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Judge to Strike Critical Comments About Unocal

August 09, 2003|Lisa Girion

A Los Angeles judge agreed Friday to strike from the record some comments she had made that were critical of Unocal Corp.'s arguments about forced labor in Myanmar.

The El Segundo-based company faces trial on indirect liability for the alleged murder, rape and enslavement of villagers along a pipeline in which Unocal is a major investor.

Fifteen anonymous refugees allege that Myanmar soldiers forced villagers to work on infrastructure related to the $1.2-billion pipeline, in which an arm of the military junta is a partner.

In an order issued last week, Superior Court Judge Victoria Gerrard Chaney wrote that Unocal had "repeatedly and reproachably" likened the "violent and oppressive behavior at issue" to jury duty.

Unocal lawyers objected, telling the judge in a hearing Tuesday that they had not compared the alleged mistreatment to jury duty. Rather, they said that in arguing for the application of Myanmar law, they had pointed out that the country allowed forms of conscripted work, as the United States allows jury duty.

Chaney responded that Unocal's briefs had made repeated references to forms of conscripted service in the U.S., including jury duty and roadwork by convicts. Nonetheless, in an order Friday, she said she would strike the earlier comments.

-- Lisa Girion

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