Submitted by Amazon Defense Coalition
Gibson Dunn & Crutcher has lost a key lawyer recently sanctioned by a U.S. federal court because she used unethical litigatlon tactics on behalf of the law firm's client Chevron to help the oil giant evade paying an $18.2 billion judgment in Ecuador for causing environmental damage, according to the blog The Chevron Pit.
The contents of the blog, posted on Monday of this week, have not been disputed by either Chevron or Gibson Dunn.
The departure of the lawyer, Kristin Hendricks, comes at a time Chevron has suffered a series of devastating legal setbacks at the hands of the Ecuaodorian plaintiffs that coincides with Gibson Dunn's representation, which began in 2009, according to the blog. Since Gibson Dunn got involved in the case, Chevron lost the largest civil judgment in history and faces possible seizure actions against company assets in numerous countries around the world.
It also must contend with growing evidence that it tried to fraudulently sabotage the case in violation of Ecuador law, according to the evidence before the Ecuador court.
The affected Amazon communities of Ecuador recently filed lawsuits to seize billions of dollars worth of Chevron assets in Canada and Brazil to pay for a clean-up of what experts consider to be the worst oil-related disaster on earth. Chevron operated in Ecuador from 1964 to 1992 under the Texaco brand, and has admitted to dumping billions of gallons of toxic waste to lower its production costs, according to evidence before the Ecuador court.
Other Gibson Dunn lawyers are also reportedly looking to leave the firm to avoid working on the Ecuador case, which is considered a career loser, according to the blog.
Below is The Chevron Pit blog:
THE CHEVRON PIT
MONDAY, JULY 23, 2012
Ethical problems in the “transnational litigation practice group” at Chevron’s lead outside law firm, Gibson Dunn and Crutcher (GDC), are mounting fast with word that top-ranking associate Kristin Hendricks - recently sanctioned by a U.S. federal court - has abandoned her job. The departure of Hendricks appears to be part of a broader trend by young GDC lawyers disgusted with the firm’s tawdry tactics on the high-profile Ecuador environmental case, which has produced a series of devastating legal setbacks for Chevron and all sorts of problems for GDC over the last twelve months.
Hendricks, a 2006 graduate of NYU Law School, had been sanctioned in 2011 by U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas M. Coffin in Oregon (see here) for “harassing” the executive director of a small environmental non-profit that had been helping the Ecuador rainforest communities that recently won an $18 billion judgment against Chevron. A detailed affidavit documenting GDC’s many unethical practices in the Oregon action (which included Hendricks, partner Randy Mastro, and associates Alexandra Southwell, and Gregory Shill) and on which Judge Coffin based his decision, can be found here.
The larger issue is that many young lawyers probably don’t want to represent a client who committed gross human rights abuses and then lied to cover up thousands of deaths, while the partners who orchestrate the litigation reap millions of dollars in fees. A video about the horrific human rights violations committed by Chevron in Ecuador can be found here and a summary of the overwhelming evidence against the company can be found here.
The background on how Hendricks found herself sanctioned by a federal court at the outset of her legal career – and how she was left hung out to dry by Gibson Dunn partner Mastro– can be found here. For broader context on GDC’s many ethical problems in the Ecuador case, including multiple sanctions imposed on the firm by courts in the U.S. and Ecuador, see this blog published in the Huffington Post.
With almost comical fanfare, Gibson Dunn in 2010 announced a new “Transnational Litigation and Foreign Judgments” practice group of 27 lawyers specializing in “defending multinational corporations against tort and related claims emanating from abroad.” Headed by Ted Boutrous, Scott Edelman, Andrea Neuman, and William Thomson – and using Mastro on the Chevron matter - the group has got off to stuttering start to say the least.As far as we can tell, the only client the group has signed up is Chevron.
GDC brags in its marketing materials that it is a bastion of "innovative thinking" whose lawyers conduct "rescue operations" for clients in trouble. While GDC’s marketing prowess no doubt has generated millions of dollars in fees from Chevron management for the firm’s partners, its courtroom performance has been nothing less than a disaster for Chevron shareholders.
Consider just some of the setbacks Chevron has suffered since General Counsel R. Hewitt Pate - himself a central beneficiary of this suspect operation who has his own conflicts of interest (see here) - hired GDC’s vaunted “rescue operation” in 2009:
With problems like these growing, no wonder GDC is no longer considered a desired destination for young lawyers.
As Hendricks departs, we received word from three different sources that resumes are flying around New York as GDC associates try to bolt work on the Ecuador case, which is now considered a big loser of a career move. Stay tuned as details emerge.
The Amazon Defense Coalition is a part of a regional, national and global struggle for environmental and collective rights in the Ecuadorian Amazon
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