Southern District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan has refused to recuse himself from a lawsuit brought by Chevron claiming a racketeering conspiracy against the oil company in order to win and enforce a multi-billion dollar judgment for environmental degradation in the Ecuadoran rain forest. Lawyers for plaintiffs in the “Lago Agrio” litigation in Ecuador who are defendants in the RICO action claimed the judge had prejudged the case in Chevron’s favor, viewed the Lago Agrio litigation as “a game” and has shown antagonism toward the government and the Ecuadoran courts.

The recusal motion is based on a series of comments and rulings Judge Kaplan has made since Chevron last year launched one of several discovery actions filed under 28 U.S.C. §1782 as part of a worldwide legal and public relations effort to undermine and render unenforceable an expected judgment against Chevron in Ecuador (NYLJ, April 28). That judgment became reality on Feb. 14, when a court in Ecuador directed Chevron to pay $18 billion. In March Judge Kaplan, saying the judgment may have been secured by a fraud in Ecuador orchestrated in part by lead Lago Agrio plaintiffs’ lawyer Steven Donziger, issued a preliminary injunction against attempts to collect on the $18 billion judgment anywhere in the world.

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