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In Donziger Trial Day 3 Chevron Spent $3M Chasing $800K Mojo Consultant Grilled on Fees

By Matthew Russell Lee, Scoop Patreon, thread

SDNY COURTHOUSE, May 12 – Steven Donziger, who had a June 2020 trial date postponed amid the Coronavirus pandemic, had his bench trial begin on May 10, 2021. Inner City Press live tweed the morning here (podcast here) and the afternoon here (video recap here).

  Inner City Press continued its live tweet coverage on Day 2 here.

 And now, Day 3 here: 

Gibson Dunn's Anne Champion now on cross examination by Ron Kuby, questions turn back to Texaco

Kuby: So did you share with the FBI on August 27, 2020, your concerns about notarization? Champion: I don't recall but it's possible that topic was discussed.

 Kuby: We're doing better today. Champion: Yes, you're not yelling at me yet.

Kuby: So the 2011 retainer agreement was only between the plaintiffs and Donziger & Associates, correct? Champion: I think that's correct.

Champion: He's a P.R. consultant for Chevron. I met him more than once, but it wasn't twice, you know what I mean? I think I shared a car with him after a dinner. Kuby: How about Kent Robertson? Champion: He's at Chevron, in public affairs.

 Private prosecutor Glavin: Objection. If the defense wants to offer this... Mr Kuby is asking the witness to testify about a document not in evidence, Defense exhibit FFF. May I have a voir dire? Judge Preska: Yes. Glavin: Ms. Champion, are you on this email? No.

 Now Kuby's partner Rhiya Trivedi takes over. Trivedi: It's that the witness is using attorney client privilege to undermine our clients 6th Amendment rights. Kuby: This witness has spent the better part of a decade going after Mr Donziger. So we should be able to ask the questions.

Judge Preska: Anything else? With respect to the privilege claim, the defendant does not have an unfettered right [case cite, Sup Ct 1988).

Champion: I'm not going to accept the premise that Mr. Donziger can't find work as a lawyer. Judge Preska: I think we've beaten this horse to death. [Full disclosure: going to run to try to catch an ISIS sentencing that, like this trial, is not available by phone]

 And we're back. Judge Preska: If you are relying on the transparently invalid exception, it does not apply here - Rhiya Trivedi: These were extraordinary circumstances - Judge Preska: Do I get to interrupt here? Usually the judge is the only one who can interrupt.

Trivedi: The evidence will show that the discovery protocol was corrupt-- Judge Preska: This is not a press conference... Let's time a five minute break.

We're back from 5 minute break. Trivedi: I have to learn how to take a loss. Judge Preska: I want to make sure you've exhausted your arguments. Trivedi: I'm done.

Judge Preska: Toast is done. Finished, is just completed. Kuby, to Champion: So your firm charged $3 million in fees to try to collect $813,000? Champion: We were also seeking to stop enforcement of 8 billion judgment in US courts.

Kuby: Did they ever say, go a little lighter on hours? Champion: I don't want to tread on attorney client relations. But I was not told that. Kuby: What is this? Champion: The declaration of Randy M. Mastro.

 Kuby: Did you work on the Donziger case(s) full time? Champion: No. I only put in more hours during the post-judgment phase. Kuby: Another thousand hours? 4000 hours? Champion: On RICO and the rest? That's a safe guess. Some years I billed 3000 hours. Kuby: How?

Champion: I was a bargain in 2011. Kuby: You went to George Washington for law school, correct? And represented indigent people? Champion: Yeah, it was a blast.

Kuby: No further questions. Judge Preska: Re-direct? Microphone is being cleansed.

 Glavin: How long have you been admitted to the bar? Champion: Since 2006. Glavin: And you make an effort to follow the rules of professional responsibility? Champion: I do. Always.

Glavin: In your experience, did Mr. Donziger relitigate things already decided by the judge? Champion: Frequently. Inner City Press @innercitypress · 1h Next witness, Mr. Decasseres - he works in finance office of the SDNY Clerk, for 22 years, now Finance Manager. Estimated time of direct is 15 minutes. He's being asked about "stock power."

 Decasseres says no stock power was turned over. Kuby: No cross examination.  Next witness: David Ng - works for SDNY Clerk's Office, 37 years, now supervisor of records including sealed records.

OK- back - next witness in Donziger case offers "Transition Process," he says to firms like Bank One (long bought by JPM Chase). He says his services are for those who have "lost their mojo." Glavin: When did you meet Mr. Donziger? A: 2016.

 The mojo-man is named David Zelman. Inner City Press: Isn't there some kind of client - mojo privilege? It looked his Donziger's defense team was going to object, but they didn't. Glavin: Did you agree how to be paid? Zelman: Show it to me. Glavin: Gov Exh 105.

Glavin reads out emails from Donziger, pleading a portion of his Ecuador fees to Zelman for professional services to him and his wife, whom Glavin names. She paid $2000 cash and helped Zelman prepare a TED talk. David Zelman: May I make a comment? The times on these e-mails are all wrong. Glavin: You received a subpoena from Gibson Dunn for documents, correct? And you produced this.

Glavin: I'd like another hour with Mr. Zelman. I'm content to continue into tomorrow.  I'll drink less coffee. I'll do better.

   Previously, Donziger's lawyer Andrew J. Frisch challenged Prosecutor Rita Glavin and her then firm Seward & Kissel LLP for alleged conflict of interest, claims shot down on January 6. But Frisch didn't raise, and perhaps has no standing to raise, another conflict of interest, for prosecuting for the US while also representing defendants being prosecuted by the US Attorney's Office.

 Now, Donziger has served subpoenas on Gibson Dunn and some of its partners, seeking information. They have responded on May 4 with a motion to quash; their memo of law begins, "Defendant Steven Donziger, an adjudicated racketeer who led a decades-long scheme to extort Chevon Corporation.

 Now on May 6, Donziger has fired back: "Corporate law firm and litigation behemoth Gibson Dunn & Crutcher (GDC) has made many millions of dollars in the last decade attacking and demonizing renowned human rights lawyer Steven Donziger. GDC lawyers have used virtually every dirty trick in the book: threats and intimidation, paid 'fact' witnesses, corporate espionage, blitzkrieg litigation, crushing discovery demands, invasion of the attorney-client privilege, corrupt experts, fake journalists, and more. And while they did all this per marching orders from their client, Chevron, to “strateg[ically] demonize Donziger,” they have now developed it all into an independent business model. Gibson Dunn sells itself as “not just a law firm, but a rescue squad,” “willing[] to work beyond the courts,” to think “aggressively” and “innovatively”—“like plaintiffs lawyers”—and to “tireless[ly] unearth evidence to try to discredit” its clients’ critics, even when those critics are the client’s own human rights victims." We'll be here.

On April 15, Donziger's lawyer Martin Garbus wrote to Judge Preska asked that she make the trial viewable worldwide by Zoom.

Judge Preska on April 16 denied the request.

Docketed on April 27 was a request from a committee including Michael Tigar, Nadine Strossen, Jeanne Mirer, Simon Taylor, Charles Nesson and Kip Hale have written to Chief Judges and Judge Preska for audio access to monitor.

Now on April 29, Judge Preska has ordered: "ORDER as to Steven Donziger. The Court is in receipt of the letter, dated April 13, 2021, from the Danziger Case Monitoring Committee ("the Committee") regarding the public-access measures for Defendant Steven Donziger's upcoming trial. (See dkt. no. 270.) That letter discusses two topics: (1) measures to ensure that those who attend the trial in person can do so safely and (2) remote audio/visual access to the trial proceedings for those who wish to observe them. As to the first point, the Court reiterates its previous order which indicated that (1) the Court had requested access toa larger courtroom for Mr. Donziger's trial, (2) the Court will provide one or more overflow rooms from which to observe the proceedings, and (3) the Court will allow members of the press to sit, in a distanced manner, in the jury box to ensure that more seats are available to the public. The Committee's letter provides no legal authority to the contrary, and the COVID-19 pandemic does not afford the Court license to ignore the Federal Rules. Consistent with guidance from the CDC and New York State Department of Health, the Southern District of New York has adopted extensive rules and guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in its courthouses and to ensure that any in-person proceedings can be held safely. 3 Subject to the protocols in place at the time of Mr. Donziger's trial, any interested member of the public may attend the trial in person (Signed by Judge Loretta A. Preska on 4/30/21)." Watch this site.

There are precedents worth noting, including Judge Rakoff's recent provision of a call-in line for his trial in US v. Weigand, after passage of the CARES Act. And several Federal District courts have provided Zoom access. Inner City Press will keep reporting on this case.

  Back on August 17, 2020 Judge Preska reaffirmed that the trial will go forward on September 9. But amid a flurry of letters from Donziger's back up counsel on September 4, Judge Preska issued an order moving the trial to November 3: "Before the Court is Mr. Frisch’s motion (dkt. no. 157) asking the Court to vacate its order directing him to appear as Mr. Donziger’s counsel at trial set to begin next Wednesday. For the following reasons, Mr. Frisch’s motion is GRANTED, and trial is continued to November 3." Then 4 then 9.

Now on November 6 the US' private counsel has written to Judge Preska, "We write on behalf of the United States to inform the Court that the Government consents to the defense request for an adjournment of the trial date. While we are ready for trial on Monday, November 9, 2020 (just as we were ready to begin trial on September 9), and Mr. Donziger has certainly had adequate opportunity to secure counsel in-person for the November 9 trial, we do not oppose allowing Mr. Donziger additional time to secure counsel to attend trial inperson... the Government consents to the defense request for an adjournment, and respectfully requests that a firm trial date be set for January 19, 2021 assuming that date is acceptable for the Court."

 On January 10, Judge Preska "reluctantly" granted another adjournment of the Donzinger trial, this time to May 10 - and also denied Donziger's motions to dismiss Counts 1, 2 and 3 of the Court's July 31, 2019 Order to Show Cause." Those are still in 11-cv-691....

On August 28, Judge Preska has disqualified two of Donziger's lawyers - and has put Frisch back in the case, in a separate order. The first: "CURCIO ORDER as to Steven Donziger. The Court issues this order to reiterate its findings at the Curcio hearing held on August 24 and 27, 2020, at which the Court disqualified two attorneys on Mr. Donziger's defense team Richard Friedman and Zoe Littlepage and again ordered that if Mr. Donziger's other counsel Martin Garbus and Lauren Regan -- decline to appear in a manner acceptable to him or are unable to act as lead counsel, his former lead attorney, Andrew Frisch, will represent Mr. Donziger at trial beginning on September 9. For the foregoing reasons and as explained at the Curcio hearing, Mr. Friedman and Ms. Littlepage are disqualified, and if Mr. Garbus and Ms. Regan decline to appear at trial or the circumstances of their appearance are unacceptable to Mr. Donziger or they are not in a position to act as lead counsel, Mr. Frisch will represent Mr. Donziger at trial commencing on September 9. (Signed by Judge Loretta A. Preska on 8/28/20)."

  Then, dispensing with or preparing for the "if," this: "Attorney update in case as to Steven Donziger. Attorney Andrew James Frisch for Steven Donziger added."

  Yet still Team Donziger is angling for a perhaps merited delay, this time only one additional week, denied by Judge Preska in an order released on Saturday August 29: "ORDER as to Steven Donziger. This evening, Ms. Regan sent an email to Chambers, attached as Exhibit A to this order, stating as follows: Judge Preska requested that Mr. Donziger's legal team provide a list of witnesses who intend to appear by video by today's date. Since Mr. Friedman and Ms. Littlepage were removed from the case yesterday, and I was not involved in that facet of the trial preparations, I believe the defense will need another week so that Mr. Frisch can respond appropriately. Presumably by yesterday the several consummate professionals involved in this matter had already prepared a list due to be submitted today. While taking Ms. Regan's point that it may now be Mr. Frisch who will submit this list, he may have until Monday, August 31, to do so. SO ORDERED. (Signed by Judge Loretta A. Preska on 8/28/2020)."

  In the 2d Circuit, there's this.

  From Inner City Press' live thread: Judge Preska: Mr. Donziger, with whom did you consult with about the conflict?

Donziger: Charles Nesson from Harvard Law.... and CJA lawyer Todd.

Judge Preska: Do you wish to proceed with Mr Friedman as your lawyer?

Donziger: Let me read something from the podium... I only became aware of this conflict issue on August 21. Private prosecutor Glavin: This was raised to Mr. Friedman in May. Donziger: There's a lot going on in my life... I've never done a Federal criminal case, never heard of Curcio

Donziger: I'm being forced to choose between Constitutional rights. I want to make a record. I have a right to a conflict free lawyer. But they all have conflicts... I've faced disbarment, this case is important to my life, my wife and 14 year old son...

Judge Preska: We are here to talk about conflicts. Donziger: Can I just finish my point? I have a proposal. I have another counsel from NYC, pro bono, qualified. Won't need to travel. But he cannot until December 7. His name is Ron Kuby.

 Now after Donziger returns from phone call in jury room, the court room is being sealed and Press excluded.

We're back, and Judge Preska asks if she can disclose "the second issue Mr Donziger raised." Marty Garbus wants to talk to Friedman.  Judge Preska: Call him on your phone. Garbus: I'll have to get off this phone. Judge Preska: I can't help you with that.

 On August 24 at the defense table was Donziger, alone. He had three lawyers on a TV screen, but to speak with them by a landline, the Press was politely asked to leave the courtroom by Judge Preska.

Donziger asked for an order to bring his cell phone upstairs. It will not be happening, but on August 27 the landline will be put in the jury room -- the same one in which a jury convicted Patrick Ho of UN bribery.

  On August 24 Prosecutor Glavin complained that Martin Garbus did not try to fix his Internet fast enough.

