Judge In Chevron Case Won't Recuse Himself

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U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, the New York judge that temporarily blocked Ecuadorean plaintiffs seeking $18 billion in damages from Chevron, the second-largest U.S. oil company, will not recuse himself from the case despite the plaintiffs urging him to do so.

Kaplan said there was no objective reason to believe he had been ''anything less than entirely impartial,'' according to his written ruling issued on Monday, Reuters reported. In March, Kaplan issued an injunction barring the plaintiffs from collecting damages and set a November trial date that could see that injunction enforced on a permanent basis.

In February, an Ecuadorean court said California-based Chevron (CVX) was liable for $18 billion in damages stemming pollution in the Ecaudor's Amazon region caused by Texaco from 1964 to 1992. Chevron acquired Texaco in 2001 and currently has no operations in Ecuador.

A lawyer for Chevron called the motion by two of the plaintiffs for Kaplan to recuse himself ''mertiless.'' Chevron has stridently fought the ruling, claiming the Ecuadorean court that heard the case ignored critical evidence. The company even filed a racketeering claim against some of the plaintiffs in February.