Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
A judgment may be avoided if the judgment resulted from corruption of or duress upon the court. Where the situation is clear cut, as where a judge accepts a bribe, the person injured thereby is entitled to equitable relief. The position is equally clear with respect to the coercion of judicial officers. Equitable relief will be given from a valid judgment to a party injured thereby because of duress upon the court by the other party or a third person if the judge submits to duress. Fraud in the context of independent actions or other applications for relief from a judgment generally falls into two or three categories. Relief is always possible for "extrinsic fraud" and for "fraud on the court," which often is confused with or treated as a subset of extrinsic fraud. Relief for so-called "intrinsic fraud" often is available less frequently.
Donziger led a group of American and Ecuadorian lawyers on behalf of thousands of indigenous peoples of the Orienté region of Ecuador aginst Chevron Corp. for extensive damage caused by oil activities of Texaco, Inc., that ended more than twenty years ago and long before Chevron acquired Texaco’s stock. After years of pressuring Chevron to settle by a variety of both legitimate and illegitimate means, Donziger and his clients obtained a multibillion dollar judgment in Ecuadorian courts and now seek to enforce it around the world. Chevron brought the present action for relief from judgment, contending among others that the aforementioned judgment was procured by fraud.
May the judgment of the Ecuadorian court be vacated by virtue of corruption, coercion, and/or fraud initiated upon the said court?
This Court found by clear and convincing evidence that Donziger and Fajardo (one of the Ecuadorian lawyers) resorted to corruption of or duress upon the Ecuadorian court in order to obtain a favorable judgment. Fajardo — with Donziger's approval — agreed to pay Zambrano (the judge who rendered the subject judgment) $500,000 out of proceeds of the Judgment in exchange for Zambrano deciding the Lago Agrio case in the Lagro Agrio Plaintiffs (“LAPs”)’s favor and signing a decision provided by the LAPs. The two also coerced Judge Yánez (a judge who previously handled the case before his term ended) to allow the LAPs to terminate their remaining judicial inspections, to appoint a global expert, and to designate their hand-picked choice, Richard Cabrera, for that position. They did so by threatening him with the filing of a misconduct complaint at a time when he was especially vulnerable, and by other pressure as well. Further, Donziger and Fajardo, having concluded that Cabrera would cooperate with them, were giving him the 'hard sell' to accept the global expert appointment. They promised him a lifetime of work on the remediation if the LAPs won the case. Even before Cabrera was sworn in as the global expert on June 13, 2007, Donziger and the LAPs began covertly paying him through the secret account in addition to paying him via the public and established court process. They provided him also with a secretary and life insurance. Finally, on the issue of fraud, this Court found that the LAPs wrote the Judgment, in whole or in major part, that they gave the draft to Zambrano, and that Zambrano (whether with or without Guerra's participation) made little or no contribution apart from his signature and perhaps some light editing. Even if Zambrano had not been bribed to take these actions, his actions and those of the LAPs would have been fraud on the court and/or extrinsic fraud, the choice being only a matter of one's verbal preference.