Royal Dutch Shell Plc  .com Rotating Header Image

Portland’s Stoel Rives represents Shell Oil against Greenpeace protests in the Arctic

Monday, March 12, 2012

By Richard Read, The Oregonian

First, it was Miller Nash suing environmentalists on behalf of Japanese whale hunters. Now, another big-league Portland law firm is working to foil similar high-seas protests, representing Shell Oil Co. against Greenpeace.

Shell executives, fed up with disruption of Arctic Ocean drilling plans, chose powerhouse Stoel Rives to seek a restraining order blocking “reckless actions” by Greenpeace.

The cases are unrelated, other than some legal commonalities and that they fall under the jurisdiction of the federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The role of two Portland firms in similar cases is coincidental, other than what it may say about the national caliber of their attorneys.

But the cases illustrate more aggressive tactics being taken internationally by corporate groups toward confrontational activists such as Greenpeace and the anti-whaling Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. And they provide a glimpse of how law firms decide to take on clients unpopular with segments of the public.

“I don’t think that the fact that a case is unpopular, or that people will be mad at you for taking it, is something which ought to dictate whether or not you take it,” said Christie Helmer, a Miller Nash attorney representing Japan’s whaling interests.

Helmer said the firm has received exponentially more calls and emails concerning the whaling issue than on other cases, including some from very angry people. “It’s upsetting,” she said, “but you can’t go through life just thinking that everything is going to be pleasant.”

Miller Nash attorneys representing Japan’s Institute of Cetacean Research, a foundation that cites a scientific-research exception to an international whaling ban, had refrained from discussing their decision to take the case for a Feb. 17 story in The Oregonian, preferring to argue it in court.

But Helmer said she felt free to speak now that the hearing is over and parties are waiting to see whether U.S. District Court Judge Richard Jones will prohibit activists from ramming whaling ships, dragging ropes and hurling smoke bombs at crews. Helmer said she saw the case as a unique opportunity to use her experience in both admiralty and international law.

Stoel Rives lawyers in Seattle and Anchorage referred inquiries to Shell, whose spokesman, Curtis Smith, didn’t know how the oil company picked the Portland firm. Shell has invested $4 billion in the project to tap an Arctic Ocean oil field that could be one of the biggest ever discovered in the United States.

Smith said Shell managers were pleased with Stoel Rives’ work when U.S. District Judge Sharon Gleason issued a temporary restraining order March 1. She will hold a hearing Wednesday in Anchorage on Shell’s motion for a more permanent preliminary injunction.

Gleason’s initial order prohibits Greenpeace from, among other things, breaking into or trespassing on Shell’s Noble Discoverer and Kulluk drilling ships and tow vessels. Activists, she said, occupied the Noble Discoverer in New Zealand last month to prevent its journey to the Arctic Ocean for drilling this summer.

“We obviously don’t want a repeat of the boarding scenario,” Smith said.

James Turner, a Greenpeace spokesman in San Francisco, said the organization wanted to protect the Arctic wilderness from a company that would risk oil spills for the sake of billions of dollars in profit.

At Miller Nash, Helmer is encouraged by the initial decision regarding Shell, although she said the two cases aren’t entirely legally parallel.

“They’re both cases in which public opinion does not support the actions that are ultimately involved in the case,” Helmer said. “In Stoel Rives’, it’s Arctic drilling, and in ours, it’s the fact that whales will be killed as a result of what the Japanese are doing.”

Richard Read and its also non-profit sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

0 Comments on “Portland’s Stoel Rives represents Shell Oil against Greenpeace protests in the Arctic”

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: