [Kaplan is the judge for Chevron’s lawsuit against Donziger; Preska is his handpicked judge for the contempt charges.] He has ordered me to pay millions to Chevron to cover their legal fees in attacking me, and then he let Chevron go into my bank accounts and take all my life’s savings because I did not have the funds to cover these costs. Chevron still has a pending motion to order me to pay them an additional $32 [million] in legal fees. That’s where things stand today. I ask you humbly: might that be enough punishment already for a Class B misdemeanor?” 

Judge Preska was unmoved.

“Mr. Donziger has spent the last seven years thumbing his nose at the U.S. judicial system,” Preska said at his sentencing hearing. “Now it’s time to pay the piper.” 

The six-month sentence was the maximum the judge was allowed to impose; she ruled that his house arrest cannot be counted as part of his detention. From start to finish, this has been a burlesque. It is emblematic of a court system that has been turned over to lackies of corporate power, who use the veneer of jurisprudence, decorum, and civility to make a mockery of the rule of law. 

When the law is neutered, judges become the enforcers of injustice. These corporate judges, who epitomize what Hannah Arendt called the banality of evil, now routinely make war on workers, civil liberties, unions, and environmental regulations. 

Preska sent Jeremy Hammond to prison for a decade for hacking into the computers of a private security firm that works on behalf of the government, including the Department of Homeland Security, and corporations such as Dow Chemical. In 2011, Hammond released to the website WikiLeaks and Rolling Stone and other publications some three million emails from the Texas-based company Strategic Forecasting Inc., or Stratfor. The sentence was one of the longest in U.S. history for hacking and the maximum Preska could impose under a plea agreement in the case. I sat through the Hammond trial. I watched Preska spew her bile and contempt at Hammond from the bench with the same vitriol she used to attack Donziger. 

Preska is also infamous for her long judicial crusade to force New York public schools to provide tax-subsidized free space for evangelical churches based on blatantly illogical readings of the Constitution.

The persecution of Donziger fits a pattern familiar to millions of poor Americans who are coerced into accepting plea deals, many for crimes they did not commit, and sent to prison for decades. It fits the pattern of the judicial lynching and prolonged psychological torture of Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning. It fits the pattern of those denied habeas corpus and due process at Guantánamo Bay or in CIA black sites. It fits the pattern of those charged under terrorism laws, many held at the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in Lower Manhattan, who cannot see the evidence used to indict them. It fits the pattern of the widespread use of Special Administrative Measures, known as SAMs, imposed to prevent or severely restrict communication with other prisoners, attorneys, family, the media, and people outside the jail. It fits the pattern of the extreme sensory deprivation and prolonged isolation used on those in our black sites and prisons, a form of psychological torture, the refinement of torture as science. By the time a “terrorist” is dragged into our secretive courts the bewildered suspect no longer has the mental and psychological capability to defend themselves. If they can do this legally to the demonized they can, and one day will, do it to the rest of us. The Donziger case is an ominous warning that the American legal system is broken. 

Ralph Nader, who graduated from Harvard Law School, has long decried the capture of the courts and law schools by corporate power, calling the nation’s attorneys and judges “lucrative cogs in the corporate wheel.” He notes that law school curriculums are “built around corporate law, and corporate power, and corporate perpetration, and corporate defense.” 

Victor Klemperer, who was dismissed from his post as a professor of Romance languages at the University of Dresden in 1935 because of his Jewish ancestry, astutely noted how at first the Nazis “changed the values, the frequency of words, [and] made them into common property, words that had previously been used by individuals or tiny troupes. They confiscated words for the party, saturated words and phrases and sentence forms with their poison. They made language serve their terrible system. They conquered words and made them into their strongest advertising tools [Werebemittle], at once the most public and most secret.” And, Klemperer noted, as the redefinition of old concepts took place the public was oblivious.

This redefinition of words and concepts has, as Klemperer witnessed during the rise of fascism, allowed the courts to twist the law into an instrument of injustice, revoking our rights by judicial fiat. It has seen the courts permit unlimited dark money into political campaigns under Citizens United, defending our money-saturated elections as the right to petition the government and a form of free speech. The courts have revoked our right to privacy and legalized wholesale government surveillance in the name of national security. The courts grant corporations the rights of individuals, while rarely holding the individuals who run the corporations accountable for corporate crimes.

Very few of the legal rulings that benefit corporate power have popular support. The corporate disemboweling of the country, therefore, is increasingly given cover by Christian fascists, who energize their base around abortion, prayer in schools, guns and breaking down the separation of church and state. These issues are rarely addressed in cases before federal courts. But they distract the base from the slew of pro-corporate rulings that dominate most court dockets.

