Two weeks after persuading Southern District Judge Lewis Kaplan (See Profile) that Steven Donziger won a $9.5 billion environmental judgment against the oil giant through fraud and racketeering, Chevron now wants the same judge to order Donziger to cover $32.3 million of its legal bills.
Chevron wrote in a 25-page motion filed Tuesday that $32.3 million “represents the fees incurred for only a portion of the legal work required to prevail in this action.” Chevron said its lead lawyers at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher billed 36,837 hours at an average rate of $950 per hour. Contract attorneys brought in by Gibson Dunn, Huron Consulting Group Inc. and Merrill Corp. billed another 139,747 hours at rates between $60 and $120 per hour, according to the motion.
Donziger’s appellate attorney, Deepak Gupta of GuptaBeck, issued a statement calling the fee request a “transparent attempt to intimidate anyone from ever having the temerity to sue over wrongdoing that, in this case, devastated thousands of people’s lives, their culture, and their environment.” Gupta added that Donziger “is a solo environmental lawyer who works from the kitchen table of his apartment. Chevron knows he can’t actually pay those fees—and that’s the point.”
Chevron’s lawyers at Gibson Dunn, Randy Mastro and Andrea Neuman, wrote that “a substantial portion of the fees Chevron seeks here were incurred as a direct result of Donziger’s overbroad discovery requests, his frivolous motions, and his obstruction of Chevron’s discovery.” And they defended Gibson Dunn’s hefty billing rates, citing data compiled by affiliate The National Law Journal that lists higher rates for peer firms.
Chevron questioned Donziger’s underdog status in its motion, pointing out that his side received $25 million in litigation funding from online gaming magnate Russell DeLeon, a former Harvard Law School classmate of Donziger’s.