Last Thursday, Patton Boggs entered an appearance in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on behalf of the Ecuadorian plaintiffs accusing Chevron of wreaking billions of dollars of damage in the Lago Agrio region.
It was a notable event in the 17-year-old litigation; as we’ve reported (exhaustively), Chevron has devoted enormous resources to discrediting the Ecuadorians’ lead U.S. plaintiffs counsel, Steven Donziger, so the sudden arrival of an Am Law 200 firm on the plaintiffs side must have been an unwelcome development for the oil company.
FULL COVERAGE: Chevron in Ecuador
Chevron wasted no time in responding to the Patton Boggs appearance with characteristic aggression. According to a Nov. 17 declaratory judgment complaint Patton Boggs filed in Washington, D.C., federal district court, Chevron lawyers sent the firm a Nov. 13 letter asserting that Patton Boggs has a conflict of interest because a lobbying firm it acquired this summer, the Breaux Lott Leadership Group, has represented Chevron. (The letter is not attached as an exhibit to the complaint and doesn’t appear in the docketed record.)
“Chevron’s attempt to paralyze the Ecuadorian plaintiffs’ counsel with unmeritorious threats of disqualification is the latest move in Chevron’s ongoing campaign to ward off anyone who dares to provide aid to the Ecuadorian plaintiffs,” the complaint says. Patton Boggs seeks a declaratory judgment that Chevron has no basis to disqualify the firm because the oil company did not receive legal services from Breaux Lott, only lobbying work.
James Tyrrell Jr. of Patton Boggs, who argued for the Ecuadorian plaintiffs on Monday, when the Second Circuit considered (and denied) a request to stay Chevron’s deposition of Donziger, told Corporate Counsel sibling publication The American Lawyer that Patton Boggs went to court, rather than responding to Chevron in a letter, because the case has been so bitterly fought.
“Given the intensity with which the case has been litigated, it seemed [the disqualification issue] should be determined by a federal court in the district whose conflict of interest and ethics rules would apply,” he said. (Because Breaux Lott was based in Washington, D.C., he added, that’s the appropriate forum.) “Our hope is that Chevron will realize we’re right about this and the action will be withdrawn.”
We called counsel Randy Mastro of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher but didn’t hear back.
We were tickled to see Patton Boggs’ invocation of a story by The American Lawyer‘s Michael Goldhaber.
Patton Boggs asserts that Chevron attempted to deliver the law firm “a warning communicated through the media” when spokesperson Kent Robertson told Goldhaber that “‘anyone jumping into bed with plaintiffs at this point needs to understand what they’re signing on to.’” We do take issue, however, with any suggestion that Goldhaber was Chevron’s tool. His fiercely fair and independent reporting on the Lago Agrio case prove he’s no one’s delivery man.
WATCH OUR EXCLUSIVE RELEASE OF THE CHEVRON TAPES:
VIDEO I: Planning for the Expert’s Report
VIDEO II: The Morning After
VIDEO III: A Message to the Court: Don’t F— with Us
VIDEO V: ‘Smoke and Mirrors and Bulls—’
VIDEO VI: A Vision of the Future
VIDEO I: ‘Killing the Judge?’
VIDEO II: ‘It’s Dirty … It’s Necessary’
VIDEO III: ‘They’re All Corrupt!’
VIDEO IV: ‘Brute Force’
VIDEO V: Calling for Heads to Roll