 At issue on August 24 was 2014 correspondence Glavin submitted on August 11, involving Richard Friedman and Zoe Littlepage, and whether it raised a conflict of interest that Donziger might try to raise in any appeal. A CJA lawyer was on call, but Donziger said with all due respect he didn't know or therefore trust her.

  The trial is shaping up to be a circus. Inner City Press will cover it.

On August 21, Dongizer's Oregon-based co-counsel has renewed the request to postpone the trial, saying that cross country airplane travel is too dangerous. Dr Anthony Fauci is cited. 

Now on August 22, the hybrid-private prosecutor has filed to have a government witness with a redacted condition appear by two way video: "The prosecution respectfully requests that the Court enter findings and an order permitting the live, two-way video conference testimony of a subpoenaed Texas-based prosecution witness at the September 9, 2020 trial. As detailed below, this application is based on the witness’s advanced age and [REDACTED], placing him at a uniquely heightened risk for severe and life-threatening illness if he contracts COVID-19, his physician’s strong admonition that he not travel to New York given his age and his medical condition, and the anticipated nature of the witness’s testimony. Because the witness is required to travel from Texas, presently a Restricted State under New York Department of Health guidance, he would also be required to arrive in New York by Wednesday, August 26, 2020, in order to quarantine for 14 days prior to entering the courthouse for his testimony at the September 9 trial." How will Judge Preska rule? Watch this site.

 On July 9, Donziger's lawyer Richard H. Friedman asked SDNY Judge Preska for disclosure of how much is being paid for the private prosecution of his client. He cited US v. Suarez, a Second Circuit decision find a qualified public right of access to CJA forms and says, "that right should be even stronger in the present context."

 Now on July 22, Judge Preska has ruled: "ORDER as to Steven Donziger: Having reviewed samples of Seward & Kissel's prior invoices for the special prosecutors' work on this case, the Court concludes that disclosure in line with what the Court of Appeals approved in Suarez is appropriate. For each paid invoice, the special prosecutors shall disclose (i) the invoice cover sheet showing the billing totals; (ii) the page of the billing statement showing "Total Hours," "Total Services," "Total Disbursements," and "Total Amount Due," and redacting any other information from that page, including any itemized time entries or narrative descriptions, as that information risks improperly revealing the prosecution's strategy before trial and thus falls outside the public right of access; and (iii) the final page of the invoice showing the hours, rates, and amount attributable to each individual lawyer. To the extent the special prosecutors have concerns that producing the invoices in the fashion outlined above would threaten disclosure of trial strategy or would otherwise result in prejudice, they may apply to the Court for appropriate relief. (Signed by Judge Loretta A. Preska on 7/22/2020)." Watch this site.

   Inner City Press politely in writing asked for a response on this last year; no answer. It has been advised by other criminal defense attorney's that the issue should be raised to the Federal Defenders, given their role. But should that be necessary? We'll have more on this.

  On December 4 U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Loretta A. Preska proposed four trial dates and the parties chose, for now, June 2020. Glavin, who has yet to answer written Press questions about simultaneous services as Special Prosecutor and CJA defense attorney (we still remain hopeful, and open to publishing any explanation), again argued that the Speedy Trial Act does not apply to this proceeding. Time was excluded nevertheless.

 On September 13 in another off shoot of l'affaire Donzinger, SDNY Magistrate Judge Robert W. Lehrburger a discovery hearing was held. The lawyer for Chevron described in great detail the so-called "Donzinger protocol" to search for responsive records. She then said there were still bugs to the protocol, such as a search for Amazon as in the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest turning up documents about what she called the "mail order company" Amazon. Somewhere Jeff Bezos was wincing. Or not.

  Still unexplained is how a lawyer can at once prosecute a case for the United States and represent indigent criminal defendants against it. We hope to have more on this - we did ask.

  On August 12 Donzinger's then new lawyer Andrew J. Frisch appeared before SDNY Judge Loretta Parker and informed her that while follow lawyer Martin Garbus, staying at Truro near Provincetown in Massachusetts, is willing to co-sign Donziger's bond, it is possible he will not travel to the courthouse in Boston, much less New York, in the time frame specified.

 Frisch offered to find another co-signer. Judge Preska gave him until the close of business on Wednesday, August 14. This is a unique hybrid of a case, both criminal and civil; Judge Preska for the record excluded time under the Speedy Trial Act.   Representing the United States in the proceeding was lawyer Rita J. Glavin, who also serves as an appointed criminal defense attorney on the SDNY's Criminal Justice Act panel, which to some might seem a conflict, into which Inner City Press has respectfully inquired. And is still waiting. The case is US v. Donziger, 19-cr-561 (Preska).

Inner City Press will continue to cover this and other SDNY and 2nd Circuit cases - watch this site, and there is more on Patreon, here.


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