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By any regular normal, this could have been the top of the case. In any case, what was left to litigate? However it wasn’t the top — not even shut. In 2018, after Choose Kaplan’s judgment had lastly been affirmed, the corporate introduced one other case towards Mr. Donziger. Amongst different issues, it wished him to show over his laptop and different digital gadgets. Choose Kaplan agreed. However Mr. Donziger refused to conform, saying it will give the oil firm “backdoor entry to confidential attorney-client communications.”

In 2019, the decide took the extraordinary measure of bringing in a non-public legislation agency to prosecute Mr. Donziger for prison contempt of court docket. This case was presided over by one other district court docket decide, Loretta A. Preska, who shortly ordered that he be positioned beneath home arrest and put on an digital ankle monitor. After a brief trial earlier this 12 months, she discovered Mr. Donziger responsible, and sentenced him to the six months he’s now serving. He was additionally disbarred.

Alongside the way in which, one thing stunning has occurred: Outdoors the courtroom, it was as if the ghostwritten report and the alleged bribe of the Ecuadorean decide had by no means occurred. Mr. Donziger’s victory in Ecuador was praised as respectable, and he was broadly considered by progressives as an environmental hero. Sting, the musician, helped elevate cash for his protection. Greta Thunberg provided her assist. Consultant Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and several other of her Democratic colleagues despatched a letter to Lawyer Basic Merrick Garland, asking him to assessment the case. The Harvard Legislation professor Charles Nesson rallied to his trigger. Campaigns have been began to #FREEDONZIGER. A gaggle of consultants from the United Nations stated in a report that his pretrial detention was “arbitrary” and subsequently unlawful. And on, and on. To them, this was a basic instance of a fossil gasoline firm utilizing its would possibly to punish somebody courageous sufficient to face as much as it.

This phenomenon of seeing controversial figures as black or white — saint or sinner, hero or villain — is likely one of the plagues of our polarized age. It has turn into practically inconceivable for folks to acknowledge that typically their heroes can do one thing fallacious, and their foes can get one thing proper. Donald Trump is the obvious instance of this, however you see it on a regular basis in politics, and in enterprise as properly. Are C.E.O.s rapacious greed-heads, or are they stewards of capitalism? Are oil corporations supplying the gasoline that the world must perform, or are they “outlaws,” because the environmental activist Invoice McKibbon calls them? Too many individuals are unwilling to carry each concepts of their heads without delay.

This failing is very obvious within the Donziger case. If he had performed by the principles in litigating the case in Ecuador, he may need come away with a judgment {that a} U.S. court docket would have upheld. Chevron would have needed to pay billions to his impoverished purchasers. To place it one other approach, through the use of the techniques he did, Mr. Donziger did his purchasers an unlimited disservice. That his allies refuse to see this implies their hatred of Large Oil has blinded them to a few of Mr. Donziger’s inconvenient actions.

However then there’s Chevron. Corporations are purported to make rational danger and reward calculations. The corporate’s push to stop the Ecuadorean judgment from going into impact was rational, and exhibiting that Mr. Donziger had violated the principles was an applicable approach to try this. However punishing Mr. Donziger past which will in the end have been a mistake. He has been was an environmental martyr, which is the very last thing Chevron ought to need. He’s now not the lawyer who broke the principles to win a case. As an alternative, he’s the lawyer who stood as much as Large Oil.

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