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Small Win for Chevron v Patton Boggs in Ecuador Litigation

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on July 06, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Chevron Ecuadorean litigation is full of drama. We've discussed the case in earlier posts, and here's another case that stems from the Chevron situation.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals recently affirmed a district court's denial of declaratory judgment in favor of Patton Boggs, LLP in the litigation.

Here's a quick summary: Chevron was attempting to have Patton Boggs (attorneys for the plaintiffs) disqualified from the case. Patton Boggs sought declaratory relief that it could not be disqualified from the case. Patton Boggs also sought leave to amend its complaint with claims that Chevron and its lawyers tortiously interfered with the firm's contracts with its client.

The essence of the case goes back to a verdict, which was granted in an Ecuadorean court. Chevron was found liable for environmental harm caused in the Amazon. In short, Chevron alleged that the verdict was reached through fraud.

The plaintiffs' attorneys accused Chevron and its attorneys of playing dirty, using aggressive and hardball litigation tactics, in an alleged "smear campaign." This D.C. Circuit opinion is yet another tale in this saga.

Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, the attorneys for Chevron, alleged "grave concerns" that Patton Boggs had a conflict of interest in its representation of the Ecuadorean plaintiffs.

Patton Boggs brought suit for declaratory judgment in district court and Gibson Dunn argued that the suit wasn't ripe, since no formal action for disqualification had been brought before the court.

The district court rejected Patton Boggs argument largely on jurisdictional grounds. While Patton Boggs raised this issue on appeal, the D.C. Circuit agreed with the district court's denial to take up jurisdiction on the matter.

As for the tortious interference grounds, Patton Boggs alleged that through the disqualification tactics, Chevron was attempting to cause Patton Boggs to be in breach of its contract with its Ecuadorean clients.

The appeals court denied Patton Boggs' request to amend, agreeing with the district court that the allegation was nothing but "an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation."

We'll keep you posted as more pieces of the Chevron Ecuadorean litigation come up in the D.C. Circuit.

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