Corporations such as Tyson Foods, Purdue, Walmart, and Sam’s Warehouse have poured millions into institutions that indoctrinate these Christian fascists, including Liberty University and Patrick Henry Law School. They fund the Judicial Crisis Network and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which campaigned for Amy Coney Barrett’s appointment to the Supreme Court. Barrett opposes abortion and belongs to People of Praise, a far-right Catholic cult that practices “speaking in tongues.” She and the other far-right ideologues are hostile to LGBTQ rights. But this is not why she is so beloved by corporations, who are not interested in abortion, LGBTQ equality or gun rights. 

Barrett and the Christian fascists embrace an ideology that believes that God will take care of the righteous. Those who are poor, those who are sick, those who go to prison, those who are unemployed, those who cannot succeed in society do so because they have failed to please God. In this worldview there is no need for unions, universal health care, a social safety net or prison reform. Barrett has ruled consistently in favor of corporations to cheat gig workers out of overtime, green-light fossil fuel extraction and pollution and strip consumers of protection from corporate fraud. The watchdog group Accountable.US found that as a circuit court judge, Barrett “faced at least 55 cases in which citizens took on corporate entities in front of her court and 76% of the time she sided with the corporations.” 

The Christian fascists, allied with organizations such as the Federalist Society, under the Trump administration gave lifetime appointments to nearly 200 judges, roughly 23 percent of all federal judgeships. That included 53 to the nation’s appellate courts, the court immediately under the Supreme Court. The American Bar Association, the country’s largest nonpartisan coalition of lawyers, has rated many of these appointments as unqualified. There are currently six Federalist Society Supreme Court justices, including Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh, who Nader calls “a corporation masquerading as a human being.” Two Federalist Society Supreme Court justices, Clarence Thomas and the late Antonin Scalia, who was an original faculty advisor to the organization founded by conservative law students in 1982, were supported in the nomination process by Joe Biden.

The stacking of the courts with corporate puppets, however, began long before Trump. It was carried out by both Republican and Democratic administrations. Preska was appointed by Republican President G.W. Bush. However, the judge who preceded Preska in the Donziger case, Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, a former lawyer for the tobacco industry who had undisclosed investments in funds with Chevron holdings, according to his public financial disclosure statement, was appointed by Democratic President Clinton. 

The targeting of the courts was one of the key goals of Lewis Powell, a corporate lawyer later elevated to the Supreme Court by President Nixon. In Powell’s 1971 memo to the Chamber of Commerce, a blueprint for the slow-motion corporate coup that has taken place, he called on business interests to pack the judiciary with corporate-friendly judges. 

The courts in all tyrannies are dominated by mediocrities and buffoons. They make up for their intellectual and moral vacuity with a zealous subservience to power. They turn courtroom trials into opera buffa, at least until the victim is shackled and pushed out the door to a prison cell. They fulminate in caustic tirades at the condemned, whose sentence is never in doubt and whose guilt is never in question. 

“It started when Texaco went into Ecuador in the Amazon in the 1960s and cut a sweetheart deal with the military government then ruling Ecuador,” Donziger told me for a column I wrote about his case a year ago. “Over the next 25 years, Texaco was the exclusive operator of a very large area of the Amazon that had several oil fields within this area, 1500 square miles. They drilled hundreds of wells. They created thousands of open-air, unlined toxic waste pits where they dumped the heavy metals and toxins that came up from the ground when they drilled. They ran pipes from the pits into rivers and streams that local people relied on for their drinking water, their fishing, and their sustenance. They poisoned this pristine ecosystem, in which lived five indigenous peoples, as well as a lot of other nonindigenous rural communities. There was a mass industrial poisoning.”

“The verdict came down, about $18 billion in favor of the affected communities, which is what it would take at a minimum to clean up the actual damage and compensate the people for some of their injuries,” Donziger told me. “That eventually got reduced on appeal in Ecuador to $9.5 billion, but it was affirmed by three appellate courts, including the highest court of Ecuador. It was affirmed by the Canadian Supreme Court, where the Ecuadorians went to enforce their judgment in a unanimous opinion in 2015.”

Chevron promptly sold its assets and left Ecuador. It refused to pay the fees to clean up its environmental damage. It invested an estimated $2 million to destroy Danziger. Chevron sued him, using a civil courts portion of the federal law famous for breaking the New York Mafia in the 1970s, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, or RICO Act. Chevron, which has more than $260 billion in assets, hired an estimated 2,000 lawyers from 60 law firms to carry out its campaign, according to court documents. But the oil giant, which did not want a jury to hear the case, dropped its demand for financial damages, which would have allowed Donziger to request a jury trial. This allowed Judge Kaplan to decide the RICO case against Donziger alone. He found credible a witness named Alberto Guerra, an Ecuadorian judge, relocated to the US by Chevron at a cost of some $2 million, who claimed the verdict in Ecuador was the product of a bribe. Kaplan used Guerra’s testimony as primary evidence for the racketeering charge, although Guerra, a former judge, later admitted to an international tribunal that he had falsified his testimony.

John Keker of San Francisco, one of Donziger’s lawyers on that case, said he was up against 160 lawyers for Chevron and during the trial he felt “like a goat tethered to a stake.” He called the court proceedings under Kaplan “a Dickensian farce” and a “show trial.”

