The attorneys behind President Trump’s failing effort to overturn the election are facing mounting ethics complaints for advancing what critics say is a frivolous legal campaign designed to delegitimize President-elect Joe Biden’s win and bolster Trump’s post-election fundraising.
Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, as well as allies Sidney Powell and Lin Wood, have been accused of pressing lawsuits larded up with unreliable assertions, flimsy claims and even outright lies, in violation of their obligations as officers of the court.
As a result, judges and bar associations may soon face the task of sorting out whether these legal efforts amount to hard-fought advocacy, or if they’ve crossed a line.
According to experts in legal ethics, disciplinary sanctions could include fines, private or public censure, law-license suspension or even disbarment.
The possibility of Trump-allied attorneys facing disciplinary action was in many ways sparked by their woeful win-loss record in court. By some estimates, the campaign and its allies have prevailed in only a minor case affecting a sliver of Pennsylvania mail ballots, while at the same time losing or withdrawing in more than 50 rounds in state and federal court.
“Essentially, the rules require lawyers to screen out junk from the court in order to protect judicial resources, which are limited. Lawyers have a gatekeeper function,” said Stephen Gillers, a law professor at New York University. “The abysmal failure rate of the campaign’s claims, and the fact that claims were filed even after many losses, reveal almost certain violations of these rules.”
On Tuesday, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) became the latest public official to press for the punishment of pro-Trump attorneys. In a court filing, Nessel asked Michigan-based U.S. District Judge Linda Parker to consider sanctions against Powell, Wood and their co-counsel for what Nessel called a “baseless lawsuit.”
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