Skip to main content

Attorney Who Joined ‘Kraken’ Lawsuit for Free Tries to Avoid Sanctions by Saying He Was Merely a ‘Conduit’ for Sidney Powell


A local attorney connected to Sidney Powell‘s so-called “Kraken” lawsuit in Michigan is attempting to avoid sanctions by arguing that he was merely a “conduit” for Powell’s overall litigation scheme.

That attorney, Gregory J. Rohl, made the comment in an affidavit connected to a broader supplemental opposition document to a motion for sanctions filed by lawyers for the City of Detroit. The city’s lawyers want Powell’s team to face penalties for filing litigation which claimed the 2020 presidential election was fraught with irregularities.

Powell analogized the multi-state litigation to the “Kraken,” a multi-tentacled mythic figure from Scandinavian folklore. A federal judge threw out the claims Powell pressed through a group of local plaintiffs and characterized the Kraken litigation as an attempt to thwart the democratic will of Michigan voters.

The City of Detroit moved for sanctions against the lawyers involved. Judges are oftentimes reluctant to order sanctions, which can involve fines and referrals to disciplinary authorities.

Rohl is hoping to avoid such penalties.

Rohl says he was “home preparing Thanksgiving dinner” the day before the annual holiday when, at approximately 6:30 p.m., he was “contacted by an associate who asked” if he would join election litigation launched by Powell and Lin Wood. He says he told the associate that “he was not political and did not really care who won” the election. The associate told Rohl “that the filing deadline was midnight” and that Powell and Wood were seeking a local attorney who was willing to move quickly to help file the matter.

Attorneys are licensed by state. However, they can provide legal services in states where they are not licensed under certain rules and limitations. Generally, out-of-state attorneys are required to work through local attorneys, called “local counsel,” when filing lawsuits in states or in courts where they are not licensed. To do so, out-of-state attorneys must file pro hac vice motions before the courts in which they hope to practice outside their home state. Such applications are generally granted by judges on a case-by-case basis to out-of-state attorneys who demonstrate satisfactory ethics records in their home states. Out-of-state attorneys who successfully obtain pro hac admissions are subject to local practice rules and governing authorities, and they oftentimes must also pay local bar dues or state attorney income taxes.

Such was the nature of how Rohl says he was entangled by the “Kraken’s” tentacles.

“Rohl was thereafter forwarded a copy of the already prepared proposed Complaint with over 100 exhibits, the review of which took well over and hour,” the affidavit continues. Rohl also reached out to his legal secretary on Thanksgiving Eve to see if she could help file the documents electronically with the federal court.

Rohl said he believed that complaints about election issues were bipartisan and cited complaints from Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) about “Dominion ballot tabulators.”

“Rohl’s review of the Complaint as well as the significant number of exhibits which were attached left him with the distinct impression that if true, there was some form of corruption of the electoral process in Michigan by either internal or external forces that should be reviewed by a Court of competent jurisdiction; Rohl further found the affidavits compelling and the Complaint sound,” the document continues. “Consequently, Rohl agreed to be local counsel and advised his secretary to download, in conjunction with Counsel from New York, the already prepared Complaint and Exhibits which had been forward to him for filing with the Court.”

The filing “was finalized at approximately 11:56 p.m.,” just four minutes prior to deadline, the affidavit sates. “Rohl filed the Complaint as provided making no additions, deletions or corrections.”

“[I]n further discussion with the team, Rohl was to serve as a conduit for pleadings and essentially ‘hold the fort’ until Sidney Powell’s Pro Hac Vice application was accepted by the Court,” the affidavit continues. “Rohl provided his services on a pro bono basis.”

In other words, Rohl is facing a request for discipline even though he worked for free.

Rohl said he noted immediate and swift criticism in the press about the lawsuit’s “spelling errors and formatting issues.” He bemoaned that his “limited involvement was seriously further undermined” when the judge who handled the case “saw fit to waive oral argument and otherwise not order any evidentiary hearings.”

Rohl was off the case once the trial judge dismissed it; other attorneys handled the appeal. He said that the appellate attorney eventually told him she was not handling the response to Detroit’s request for sanctions; rather, “it was being provided for review by Sidney Powell’s team.”

An earlier and separate response to Detroit’s motion for sanctions dubiously argued that Sidney Powell didn’t officially sign the Kraken lawsuit documents and therefore couldn’t be sanctioned. The reply also claimed that several of the key attorneys — among them Powell and Wood — were never formally admitted pro hac vice to the relevant Michigan federal court and therefore were beyond the court’s power sanction.

“This affidavit admits to some ethically questionable conduct by the local attorney,” tweeted attorney Bradley P. Moss.

That’s because, as Law&Crime has previously explained several times over again, attorneys who sign paperwork are bound ethically to vouch for it. Additionally, Local Rule 83.20(f) of the Eastern District of Michigan, where the “Kraken” case was filed, places duties upon local counsel who agree to be a part of cases pressed by out-of-town attorneys:

Local Counsel.

(1) General Requirement. A member of the bar of this court who appears as attorney of record in the district court and is not an active member of the State Bar of Michigan must specify as local counsel a member of the bar of this court with an office in the district. Local counsel must enter an appearance and have the authority and responsibility to conduct the case if non-local counsel does not do so. On application, the Court may relieve an attorney who is not an active member of the State Bar of Michigan of the obligation to specify local counsel.

(2) Appearances of Local Counsel. Local counsel must attend each scheduled appearance on the case unless the Court, on its own motion or on motion or request of a party, dispenses with the requirement.

Sanctions are governed by Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The possible punishments are outlined as follows:

A sanction imposed under this rule must be limited to what suffices to deter repetition of the conduct or comparable conduct by others similarly situated. The sanction may include nonmonetary directives; an order to pay a penalty into court; or, if imposed on motion and warranted for effective deterrence, an order directing payment to the movant of part or all of the reasonable attorney’s fees and other expenses directly resulting from the violation.

The matter might be summarized this way. The overall defense strategy of Powell and Wood is that they either (1) didn’t officially “sign” the litigation, or (2) were never admitted pro hac vice and therefore cannot be sanctioned. They’re tactically blaming other attorneys for the “Kraken” fiasco. Now, at least one of the attorneys is pointing the finger back and blaming them. Or, as the documents themselves argue:

Plaintiffs specifically seek to inform the court that attorney Gregory Rohl filed Plaintiffs Complaint . . . as it was provided to him by the Sidney Powell team. Mr. Rohl made no additions, deletions, or corrections to the Complaint and merely added his signature to the signature page. Sidney Powell was not yet able to sign the Complaint as the Eastern District of Michigan requires admission to the court to submit documents signed by out of state attorneys. United States District Court—Eastern Michigan District, February 2, 2021.

The flurry of pertinent legal filings is below:

King v Whitmer (Docket #109) by Law&Crime

[Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images]

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow Law&Crime:

Aaron Keller holds a juris doctor degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law and a broadcast journalism degree from Syracuse University. He is a former anchor and executive producer for the Law&Crime Network and is now deputy editor-in-chief for the Law&Crime website. DISCLAIMER:  This website is for general informational purposes only. You should not rely on it for legal advice. Reading this site or interacting with the author via this site does not create an attorney-client relationship. This website is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney. Speak to a competent lawyer in your jurisdiction for legal advice and representation relevant to your situation.