Trump lawyers sanctioned by US judge in ‘frivolous’ election suit
Judge: Sidney Powell, Lin Wood and other Trump lawyers should have checked the former president’s false voter fraud claims.
Trump lawyer Sidney Powell has been disciplined by a federal judge in Michigan for filing an unsupported claim [Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters]
26 Aug 2021
A US judge has sanctioned Sidney Powell and other lawyers for former President Donald Trump who sued in Michigan to overturn Democratic President Joe Biden’s election victory.
In a written ruling on Wednesday, US District Judge Linda Parker in Detroit said the pro-Trump lawyers, including Powell and prominent litigator Lin Wood, should have investigated the Republican former president’s voter fraud claims more carefully before filing a “frivolous” lawsuit.
Parker dismissed the Michigan suit last December and now has formally requested professional disciplinary bodies investigate whether Trump’s lawyers should have their law licences revoked. The judge ordered the lawyers to attend classes on the ethical and legal requirements for filing legal claims.
“This lawsuit represents a historic and profound abuse of the judicial process,” Parker said in her decision, adding that the case “was never about fraud – it was about undermining the people’s faith in our democracy and debasing the judicial process to do so.”
The judge’s disciplinary action against Trump’s lawyers is the latest twist in the running political saga generated by the former president’s false claims that the 2020 US presidential election was stolen from him by fraud.
A special committee in the US House of Representatives demanded documents from the White House and other US agencies about Trump’s communications leading up to and including the January 6 riot by Trump supporters at the US Capitol.
The committee is seeking information on what happened on January 6 and “the former president’s knowledge of the election results and what he communicated to the American people about the election”, according to a letter by Representative Bennie Thompson, a Democrat, who is chair the House inquiry.
Meanwhile, following Trump’s lead, Republicans in Texas are seeking to follow other Republican-led states with new state laws restricting balloting and creating avenues for overturning election results.
Democrats who had boycotted the state legislature for six weeks argued the law is designed to suppress voting while Republicans said it is needed to protect election integrity.
In Michigan, the federal judge said that Powell, Wood, and other lawyers who worked with them “have scorned their oath, flouted the rules, and attempted to undermine the integrity of the judiciary along the way”.
Powell did not immediately respond to requests by the Reuters news service for comment.
Wood said on the social media platform Telegram that he “had nothing to do with” the lawsuit and would appeal.
Trump lawyer Lin Wood, who held up a Bible during a news conference disputing the 2020 election results, has tried to distance himself from unsupported legal claims filed in Michigan [Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters]
Powell represented Trump’s campaign when the former president tried to overturn last November’s US presidential election in the courts.
His campaign distanced itself from Powell after she claimed without evidence at a November 19 news conference that electronic voting systems had switched millions of ballots to Biden. Dominion Voting Systems, a maker of voting machines, sued Powell for defamation.
In a written decision last December, Parker said Powell’s voter fraud claims were “nothing but speculation and conjecture”.
Powell asserted in a court hearing last month that she had carefully vetted her election fraud claims before suing, and that the only way to test them would have been at trial or a hearing on evidence gathered. Her co-counsel repeatedly called for such an evidentiary hearing.
Starting in January, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and other government lawyers asked the judge to discipline the Trump lawyers, saying they had filed a frivolous lawsuit full of typos and factual errors and should be held accountable.
“I’m pleased to see that the Court has ensured there is accountability for the attorneys who perpetuated meritless arguments in court,” Nessel said in a statement on Wednesday.
“I appreciate the unmistakable message [the judge] sends with this ruling – those who vow to uphold the Constitution must answer for abandoning that oath.”
Parker on Thursday ordered the Trump lawyers to reimburse election officials for the cost of defending the lawsuit- an amount will be determined by the judge in the coming months.