UPDATE 2-Ecuador judge hearing Chevron case changed again

Fri Oct 1, 2010 9:31pm GMT

* Chevron asked for judge to be replaced

* Previous judge had recused himself last year

* Plaintiffs seek $27 billion in environmental damages (Adds Chevron comment)

LAGO AGRIO, Ecuador, Oct 1 (Reuters) - The judge hearing an oil pollution lawsuit against Chevron Corp (CVX.N: Quote) in Ecuador has been replaced, the court said on Friday, setting the stage for the third judge in a year to take over the $27 billion case.

A previous judge in the 18-year-old lawsuit, which was started in New York before being moved to Ecuador, recused himself last year after he was accused of misconduct and involvement in a bribery scheme.

The case, being heard in Sucumbios provincial court, has spawned related legal actions in various U.S. courts and an international arbitration, and is being closely watched by the industry for precedents that could lead to other large lawsuits against oil companies.

Chevron asked last month for Judge Leonardo Ordonez to recuse himself because he did not investigate evidence of collusion between the plaintiffs and Richard Cabrera, the court-appointed expert who came up with potential damages of up to $27 billion.

"I have removed Ordonez" from the case, Nicolas Zambrano, also of Sucumbios court, told Reuters.

Zambrano himself will hear the case, he said.   Continued...

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