In the end, Kaplan ruled that the judgment in the Ecuadorean court against Chevron was the result of fraud. He also ordered Donziger to turn over decades of all client communication to Chevron, in effect eradicating attorney-client privilege, a backbone of the Anglo-American legal system with roots dating to ancient Rome. Donziger appealed what was, according to legal experts following the case, an unprecedented and illegal order. While Donziger’s appeal was pending, Kaplan charged him with misdemeanor criminal contempt for this principled stance — carrying a maximum sentence of six months — as well as his refusal to turn over his passport, his personal electronics and to refrain from seeking the collection of the original award against Chevron. When the U.S. attorney’s office declined for five years to prosecute his criminal contempt charges against the environmental lawyer, Kaplan, using an exceedingly rare judicial maneuver, appointed the private law firm of Seward & Kissel, to act in the name of the government to prosecute Donziger. Neither the judge nor the law firm disclosed that Chevron has been a client of Seward & Kissel

Kaplan also violated the established random case assignment protocol to personally assign Preska, who had served on an advisory board of the Federalist Society, a group to which Chevron has been a lavish donor, to hear the case. Kaplan had Preska demand Donziger post an $800,000 bond on the misdemeanor charge. Preska placed him under house arrest and confiscated his passport, which he has used to meet with attorneys around the world attempting to enforce the judgment against Chevron. Kaplan managed to have Donziger disbarred. He allowed Chevron to freeze Donziger’s bank accounts, slapped Donziger with millions in fines without allowing him a jury, forced him to wear an ankle monitor 24 hours a day and effectively shut down his ability to earn a living. Kaplan allowed Chevron to impose a lien on Donziger’s apartment in Manhattan where he lives with his wife and teenage son.

None of this would surprise those targeted by the tyrannies of the past. What would be surprising, perhaps, to many Americans is how advanced our own corporate tyranny has become. Donziger never stood a chance. Neither does Julian Assange. These judges are not, in the end, focused on Donziger or Assange, but on us. The show trials they preside over are meant to be transparently biased. They are designed to send a message. All who defy corporate power and the national security state will be lynched. There will be no reprieve because there is no justice.


Chris Hedges writes a regular original column for ScheerPost. Click here to sign up for email alerts.

Chris Hedges
Chris HedgesChris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning NewsThe Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. He is the host of the Emmy Award-nominated RT America show On Contact. 

Copyright 2021 Chris Hedges

70 comments

  1. This is so depressing. There hasn’t been any substantial improvement in US legal justice in decades. The 2020 presidential election was as close to a “single choice menu” as the two corporate parties would allow, and I see no light at the end of the tunnel we’re in.

      1. Meanwhile this week, the Facebook “whistleblower” is offered up by the MSM, and no one is calling for her to be charged/incarcerated like Donzinger, Assange, Manning and Snowden.
        More distraction, to draw people’s attention away from a huge list of other problems. Zuckerberg may get summoned to testify before Congress again, and get his hands slapped. Facebook will carry on as usual.

      2. LOL… “Let there be no light”. And there was no light.

        Thus spake Zarathustra.

        C’mon, man… I’m teasing you… We all fall prey to hopelessness from time to time. That’s EXACTLY what our Enemy wants.

        But why become an ‘agent’?

        When I get to feeling overwhelmed with this degree of despair, (believe me, it’s territory I know well), I have the good sense to just STFU until I feel at least a little better.

        H

  2. I blame Joe Biden now.
    While Biden’s justice dept still has its thumb planted firmly up its ass, it’s Joe himself that could have ended this farce, and sent a pretty stark message to corporate America, months ago by simply issuing a pardon to Donzinger. Then he could have brought to bare the full weight of the federal governments law enforcement powers against Chevron, making an example of them so that, in the future, no other corporations would even consider creating their own kangaroo court within the existing system that serves their interests only.
    But here we are, no pardon, no investigation of chevron or the federalist society, nothing. More proof that the Democratic Party powers that be loathe anyone left of center.

  3. As a lawyer for 55 years I can not imagine what has happened to our country. Each day I become more depressed. I am most depressed because I see so little interest in the injustice presented to my friends.
    Thanks Chris for all your articles, books, speechs…

  4. Well, most of Chris’s articles are rather depressing, but this is one of the most extreme examples of the “exceptional” behavior of the USA’s version of justice. How such a corrupt, cruel, vicious entity could consider itself some sort of model for the world and invade, occupy, sanction, destroy country after country and be accepted as an ally by anyone is a vile indictment of much of humanity. Very rich people and corporations have rights, nobody else matters at all. What can be done?????

    1. “What can be done?”… the good citizen Rosemerry pleas.

      (Gloom certainly seems to follow in some writers’ wakes. Eh?)

      I think it was the first day of political activism school. In fact I think it was the very first lesson they taught. “The Lone Wolf is easy prey”.

      “Donzinger never stood a chance”, Mr. Hedges writes. Well duhhhh….

