UPDATE 1-N.Y. judge lets Chevron bring fraud claims against Patton Boggs
(Adds comment from the general counsel of Patton Boggs)
By Casey Sullivan
NEW YORK, March 31 (Reuters) - A New York judge has allowed Chevron Corp to sue Patton Boggs over claims that the Washington law and lobbying firm engaged in fraud while trying to enforce a multibillion-dollar environmental judgment for a group of Ecuadorean villagers.
U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan gave his ruling on Monday in Manhattan federal court, saying he had "difficulties" with Patton Boggs' argument that a New York court did not have jurisdiction to hear the case.
"This is about holding accountable all those who are responsible for trying to enforce this travesty of justice that occurred in Ecuador," Chevron's lawyer, Randy Mastro, said in an interview. "Now there will be the opportunity to hold Patton Boggs accountable for its role."
Patton Boggs general counsel Charles Talisman in a statement called Chevron's claims "baseless and unlikely ever to proceed to litigation on the merits." He said the case was in its early stages and there were still jurisdictional arguments being made.
"If this case advances...we look forward to showing the lack of merit in Chevron's allegations regarding our law firm," he said. "We have no doubt that we acted ethically and properly in assisting these communities, and that we will be able to demonstrate this to the court if that becomes necessary."
In 2011, an Ecuadorean judge ruled in favor of plaintiff lawyer Steven Donziger against Chevron for polluting the country's rainforest. An award to the villagers for $18 billion was reduced in 2013 to $9.5 billion.
Patton Boggs was hired by the villagers in 2010 to come up with a strategy to enforce the judgment, with partner James Tyrrell leading the enforcement efforts, according to court records. Continuación...