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“Every attorney, including the organized bar and disciplinary authorities, should disavow lawyers who trample the truth and undermine democracy through their false statements.”
As President Donald Trump continues what critics have called a “narcissistic crusade” contesting his loss of the November election with lies and baseless lawsuits about election fraud and security, by Monday more than 1,500 attorneys across the country had signed on to a call for bar associations to condemn and investigate his campaign’s lawyers.
Although even some Trump allies like U.S. Attorney General William Barr have admitted there is no evidence of mass voter fraud that led to President-elect Joe Biden’s victory last month, the president’s attorneys have continued to pursue suits that “have become so transparently filed in bad faith that state and local officials are beginning to call for judges to sanction Trump campaign and Republican lawyers,” as Vox noted Saturday.
Those calls are coupled with the Lawyers Defending American Democracy (LDAD) open letter, which has now been signed by hundreds of attorneys—among them, former American Bar Association (ABA) and state bar presidents, retired federal judges and state Supreme Court justices, and former leaders of lawyer disciplinary bodies.
“More than 35 losses in election-related cases have made one thing painfully clear: President Trump’s barrage of litigation is a pretext for a campaign to undermine public confidence in the outcome of the 2020 election, which inevitably will subvert constitutional democracy,” the letter says. “Sadly, the president’s primary agents and enablers in this effort are lawyers, obligated by their oath and ethical rules to uphold the rule of law.
In a statement Monday, Stephen Gillers, professor of legal ethics at New York University’s School of Law and a signatory to the letter, said that “it was predictable that Trump would attack the courts and other public institutions to sow distrust in the election results.”
“Sadly, some lawyers are abusing their law licenses and positions as officers of the court to aid him,” Gillers added. “‘President’s Lawyers Trash American Democracy’ is a headline we never expected to see. To mitigate the harm such tactics can inflict, the bar must forcefully repudiate their behavior.”
Urging bar associations to condemn and investigate “this abuse” of U.S. law and democracy, the letter calls out Trump’s lawyers by name:
The president put Rudolph Giuliani in charge of the Trump legal team. Notwithstanding their monumental string of losses, Giuliani, Jenna Ellis, Joseph DiGenova, Victoria Toensing and, until November 23, Sidney Powell, have persisted with press statements, purported “hearings,” and continuing litigation. Behind the fog created by this waste and distraction of the country’s attention is a president’s and his lawyers’ historic abuse of the judicial process.
The letter details their three-pronged strategy—make baseless press statements about fraud; replace fraud assertions with speculative claims in court; then return to echoing Trump by making fraud and conspiracy claims to the press—and highlights some their recent remarks. It also notes that federal judges appointed by various presidents, including Trump, “have rejected the Trump legal teams’ factual assertions and legal claims, more than one in scathing terms.
As Cheryl Niro, former president of the Illinois State Bar and a steering committee member of LDAD, put it: “The facts are clear: the election was secure and the results have been consistently confirmed. Giuliani and certain Trump campaign lawyers have either been lying to the public or believe frivolous and unfounded claims, calling into question their fitness to practice law.”
“The conduct of Mr. Giuliani and his colleagues is a disgrace,” the letter declares. “We condemn this conduct without reservation. It demeans the legal profession and the multitudes of lawyers of all political persuasions who daily serve their clients and the public honorably. Our profession needs to affirm that this behavior grossly deviates from the bar’s deep commitment to democratic institutions and the fact-based processes that maintain our democracy’s vitality.”
Marna S. Tucker, a past president of the D.C. Bar and a signatory to the letter, also warned Monday of the consequences if Trump’s attorneys are allowed to continue their behavior.
“The legal profession enjoys the privilege of self-regulation,” Tucker said. “That privilege demands that we assure the public that lawyers who press unfounded election fraud claims will be disciplined by appropriate disciplinary authorities. If the public does not see us discipline our own for their misconduct, that privilege is imperiled.”
Echoing the letter’s conclusion, Laurel G. Bellows, another signatory and former head of both the American Bar Association and the Chicago Bar Association, urged other attorneys to support the joint demand for accountability.
“Our justice system only works when lawyers tell the truth and adhere to their oath,” Bellows explained. “Every attorney, including the organized bar and disciplinary authorities, should disavow lawyers who trample the truth and undermine democracy through their false statements.”
The figures for the LDAD letter were announced after news broke over the weekend that Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City, had tested positive for Covid-19.
Trump tweeted Saturday that Giuliani, “by far the greatest mayor in the history of NYC, and who has been working tirelessly exposing the most corrupt election (by far!) in the history of the USA, has tested positive for the China Virus. Get better soon Rudy, we will carry on!!!”
The Associated Press reported that the 76-year-old “was exhibiting some symptoms and was admitted Sunday to Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington.”
Last week, in addition to visiting Georgia and Michigan, Giuliani went to Arizona and met with multiple state lawmakers. After his diagnosis was made public, the Arizona legislature closed both chambers this week “out of an abundance of caution for recent cases and concerns relating to Covid-19,” according to an email to state House members obtained by the Washington Post, which noted that “no one will have permission to work or meet in the building.
In a statement Sunday, Trump’s legal team said that “Mayor Giuliani tested negative twice immediately preceding his trip to Arizona, Michigan, and Georgia. The Mayor did not experience any symptoms or test positive for Covid-19 until more than 48 hours after his return.
Citing current guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the statement added that “no legislators in any state or members of the press are on the contact tracing list.
First published in Common Dreams. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.