      The question is: why did Donzinger not know that?

      Yea… OK… I sure feel sorry for the guy that stumbles in front of the semi-truck doing 70mph. But do we feel quite as sorry for the poor guy that deliberately jumps in front of the truck?

      Was Donzinger naive, or just stupid? Did he actually think he could win when he started out? Or did he just want to fashion himself into a ‘martyr’?

      I feel bad for the guy. I do. But… Geez… What was he thinking? We could all go off tilting at windmills until they lock us up. What good would that do anyone?

      (On the other hand, if you ‘organized’, so massive numbers of people did the same, you could overwhelm the prison system, I suppose, but we’re not anywhere near a ‘stage’ like that).

      Look… There should be ‘international riots’ for Assange. There aren’t any. There should be hundreds of thousands in every Capitol City. Instead there are not even hundreds. Not even dozens, sometimes. Who’s even paying attention?

      Even Greenwald sometimes seems to have trouble keeping his ‘eye on the ball’.

      When Antony had Cicero murdered, (this was in the aftermath of Caesar’s murder), he had his right hand, his writing hand, cut off, as well as his head, and hung both in the Public Forum until they rotted away.

      They’ll simply keep public attention turning every which way over race, and riots, and war. Keep people afraid. Offer them security.

      When people feel threatened, security becomes our highest priority.

      Our entire ‘Public Reality’ is a false narrative rooted in Big Lies. We are, as a nation, pathologically delusional. Those who try to govern value secrecy above all else as they try to keep their Big Lies, which are widely known to be lies, from being officially ‘perceived’ in Public Reality.

      Once History is ‘written’, however, once events are somehow ‘recorded’ for posterity, it is very hard, if not impossible, to ‘erase’ anything.

      Our nation is living in a pathologically delusional ‘reality’. If an individual person were as delusional in her or his belief system as our nation is, she or he would likely require treatment for mental illness. That’s what ‘pathological’ means to me.

      ‘What can be done?’ is a very broad question to address. Was this a cry of despair? (typical in Hedge’s wake).

      Or does the good citizen really want to discuss what we think can be done?

      I have quite a few ideas I could share.

      1. I would recommend Michel Foucault’s “The Courage Of Truth,” freely available on ‘Internet Archive.’
        If Donzinger were not a lone wolf he’d never taken the case on behalf of the people of Ecuador. Yes, we are that far gone. And it’s not just in the field of law.

        I cannot know Donzinger’s motivation. It may be he didn’t think he’d get fried. It may be, that at this time, the state went next level. Or it may be he decided that this was the right thing to do, and that was that. Believe it or not, there may yet be people around who think and act this way… your bringing up martyrdom, as though Donzinger were playing the glory hound, looking to be a hero, immortalized, even… well, this too cannot be know. I will state that by my own experience, doing the right thing is not going to result in a parade or holiday in your honor. Is far more likely to get you injured, even killed. Some few have recognized this fact.

        In the above mentioned book, the death of Socrates gets thoroughly assessed. Socrates is not treated as stupid – quite the opposite. Nearer now, was Kurt Schumacher (anti-Nazi and barely concentration camp survivor) stupid? Gandhi? Martin Luther King? W.E.B. Du Bois? Mandela? The guy who pushes the child out of the way of your truck, and gets run over himself?

        God must know that we’ve had Hell rise up on us. It’s Hell to be alive. You gave Roundball Shaman a bingo, but perhaps do not fully grasp what he was saying. The interlocking components of the system defend one another. To the death – of the critic, dissident or attorney errant. Especially the attorneys. If they are made to conform to the unspoken, the real, law, civil and human rights are dead.
        We’re dead. All of us. Except those already dead.

        So they’re utterly destroying Donzinger, S l o w l y.
        To make an example? Of course. Sadism? That too. Human experimentation? Maybe so.
        I can just about feel that there’s something even more to it, but can’t get at it.

  5. “… how advanced our own corporate tyranny has become… All who defy corporate power and the national security state will be lynched. There will be no reprieve because there is no justice.”

    Groucho Marx once said to a wanton woman, “Now that we know what you are, now we’ve just arguing about the price!…”

    So it has become with ‘The Law’. When the Law (and those entrusted to carry it out) become a product and commodity for hire and purchase, then it just becomes a matter of agreeing upon the price. And in our twisted World where Those-With-The-Gold Rule… there’s little doubt who can provide the greatest of funds to satisfy these Legal Guardians of Truth, Justice, and the American Way and trample anything resembling real justice in the process.

    Corporate power (tyranny), the Security State, the Deep State in all its twisted forms and guises, and the ‘Justice’ keepers have all melded into One big hot mess.

    Groucho also said, “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.”

    Too bad Groucho isn’t with us today. If he were, he would just replace the word ‘Politics’ above with the ‘The Law’ and that would pretty much cover it.

