- End of the road at last for Steven Donziger, impresario of Chevron/Ecuador litigation? [Joe Nocera, Bloomberg]
- Building expensive housing improves housing availability at every income level [Sonja Trauss, Market Urbanism Report]
- “Ms. Durst did what any law-abiding citizen would do: She demolished the structure and tossed the twigs, moss and shells into the woods…. The fairy house wasn’t up to code.” [Ellen Byron, WSJ, courtesy Regulatory Transparency Project]
- Last month’s judicial rejection of NYC climate suit came after plenty of foreshadowing [Daniel Fisher (“persuasive authorities” were two overturned court decisions); New York Daily News and New York Post editorials]
- Ban on smoking in public housing reflects truism that unless you own property, your home isn’t really your castle [Shane Ferro, Above the Law]
- Obama-era Waters of the U.S. regulations are a power grab asserting EPA control over farmers’ ditches, seasonal moist depressions, and watering holes; one federal court has now reinstated the rules, but the issue is headed to SCOTUS and Congress in any case ought to kill them [Jonathan Adler; Ariel Wittenberg, E&E News; earlier]
- “Critical habitat” where a species doesn’t live and can’t survive is subject of pending SCOTUS case [Ilya Shapiro and Meggan DeWitt on Cato brief in Weyerhaeuser v. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service]
- “Lawsuits are a costly — and misguided — approach to fixing climate change” [Josiah Neeley and William Murray on Colorado municipal suits, earlier here, etc.] More about EarthRights International, group assisting that effort [Spencer Walrath, Energy In Depth]
- Unintentional take of migratory fowl: “Interior Department Axes Flighty Bird Regs” [Joshua Hardman, Economics 21]
- Swirling islands of plastics in ocean may have a composition different than you expect [David Mastio, USA Today]
- So mysterious when housing prices escalate: “Every New House In California Will Now Have To Have Solar Panels” [Jim Dalrymple II/BuzzFeed, Amel Ahmed/KQED]
- “The Ecuador Saga Continues: Steven Donziger now owes Chevron more than $800,000” [Michael Krauss, earlier]
- Unlike some other states, Massachusetts has not passed a law making it unlawful to encourage suicide; confidante nonetheless convicted of involuntary manslaughter over texts encouraging fellow teenager to do that [New York Times, NPR]
- New Emoluments Clause lawsuits against President Trump vary from previous pattern, still face uphill battle [Victor Li, ABA Journal; earlier]
- “Putting occupational licensing on the Maryland reform agenda” [my new Free State Notes]
- “Interpreting State Constitutions,” judges’ panel discussion with Judith French, Jeffrey Sutton, Steve Yarbrough, Matt Kemp [Ohio Federalist Society chapters]
- SCOTUS closes a door, and rightly so, in the long-running Chevron-Ecuador-Donziger saga [Michael Krauss]
- Green Bay fan sues Chicago Bears over “no opposing team gear at pregame warmups” rule [WDEZ, Howard Wasserman/Prawfs]
- DoJ reverses Obama predecessors’ stance on whether NLRA rights to collective action bar individual-arbitration clauses in employment contracts [BNA via Indisputably; consolidated trio of Murphy Oil, Ernst & Young, Epic Systems Corp. cases] Ninth Circuit OKs California end-run around Supreme Court’s jurisprudence on workplace arbitration class actions, time for review [WLF on Bloomingdales, Inc. v. Vitolo; update on cert denial: Deborah LaFetra, PLF]
- Roberts joins liberals to hold 5-3 that cities can sue alleging Fair Housing Act violations; damages theories are to be constrained, though [Josh Blackman, SCOTUSBlog roundup on Bank of America v. Miami, earlier here and here]
- How much deference should appellate courts give district courts in ruling on subpoenas issued by EEOC? [Ross Runkel and Federalist Society podcast with Karen Harned on McLane Co. v. EEOC]
- Court unanimously disallows stratagem by which class action lawyers voluntarily dismiss individual claim so as to secure immediate appeal of certification denial [Howard Wasserman, James Freije on Microsoft v. Baker]
- Chevron used racketeering law to fend off giant foreign judgment in Ecuador saga, losing side would like Supreme Court relief from that [Paul Barrett, Business Week on Donziger v. Chevron] Update Monday morning: Court will not hear;
- “To Be Liable for Fraud, You Have to Have Actually Defrauded Someone” [Ilya Shapiro and Thomas Berry on Cato cert amicus in SGE Management v. Torres]
Just published: my new Storify on the ignoble demise of what had been billed as one of the world’s biggest human rights lawsuits, the so-called Lago Agrio case against Chevron over pollution in Ecuador. We’ve covered it for years, before and after the tainted $18 billion verdict obtained by attorney Steven Donziger, and the Storify feature links to many of our key posts. Big-name environmental groups like the Sierra Club, 350.org, and EarthJustice promoted Donziger’s case long after they had reason to know better.
“Brad Pitt’s production company has edged out George Clooney’s to win the film rights to a book about the epic, fraud-marred Ecuadorian environmental suit against Chevron, according to two sources with indirect knowledge of the situation.” Back story: “Pitt is known to have been interested in the Lago Agrio pollution for several years, and has visited Ecuador with his wife, Angelina Jolie, to observe the situation and meet with [plaintiff lawyer Steven] Donziger’s team.” However, the book, Paul Barrett’s Law of the Jungle, includes much detail unfavorable to Donziger, who has lashed out against it and numerous other journalistic treatments of the affair such as Michael Goldhaber’s Crude Awakening. [Roger Parloff, Fortune] We’ve been covering the story for years, but alas have yet to hear from any stars interested in optioning rights.
