Professor Julie Shapiro nominated for Public Justice award

(June Julie Shapiro23, 2010) Professor Julie Shapiro has been named a finalist for the 2010 Public Justice Trial Lawyer of the Year Award. She was part of a team of lawyers who sued Royal Dutch Shell Petroleum Company for colluding with the Nigerian government in the arrest and execution of nine Nigerian human rights and environmental protesters. 

After 13 years of litigation, Royal Dutch Shell last year agreed to pay $15.5 million to settle the case, which charged the oil giant with complicity in the deaths of the "Ogoni Nine," including internationally renowned author and environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa of Nigeria. Wiwa was the leader of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People. 

The Ogonis live in the oil-rich Niger Delta where Shell had a long history of environmental damage and human rights abuses. In one instance, Shell called in Nigerian troops, who shot two Ogoni villagers, including a woman mourning the bulldozing of her crops in preparation for a Shell pipeline. 

The landmark settlement in the Wiwa case helped establish a trust to fund education, agricultural development, women's programs, small enterprise support and adult literacy for the Ogoni people. It is one of a mere handful of successful settlements in cases brought under the Alien Tort Statute against corporations charged with complicity in human rights violations. 

The settlement was the result of the tenacity and dedication of a legal team headed by three attorneys with New York's Center for Constitutional Rights: Jennifer M. Green, Judith Brown Chomsky and Beth Stephens. Along with Shapiro, the team included former CCR attorney Anthony DiCaprio; Maria LaHood and Deborah Gordon of CCR; Agnieszka Fryszman and Maureen McOwen of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll in Washington, D.C.; Richard L. Herz, Jonathan G. Kaufman, Abby Rubinson, Marco B. Simons and Jacqui Zalcberg of EarthRights International in Washington, D.C.; Susan Farbstein of Harvard Law School's International Human Rights Clinic; and Paul Hoffman of Schonbrun DeSimone Seplow Harris & Hoffman in Venice, Calif. 

The Wiwa team is one of five finalists for the award, bestowed annually upon plaintiffs' attorneys who won verdicts, judgments or settlements in cases that pitted them against powerful government agencies or well-heeled private corporations - or both - requiring extraordinary work and dedication. The finalists will be honored and the winner announced at the Public Justice Foundation's annual gala and awards dinner on July 13 in Vancouver, B.C. 

Headquartered in Washington, D.C., Public Justice utilizes a nationwide network of trial lawyers to pursue precedent-setting and socially significant litigation in the public interest. It boasts the broadest docket of any public interest law firm in the country, including civil rights and liberties, consumers' rights, workers' rights, environmental protection and access to the courts.

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