By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A federal magistrate judge has
recommended that law firm Patton Boggs be prevented from tapping
a $21.8 million bond to help ensure it gets paid for
representing Ecuadorian villagers in their long-running
environmental litigation against Chevron Corp over damage to the
Amazon rain forest.
Chevron posted the bond after U.S. District Judge Lewis
Kaplan in Manhattan granted the company a preliminary injunction
in March 2011 against U.S. enforcement of related actions
against Chevron in Ecuador.
The $21.8 million bond was set aside in case it was later
found that Chevron, based in San Ramon, California, was not
entitled to the injunction.
Patton Boggs contended that the injunction "choked off" its
clients' ability to fund their case. The firm said that it
deserved to attach the $21.8 million so that it could continue
providing legal services to the villagers and punish Chevron for
But U.S. Magistrate Judge James Francis rejected that
argument. He found that although the 2nd Circuit eventually
vacated the injunction, Kaplan subsequently exonerated the bond.
That meant Patton Boggs no longer had security against which it
Francis also rejected Patton Boggs's unjust enrichment
claim, saying that it failed to allege any quasi-contractual
relationship with Chevron that entitled it to payment.
The recommendation by the magistrate judge now goes to
Kaplan for consideration. Both sides were given 14 days to file
A Patton Boggs lawyer did not immediately respond to a
request for comment.
Monday's order is the latest in a roughly two-decade
conflict over claims that Texaco, bought by Chevron in 2001,
contaminated the region between 1964 and 1992.
The battle has spawned litigation in numerous U.S. and
non-U.S. courts, with Chevron now fighting a $19 billion
judgment in an Ecuador court in favor of residents of the Lago
The case is Patton Boggs LLP v. Chevron Corp, U.S. District
Court, Southern District of New York, No. 12-09176.
For Patton Boggs: James Tyrrell, Patton Boggs.
For Chevron: Randy Mastro, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.
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