- Called on his “jail ’em” rants, RFK Jr. tries to walk things back. Not gonna work [Andrew Stuttaford, Steven Hayward, earlier]
- If you think plastic bags have a high energy cost, one of Andrew Sullivan’s readers has news for you [The Dish; related, Julian Morris/Albuquerque Journal]
- There she is! The one who favorited that tweet! Bring her to justice! [@gabrielmalor via @andrewmgrossman]
- Some online commenters insist there must be a link between Ebola and GMOs, and in a sense they’re right: GM techniques likely to prove vital in developing therapies against the disease [Abbie Smith]
- Ann Althouse annotates a long New York Times Magazine article promoting the Louisiana coastal-erosion lawsuit [earlier]
- Who’s more credible on Chevron/Ecuador, Steven Donziger or his many critics? [Joseph Nocera, New York Times] Appeals court opens doors to more revelations in case [Paul Barrett, Business Week] More: Oh, and about Mia Farrow… [Phelim McAleer, New York Post]
- “Newfoundland judge dismisses moose vehicle collision class action lawsuit” [Canadian Press, earlier]
Roger Parloff at Fortune reviews the two new Chevron-Ecuador books by Paul Barrett and Michael Goldhaber (earlier here, etc.), and also asks where ubiquitous S.D.N.Y. federal prosecutor Preet Bharara is in a case where he might appropriately take an interest. Meanwhile, Paul Barrett recounts being on the receiving end of a P.R. campaign to tear down his book, and an excerpt from his book recounts the fall of celebrated law firm Patton Boggs after it was tripped up in the dispute; and actress Mia Farrow reveals at least one way in which she might be thought to resemble former education secretary Bill Bennett.
The George Mason law professor favorably reviews one of the two new books on the case, Michael Goldhaber’s Crude Awakening. After Prof. Krauss wrote on the litigation in March, he says, the government of Ecuador unsuccessfully tried to pressure Forbes to retract the piece. Earlier (Glenn Garvin on the William Langewiesche Vanity Fair piece), generally, and related (takedown attempts).
I’ve expressed skepticism before about William Langewiesche’s 12,600-word 2007 article in Vanity Fair on the Chevron-Ecuador dispute, which took a line relentlessly sympathetic to the case of plaintiff’s lawyer Steven Donziger. (As readers of this site know, Donziger has spent the past few years fighting off allegations as to the means by which he obtained an $18 billion judgment against Chevron; one federal judge has found “clear and convincing evidence” that the judgment was “obtained by corrupt means.”) I’m also pretty familiar with the ways trial lawyers use journalists to go after the companies they’re suing, having written on that topic many times before.
Still, like many others, I was floored by Glenn Garvin’s new column in the Miami Herald based on emails introduced into evidence in the endless litigation. Even knowing how writers habitually butter up key sources, I wouldn’t have expected Langewiesche to assure Donziger that “You and I are now firmly on the same side” and that writing the article had been “particularly satisfying to the extent that it supports your efforts, and you personally.” Nor would I have expected Langewiesche to have sent Donziger a copy of his article weeks before it was published, or for Vanity Fair’s editors to have allowed him to do this on a highly contentious topic of public controversy, assuming they knew.
The emails go on and on, as Garvin summarizes them, depicting
Langewiesche as Donziger’s camp follower at the best of times, his sock-puppet at the worst.
The reporter asks Donziger to prepare lists of dozens of questions to be asked of Chevron. And he begs Donziger to help him prepare arguments about why there’s no need for him to do face-to-face interviews with Chevron officials, as they’ve requested, even though he spent days meeting with Donziger and his legal staff.
“I want to avoid a meeting, simply because I do NOT have the time. But I don’t want to go on record refusing a meeting,” writes Langewiesche. “Perhaps I could say that my travel schedule is intense . . . ” He not only submits his emails to Chevron for Donziger’s approval (“What say, Steve. I gotta send this tonight”) and even lets him rewrite them.
In short, Vanity Fair, which positions itself as the glossiest of high-toned journalistic outlets, got played like a cheap ukulele. And I didn’t know this either, which I’ll quote Garvin on, parentheses and all: “(Department of Extraordinary Coincidences: Donziger’s wife at the time worked in corporate communications at Condé Nast, the magazine’s publisher.)”
By coincidence, I’m part way through an advance copy of the interesting new book by Paul Barrett of Business Week on the Chevron-Donziger-Ecuador mess, titled Law of the Jungle. Not to give away anything, but it fills in many areas of background that were new to me about this incredible (still-in-progress, attempted) legal heist (links to Barrett’s earlier coverage here). There’s also a new mini-book by Michael Goldhaber entitled Crude Awakening: Chevron in Ecuador, unseen by me.
P.S. Bonus Vanity Fair connection: journalist Kurt Eichenwald, whose trial-lawyer-assisted role in the Texaco Tapes affair left such a bad impression, has for some time been ensconced as a contributing editor at Vanity Fair.