    1. Roundball Shaman writes:

      “Corporate power (tyranny), the Security State, the Deep State in all its twisted forms and guises, and the ‘Justice’ keepers have all melded into One big hot mess”.

      Bingo! These are ‘syndicated’ forces. They are all ‘independent’ powers in their own rights, but they join forces voluntarily to serve the best interests of all of them together.

      It’s very much the same organizational form as the Mafia. Every ‘Family’ was a power entity unto itself. But it was just constant warfare and bloodshed over ‘territory’. So… the Five Families became The Syndicate.

      These are disparate forces that Shaman is mentioning here. They are each immensely powerful in themselves. They have ‘syndicated’. They are still rival powers, (they might even still be enemies), but they have united into a greater entity that serves the interests of all these power centers.

      Roundball Shaman ‘sees’…

      [Hey…as an aside…just from your name…I gotta ask… You ever run into JJ Barea?]

  6. No one does it better than Hedges. 🙂 Here’s the Real World right in your face. Naked capitalism. Same as naked communism or naked feudalism. Oligarchy or autocracy. No matter which one you get, Carlin was right about the “Big Club”.

    Chevron is a huge multi-national corporation functioning in the naked capitalist category. I think it would be naive to believe their only motive is profit. Geo-politics also play into the game and they have bigger fish to fry than poor old Steven Donziger. The moral high ground that he was/is fighting for is not realistic in the grand scheme of things, but we need people like Donziger to keep the dream alive, even if you have to be asleep to believe it. 😉

    1. Stellar article. So it’s not the first time for Madam Judge… Texaco and Chevron don’t look so good here. Neither does the machine that allows this farce of justice!

    2. “Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well but the certainty that something is worth doing no matter how it turns out.” Vaclav Havel

  7. I agree! “That’s depressing” That is what a friend of mine said after I lent him the book ” Merchants of Death” about corporate greed in WW1, in it German corps sued the allies and won a case for patent infringement of grenades. A hundred years later Chris’s article proves it never ends!

  8. This story should be all over the news in the USA. Imagine a corporation being able to get away with overturning a massive judgement against them by going after the lawyer by trying to negate attorney/client privilege with a BS contempt of court charge. And letting the corporation’s own attorneys prosecute the case which the US Government refused to take up. And the judge herself worked for Chevron as well it seems. And after over two years of house arrest (which has never happened in such a contempt charge) then being sentenced to 6 months in Federal prison. This story alone shows that the USA is dead and gone. It is nothing but a corporate oligarchy now with no rule of law except for those corporations imposing their iron fists against anyone who would dare oppose their outright criminality. There are no words for what Steven Donziger has endured. If there ever was a clear cut case for a complete boycott against a criminal corporation, it is now against Chevron. I give the USA a couple more years at best before dystopian chaos rules the land. These criminals are going to kill and destroy life itself with no way to stop them legally. And where is the Attorney General and Biden regarding all of this. Happily serving their corporate masters it would seem.

  9. Why hasn’t the US Department of Justice intervened to stop this gross injustice? There is apparently no entity to protect us from whatever abuse the corporatocracy wants to impose.

    1. The DOJ and the executive branch are fully subservient to the gangs of the political parties, legislatures, and judiciary. I have exposed massive political corruption with full evidence and legal argument, and the DOJ, FBI, HSI, and IRs refused to respond despite three years of complaints and info packages to their local, state, and DC HQ and OIGs. Theft of government funds, and bribes from those who get that money, is the main source of political campaign funds for their masters in the political parties.

  10. “The worst government is often the most moral. One composed of cynics is often very tolerant and humane. But when fanatics are on top, there is no limit to oppression”. H.L. Menkin

    It looks like we either put up a legitimate 3rd political party or we have slavery. So I guess we will see what America is made of.

  11. This one was good. Chilling, sickening.
    So was the last one: “Oligarchy or Autocracy”
    A fitting comparison. I’d only add to what was written that both are totalitarian. The current article goes a long way to showing that oligarchy is, indeed, totalitarian. The courts participating in, driving the punishment of an American involved in a suit in a foreign country against an American behemoth raises a hearty “What the Hell?”
    But the point may be made even more clear. COVID-19 hit and the employees of the meat packers were one of the first to get plagued. The price of meat instantly shot up, and is kept on shooting. Lumber also, allegedly because the well-off were having themselves homes built in the countryside.
    In the past 20 months, a quarter or a third of the population has been out of work, and much of the rest have consciously cut back on spending.
    March 1, 2020, the DOW was at 26,703.32. Today it’s 34,416.99 – and it’s down a bit. 34.4 / 26.7 = 1.288… the market is up almost 29% .
    This cannot possible be, without the administration of the GOUGE. In the sum of realms. Totality.
    So US and England can’t find enough truck drivers? Well, it might help retention and recruiting if the driver’s every movement in the cab weren’t being monitored. Will the system give in? Of course not… the system players can, if necessary, have stuff flown to their doors. And for all the rest, as they say, it’s the American way.
    Criticism and dissent warn that we’re going down, but money and authority can’t see it. Feel it. Or even imagine it. And they stomp (the incomparable Michel Foucault’s words) their ‘intolerable insolence’ right through the floor.

