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Defendants in Chevron case cite their own press release as authority

September 13, 2013: 2:53 PM ET

Press release or legal defense? Or a fat finger?

By Roger Parloff, senior editor

chevron_gasolineFORTUNE -- In Chevron's civil RICO suit against Steven Donziger and other Amazon Defense Front leaders who won a $19 billion environmental judgment against the company in 2011, each side's legal filings have sometimes seemed intended more as press releases than as serious attempts to persuade federal judges of a point of law or fact.

But a filing by the Front's lawyers Thursday went a step further still, actually citing one of the Front's own press releases as factual authority for several of its claims. The legal brief -- signed by attorneys Julio Gomez of Westfield, N.J., and Donziger himself -- also misattributed the authorship of the Front's own press release to (hilariously) the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. The Chamber's authorship of the document seemed doubtful when I came across it while reading the brief, since the document accuses Chevron, a prominent member of the Chamber, of "corruption" in the most strident terms. The document that was cited in the brief can be viewed here.

The Front broadly disseminates its press releases via a wire service called CSRwire. A spokesman for the Chamber explains that stories from the CSR newswire "are automatically fed into a content management system managed by the Foundation's Business Civic Leadership Center and can be published with one click. Apparently, someone published that particular item in error." The document is no longer available on the Chamber's site, and its content "does not reflect the Chamber's views," he said. (The copy Fortune is providing here is a PDF I made yesterday, before the Chamber took it down.)

The Front's original press release can be viewed here.

A spokesman for Chevron (CVX) said, "The Defendants have to resort to citing their own press releases because they have no facts or evidence to support their claims."

Update: Donziger's spokesperson Gowen contacted me after this published. I mistakenly sent the email to the wrong address, so he said he had not received it. He offered this comment: "We are very skeptical of a reporter that quotes the Chamber of Commerce when trying to publish a legitimate news story about lawsuit involving one of the Chamber's biggest donors."

More on the Chevron suit:

Chevron weighs a surprising - and savvy - legal maneuver

Chevron's latest headache in $19 billion lawsuit

No-show judge bolsters Chevron's attack on $19 billion judgment

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