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Professor Jennie Green Named a Finalist for Trial Lawyer of the Year

JUNE 23, 2010—Professor Jennie Green, Associate Professor of Clinical Instruction, has been selected as a finalist for the 2010 Trial Lawyer of the Year Award by the Public Justice Foundation. The annual award is given to the attorney or trial team that has made the most significant contribution to the public interest.

Green's recognition stems primarily from her tireless work in two landmark human rights abuse cases: Ken Wiwa v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Company and Ken Wiwa v. Brian Anderson. These cases charged the Royal Dutch Petroleum Company, Shell Transport and Trading Company (Royal Dutch/Shell) and Brian Anderson (the head of Shell’s Nigerian operation) with complicity in human rights abuses. Specifically, the cases charged that Royal Dutch/Shell and Anderson had "intended to suppress the Ogoni people's peaceful opposition the defendants’ long history of environmental damage and human rights abuses in the Ogoni region," Green explains in her summary application for the award.

The roots of the cases gained global attention in 1995, when the oil company and its subsidiary colluded with the Nigerian government to eliminate a group of activitists known as the Ogoni 9, who were strongly opposed to Shell's pipelines and activities. "The oil company and its Nigerian subsidiary provided monetary and logistical support to the Nigerian police," Green explains. After a sham trial, the Ogoni 9 were hanged, including Ken Saro-Wiwa, for whom the cases are named. Other opposition leaders and their relatives were detained, tortured and/or shot.

The relatives of the deceased brought the cases under the Alien Tort Statute. Over the next 13 years, Green and her litigation team explored some unique territory:

  • First case against a foreign oil company for complicity in human rights violations
  • Depositions collected from five countries on three continents
  • Judicial acknowledgment that foreign companies may be held liable for human rights violations in U.S. courts
  • Explicit holding that the U.S. has an affirmative policy of providing redress for violations of international human rights law

On June 8, 2009, the plaintiffs agreed to a comprehensive settlement, where Shell and its Nigerian subsidiary would provide $15.5 million for the individual plaintiffs and for a trust fund to support educational, business and literacy initiatives within the Ogoni community. The outcome stands as a challenge to other corporations that operate in foreign countries, Green says. "Shell felt free to violate the human rights of the Ogoni plaintiffs and their community because it believed it would not be held accountable," she says. "The company would never have acted as it did in the U.S. or Western Europe, where it would have faced lawsuits and criminal penalties. This litigation makes clear that corporate actions in violation of human rights are unacceptable and costly to the perpetrator, wherever they are committed."

The winner of the Trial Lawyer of the Year Award will be announced July 13 at an awards banquet honoring all finalists in Vancouver, B.C.

Portrait of Prof. Jennie Green

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Green's Bio