  12. Chris, the Rule of Law doesn’t exist. As Zinn noted, “But, now, we have in Western civilization, the Rule of Law. The Rule of Law has regularized and maximized the injustice that existed before the Rule of Law… When, in all the nations of the world, the Rule of Law is the darling of the leaders and the plague of the people, we ought to begin to recognize this.”

    The laws were largely enacted at the behest and for the benefit of the rich and powerful. As Rogue Dalton Garcia noted, “Laws are created to be followed by the poor. Laws are made by the rich to bring some order to exploitation. The poor are the only law-abiders in histroy. When the poor make laws, the rich will be no more.”

  13. Land of the slave, home of a coward, this is what we have become under the so called capitalist society. Tell me again what’s is the difference between top 1% Americans and Taliban ….. nothing. One is enforcing their will on us with judicial power and the other is using physical force and the results are the same.

  14. Thank you, Mr. Hedges, for your investigative reporting. Of course, this shocking story doesn’t get any mainstream media coverage, further evidencing just how corrupt the power structures in the US and the world have become. I know you will keep reporting whether or not readers acknowledge your work, but I hope my sincere heartfelt gratitude gives you at least a small bit of support as you continue on your journey.

  15. actions designed to keep a minority in control over the majority, an age old objective…

  16. It’s interesting that the judges in this case and in the Assange case are both women.
    Is this a ploy by the prosecutors?
    Are these two women there for show?
    Are we meant to believe that female judges are more lenient and therefore more honest and transparent?
    I wouldn’t put it past the ghouls who rule.
    The law is not just an ass.
    It is an assassin.

      1. Just makes me wonder if the gutless pontificating male plutocrats are playing a game of blame shifting.
        ‘Look over there, it’s those nasty females!’

  17. I’m shocked, never mind surprised, at how far along the road to fascism the US, including it’s judiciary, has gone. Although I shouldn’t really be the least bit surprised as I’m British and have been following with horror the persecution of Julian Assange in our judicial system.

    And as Chris says, they are doing this out in the open, no attempt at disguise.

    My heart goes out to this courageous man and to the people of Ecuador.

  18. Well .. this is why I’m going to “save our democracy” by voting “blue no matter who”! Oh .. and i’ll be sure to drive a Prius and recycle paper and cans so i can participate in “saving the planet”!

    But, to be serious …

  19. Anyone that doubts the fact that America is the biggest & worst plutocracy in history is ignorant or corrupt. The cohesiveness of the corrupted class makes the Mafia look like a book club.

  20. Preska is just another swine from the far Right. They are a malignancy on the planet. The RNC and DNC both deserve all the scorn and abuse they get. They are useless and depraved.

    Capitalism is just another word for cannibalism. If corporations truly are “people” then they are vampires and rapists who get a free pass from the government and judiciary and the corporate owned media.

    Where to turn . . . where to turn.

  21. I am so sick and tired of Mr. fishes consistently relentlessly misogynistic drawings. Yeah, we get the point. But we also understand there is a specific type of person who really gets off on this sort of illustration. Chapo Traphouseers, I’m looking at you.

    1. The Earth is conventionally represented as female. And if it had been a male personification of Earth in this picture, people would be yelling “homophobia!” The point is that our planet is being raped.
      As to calling Mr. Fish’s cartoons “misogynistic” — do you also think that Schindler’s List is a Nazi movie because there are Nazis in it? I hope not.
      I do like your handle, though.

  22. So heart-breaking that it is murder to work my through and read it all. We have so much collective work to do before we can have a society worth living in—one that supports everyone’s dignity. I am encouraged at lest that Chris stays at his work, as does this lawyer.

  23. The corporate juggernaut of sociopathic capitalist injustice reflected in the despicable treatment of Steven Donziger, Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, Jeffrey Sterling, John Kiriakou, and numerous other truth tellers, is blatantly present in what will some day soon, hopefully, be revealed and prosecuted as the biggest, deadliest, most profitable con-job/ swindle/ fraud the world has ever known.

    Almost as if pre-planned, the imposition of man-made C19 has enabled the extraction of tens of billions in profit for BigPharma (and it’s Wall Street owners), the use of massive msm and social media monopoly suppression and censorship of lifesaving information, highly credentialed doctors and scientists, and the callous, illogical, unscientific deployment of authoritarian totalitarian mandates and police powers over pubics worldwide.

