As I noted Tuesday, a North Carolina US District Court sided with Chevron in its attempt to compel documents related to the documentary “Crude” as well as requiring respondents to attend a September 8 deposition.
The court reached its holding based on evidence that the plaintiff’s lawyers had committed fraud in the Ecuadorian proceedings. The district court stated:
While this court is unfamiliar with the practices of the Ecuadorian judicial system, the court must believe that the concept of fraud is universal, and that what has blatantly occurred in this matter would in fact be considered fraud by any court.
I received a reader question regarding the validity of a US court recognizing such fraud and “intervening” in ongoing litigation in another nation.
Would this be uncommon? Perhaps, but that is not what occurred in this particular instance. Hopefully, I can provide a satisfying, if overly simplistic, explanation.
Chevron is in ongoing litigation in an Ecuadorian court. Chevron recently claimed that they became aware of footage from a documentary, shot by an American documentary team, that indicated that individuals involved in the Ecuadorian case might have engaged in fraudulent behavior. As a result, Chevron wanted footage from the documentary to use in their case.
Chevron went to a US district court to compel the documentary makers to turn over the footage to Chevron. By doing so, Chevron did not directly ask the court to intervene in the Ecuadorian proceedings, but to merely compel “discovery” of the documentary footage.
This is allowed under a federal US statute [28 U.S.C. 1782(a)], which allows, under certain circumstances/procedural guidelines, a US federal court to order a respondent to produce documents or testimony for use in a foreign court case. The court weighed many factors, and ultimately allowed Chevron to have access to the footage.
The US district court did not intervene in the Ecuadorian case; instead, they allowed Chevron have access to potential evidence that was located in the United States.
Of course, that was over simplistic, and only representative of this one sub issue. This case has been going on for years, both in Ecuadorian and United States courts. This is merely the most recent in a string of developments and litigation tactics pursued by both sides.
This case is ultimately about whether toxic waste was deliberately dumped by Texaco into the Amazon.
Chevron has instigated proceedings in multiple jurisdictions (from the US to Ecuador and back), and recently the plaintiffs have pointed to Texaco’s (now part of Chevron) internal audits that show that they were aware of the contamination.
On August 28, the Ecuadorian plaintiffs filed a brief to quash subpoenas in part based on these internal audits. The audits can be downloaded in pdf here and here.