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Patton Boggs' latest case versus Chevron over pollution award tossed

A general view of the front entrance for law firm Patton Boggs LLC, in Washington, March 4, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Theiler
A general view of the front entrance for law firm Patton Boggs LLC, in Washington, March 4, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Theiler

By Casey Sullivan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by Patton Boggs accusing Chevron Corp of "bad faith" litigation tactics while the Washington law firm tried to enforce a multibillion-dollar pollution judgment.

In granting Chevron's motion to dismiss the case, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan on Tuesday agreed with a 2013 recommendation by U.S. Magistrate Judge James Francis that Patton Boggs did not have legal standing to sue.

The lawsuit was the most recent of three that Patton Boggs had filed against Chevron in connection with its efforts to enforce an $18 billion judgment obtained in Ecuador in 2011. Plaintiffs lawyers led by Steven Donziger had claimed Chevron polluted Ecuador's rainforest.

The two other lawsuits by Patton Boggs, both in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, were dismissed in 2011.

The latest case dates to 2012, when Patton Boggs sued Chevron in Manhattan federal court for what it called "bad faith" litigation. It accused the oil company "cutting off (Ecuadorian plaintiffs') ability to obtain funding" for legal counsel, and of making misrepresentations in obtaining a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against the plaintiffs as Patton Boggs sought to enforce the $18 billion judgment.

In April, Chevron asked for the lawsuit to be dismissed, saying that each of Patton Boggs' claims "fail as a matter-of-law." Judge Francis recommended that Kaplan grant Chevron's motion.

A Patton Boggs spokesman said in a statement on Tuesday, "We disagree with the Court's ruling" but noted that "the decision was expected and does not materially impact the posture of the case."

A Chevron spokesman said in a statement, "Chevron now looks forward to proving its claims against Patton Boggs and to hold it accountable for its role in perpetrating this scheme."

He was referring to the alleged fraud, bribery and extortion used by plaintiffs' lawyers under Donziger in obtaining the Ecuadorian judgment, and the fact that Kaplan had ruled on March 4 that there was "clear and convincing evidence" of this behavior.

Four weeks later, on March 31, Kaplan allowed Chevron to pursue a case against Patton Boggs accusing the law firm of knowing and concealing allegedly fraudulent tactics used by Donziger's legal team but opting to take the case enforcing the multibillion-dollar judgment anyway.

Referring to that lawsuit on Tuesday, Kaplan said both sides should submit a joint report and proposed schedule for the case going forward by May 22.

The case is: Patton Boggs v. Chevron Corporation, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 12-cv-09176.

(Reporting By Casey Sullivan; Editing by Ted Botha)

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