    A few weeks ago, a group of dedicated doctors and scientists, fed up with being persecuted, threatened, coerced, and prevented from exercising their best judgment to most effectively treat their patients, met in Rome where they produced a Declaration decrying the pernicious consequences of the now long-running BigPharma Big-Lie vax cartel narrative. https://doctorsandscientistsdeclaration.org/

    It has now been signed by more than ELEVEN THOUSAND doctors and scientists outraged at the gross disinformation disseminated by BigPharma media thugs (such as the cynically named “Trusted News Initiative”) and the Gestapo-like censorship of honest, expert voices and scientific facts that has literally kept the knowledge of safe, effective, inexpensive early treatment remedies from the public, prevented highly experienced, dedicated front line doctors from practising their art and upholding their Hippocratic oaths, and resulted in the suffering and totally avoidable deaths of many hundreds of thousands of Americans and millions more worldwide.

    Mr. Donziger’s case reflects how unfairly and vengefully the system can act against a single individual. What has been wrought with Covid, shows how unrestrained capitalist capture and corruption of government, media, and institutions can literally destroy what’s left of purported democracies around the world.

    1. It should be noted that the declaration you cite says NOTHING about COVID-19 being manmade, being a “vax cartel narrative,” etc. It says that doctors should be more free in how they treat their patients and scientists should be able to research and publish on controversial topics without reprisal. That said, 11K (uncertified) signatures is a drop in the bucket of the total number operating in the world….

  24. This information is so important. Thanks, Chris. I’m so glad this publication is here so we can read about the corporate takeover of the US legal system. We have to know about this in order to resist it.

  25. I can corroborate Chris Hedges’ conclusions by personal experience with the maximally-corrupt US judiciary in ME, MA, FL, CA, HI, GA, and DC, from the lowest level to the Supreme Court, without exception in about 60 cases, all of whose acts very deliberately subvert the US Constitution and laws for personal gain through their political parties and associates. These cases involve municipal wrongdoings including destruction of a charity school, copyright racketeering, and theft of government funds by political tracketeers. Every one is meticulously documented and argued.

    I am now prosecuting very well documented political racketeering in Fl, where politicians stole about $120 million in conservation funds. The DOJ, FBI, and other agencies under both Trump and Biden refused to respond to three years of inquiries and packets of documents to all of their local, state, and HQ offices and OIGs, including appendices of facts and memoranda of law. The judiciary in FL, ME, HI, CA, OR, and DC refused to seal the case (any federal case would be sealed during investigation) or request federal investigation.

    Indeed the US courts are “dominated by mediocrities and buffoons” in “zealous subservience to power” of money, spewing perjuries as to the facts and the laws, idiotic “illogical readings of the Constitution.” The federal judicial branch is no more than a criminal gang serving criminal gangs in the executive branch and Congress.

  26. Chris Hedges is perhaps the only writer who could capture the massive injustice and corruption of this case. This is one of the most powerful and moving essays ever written and it makes my blood boil with rage.

    At a minimum, there must be universal condemnation by all people of good will and legal and media institutions and professionals.

    Biden and his Attorney General must be the target of demands for justice for Assange and Donziger – this can not stand.

    For the larger systemic issues, I see no alternative than to shut it down.

  27. Chris:

    Something that comes across in your piece is that Donziger feels betrayed by the judicial system and
    the US gov’t. When he began his fight against Chevron, did he understand how vicious and corrupt the tactics his opponents (enemies?) would use in retaliation? Did he expect a fair fight in the courtroom and that the dispute would not involve his life and wellbeing beyond it? It is unfair that Chevron and its allies in the US gov’t are hurting Donziger and his family, and they are making him into an example to prevent others from following him, just like with Julian Assange.

    I don’t think it is reasonable to expect that if you speak truth to power, and really threaten its bottom line, that you will be able to enjoy a comfortable, private life. The whole reason that these men and women are punishing Donziger is so that they can enjoy status and wealth (minus Donziger’s integrity). The whole purpose of Chevron is to extract from the earth, convince people they need what it sells so its shareholders and employees can live well.

    After listening to the economist, Michael Hudson, on the RT show “Renegade Inc”, the US is digging its own grave by concentrating power in Wall Street. The rent-seeking economy is creating conditions for economic privation, social unrest and environmental collapse. China is steadily building bridges in its Belt and Road Initiative while the US is burning them, or allowing them to collapse.

    The American system, like the Soviet system or Nazi Germany before it, will breakdown or burn itself out. There is much work to do to dismantle the security state and corporate complex that the US has become, but like in Isaac Asimov’s Foundation novels, even if nothing significant is done to stop it, by its own weight and inertia the system will cause its own crises and collapse. Before that happens, hopefully China ascends to be the most powerful nation by building good relations and the US begins to lose its economic, cultural and political dominance, and the abuses of power that have come with it.

    1. > The whole purpose of Chevron is to extract from
      > the earth, convince people they need what it sells
      > so its shareholders and employees can live well.

      No. Only the shareholders count.

  28. This article would have been a thousand times better if the second paragraph had explained clearly, in layman’s terms, what the man did that resulted in the contempt charge in the first place. I gave up looking for an explanation.

    1. He refused to turn over his phones and other data repositories that held data protected by attorney-client priviledge. Chevron wants to identify his network of environmentalists, etc.

