It’s often assumed that Republican presidents are bad for addressing climate change while Democratic presidents are better for it. While that generally may be true, we need to be careful about reading too much into generalities. Even the best politicians need to be held accountable when they do something wrong, and the Biden Administration just did something majorly wrong for both the climate and the rule of law.
For those just tuning in, you may want to read CleanTechnica’s past coverage of the Steven Donziger case. First off, you can read about how Chevron twisted the US legal system to do its bidding, including moving a former judge from South America to the US and paying him big bucks to serve as a witness, hand-picking judges contrary to normal procedures, and even hiring Chevron’s lawyers to serve as prosecutors. During this whole kangaroo court, activist lawyer Steven Donziger was held in house arrest for over two years for a crime with a maximum prison sentence of six months.
Why did they go to these unlawful extremes to persecute Donziger? Because he won against Texaco (which was bought by Chevron) in Ecuador’s courts.
Given how badly the deck was stacked against him, it’s no surprise that he ended up being convicted and given an unprecedented maximum sentence (on top of time served in house arrest) for refusing to turn over records in another case against him.
Most recently, I wrote about how big shot lawyers don’t understand Donziger’s “eat me” strategy. Like the roach in Men in Black, bad people sometimes fail to understand that showing their full force against opponents can be harmful to them in the end. In this case, Donziger goaded them into putting the corruption and lawlessness on full display for the whole world to see. Human rights organizations, law school students, and even a United Nations body have all seen this and are demanding Donziger’s release.
What I didn’t expect was for the Biden Administration to be among the roaches who scattered when Donziger flipped the kitchen light on.
BREAKING FROM STEVEN: Not only is the DOJ refusing to comply with the United Nations decision that I be released, it's doubling down in support of my private Chevron-financed prosecution by filing an amicus brief in my appeal.
Once again, the Biden admin falls short on climate. pic.twitter.com/JmE0GMGQVE
— Steven Donziger (@SDonziger) November 12, 2021
Biden’s Department of Justice signaled intent to file a Friend of the Court brief in Donziger’s appeal several days ago, and according to Reuters, it filed its brief yesterday. Its beef with Donziger’s appeal? It feel that it was totally OK for the hand-picked judge to hire Chevron’s law firm to act as prosecutors.
“The district court engaged the special prosecutors for the limited purpose of investigating and prosecuting predetermined misdemeanor contempt charges against Donziger in this case only,” the amicus brief reads. “They have no powers to investigate or charge other crimes, to pursue other individuals, or to represent the interests of the United States in any case other than this one. The special prosecutors are not, therefore, among the class of “officers” who are subject to the Appointments Clause.”
While it may be true that appointing prosecutors for one case is barely constitutional, it’s not true that Biden’s Department of Justice is required to submit an amicus brief stating this. If it wants to stay neutral in the case against Donziger, the appropriate action is to not file a brief at all, and stay out of the way.
But, in reality, it’s apparent that appointing Chevron’s lawyers to act as prosecutors for Chevron’s enemies, even for one case, is blatantly immoral and unethical. To defend that action, even if it’s legal, shows that Biden’s DOJ is infested with unethical lawyers who would rather side with Chevron against a human rights lawyer than fight for what’s actually just, or at the very minimum stay neutral.
As other writers here have said, it’s clear that we have a legal system, but not a justice system.
Featured image: Screenshot from the amicus brief against Steven Donziger’s appeal.
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