  29. Just sent the following to the White House for Biden via their website contact system:

    “Please issue an immediate and full pardon to Attorney Steven Donziger.The Trump judges have destroyed this crusading lawyer who took Chevron to Court on behalf of thousand of people in Ecuador whose lands were polluted by Chevron/Texaco. This is a very serious travesty of anything related to justice and needs to be fixed now. The DOJ refused to prosecute Donziger and the Judge appointed a Chevron law firm to step into the shoes of the DOJ.”

    Maybe is a thousand people did the same, Biden would do something

  30. What nonsense. Have any of you read the decisions by Judge Kaplan reported at 974 F. Supp. 2d 362 [S.D. N.Y. 2014] or the Second Circuit’s affirming opinion at 833 F.3d 74 [2d Cir.2016] or accessible to the public on PACER? Judge Kaplan’s decision is more than 600 pages. The Second Circuit’s affirmance decision on Pacer is a concise 150 pages.
    Are you also aware that the Second Circuit substantially affirmed the 2018 finding that Donziger was in civil contempt? 990 F.3d 191, 214–15 (2d Cir. 2021). Don’t any of those decisions mean anything to anyone?
    Moderator: Didn’t the Court determine that the phones and other data were not protected by the attorney client privilege?

    That being said, the verdict was just. You can argue that the sentence was excessive. But did any of you read Donziger’s pre-sentencing brief? It was the brief of a man who craves martyrdom and dared the Judge to jail him.

    I respectfully dissent.

    1. Your faith in the Second Circuit as a “progressive” one is likely coloring your impression. However, it sounds like you have legal expertise which would add to the conversation — can you explain the affirmance in common language? Notwithstanding your claim that 150 pages is “concise”…

    2. Also, why if Donziger’s claims don’t hold constitutional water does no MSM media rebut the left’s outrage on this case? Why is there just silence? At a minimum, the legal issues and precedent, the large sum of money, the oddities of the case regarding Preska’s appointment and so on, the lengthy house arrest … surely there is a story here available for “both sides” traditional liberal journalism? Why is on tiny Scheerpost and a few other outsider sites to carry water investigating and reporting on this major legal battle?

  31. Let me reply to your comments and make a couple of observations. First the observations: In order to fairly judge the case, one has to read the decisions. Most people haven’t. Mr. Hedges writes as if there was no civil trial. He never mentions the civil trial. Donziger was held liable as a fraudster on a “clear and convincing evidence” standard. That is a lower standard than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard used in criminal trials, but higher than the “preponderance of evidence” standard used in most civil cases, as the underlying action was. That’s powerful.

    For the most part, the Second Circuit reviewed Judge Kaplan’s findings of fact and found that the findings were supported in the trial record. The Second Circuit also considered the legal arguments and found that Judge Kaplan applied the law correctly. Hence the affirmance. In 150 pages, the Second Circuit analyzed Kaplan’s 600+ page decision. Under the circumstances, concision is not limited to 2 or 3 paragraphs. A 150 page decision on a civil matter is an outlier.

    Yes, I am a lawyer and a soie practitioner. I read blogs left and right, but I lean to the conservative side of things. I have faith in the court system and its judges. I reject the idea of conservative or progressive “truths”. The Courts have spoken. The matter has been adjudicated. The decision was upheld on appeal. The Supreme Court did not grant cert. Donziger has been held to have obtained his Ecuadorian judgment by fraud.

    I am not versed in journalism, but perhaps no one is covering “the other side” because the 750 pages of legal opinion make it seem as if there no longer is another side. Mr. Hedges and Donziger’s supporters seems to be unfactual denial: Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes? (Marxist thought…Groucho not Karl).

    Now to the criminal trial: I am not versed on the criminal contempt issues, the issues of the criminal referral . I don’t know how the case got to Judge Preska, or if her assignment was proper. All the jurisdictional issues are beyond my expertise. Donziger has his appeal rights, and those issues will be resolved. Nonetheless, I urge you to read Ron Kuby’s pre-sentence brief. No contrition, no acknowledgments of error, attacks on Judge Kaplan and Judge Preska. Not the way to ask a judge to avoid jail.

    I must end, Moderator. I thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts. I hope you find me as respectful in my opposition to your point of view, as you have been to me.

    Cordially, Ira Levine, Esq.

    1. Ira:

      Do you need to know the physics behind the transistor, to be able to use your computer? I have limited experience with the law, but having worked in the tech industry, there is a vast difference between explaining something in layman’s terms, which most concepts can, to trying to obfuscate or impress someone with technical language and burying a discussion in minutiae.

      From a bird’s eye view , perhaps Donziger made mistakes or the case is more complex than first meets the eye, but the degree of collusion between the justice department and Chevron shows the heart of the issue is corruption of the courts and harm Chevron has done to people and the Earth. The courts do not automatically deserve our respect because of the intelligence of its judges and lawyers, or its technical language and procedures: it has to be earned by making decisions that reflect the public good, and advance universal rights and wellbeing, both of people and the planet.

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