A Washington, D.C. professional conduct board this week launched formal disciplinary proceedings against Rudy Giuliani in connection with the pro-Trump lawyer’s litigation tactics surrounding the 2020 presidential election.
According to a document filed Monday, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals Board on Professional Responsibility accused Giuliani of improperly litigating Joe Biden’s win in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Biden was victorious in the Keystone State by more than 80,000 votes, according to the official tally.
The D.C. disciplinary document says Giuliani and the two Pennsylvania plaintiffs he represented failed to use the proper channels for redressing their grievances:
Respondent represented Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. (the “Trump Campaign”), and Lawrence Roberts and David John Henry, registered voters who were citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (collectively “Plaintiffs”).
Neither Respondent nor Plaintiffs challenged the November 3, 2020, election results pursuant to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s statutory procedures for election contests.
Instead, with Respondent’s assistance, Plaintiffs filed a lawsuit that sought to overturn the results of the Pennsylvania presidential election through a federal district court order, based on alleged violations of the United States Constitution.
According to the disciplinary board, Giuliani did not sign the initial complaint dated Nov. 9, 2020, or the attached paperwork. He also did not sign a subsequent amended complaint dated Nov. 15, 2020, the board said. He was not initially admitted to practice in the requisite Pennsylvania federal district court but was admitted “pro hac vice,” or for one case only, on Nov. 17, 2020 — fourteen days after the lawsuit was filed.
Giuliani signed another amended complaint on Nov. 18, 2020. Additional documents were filed on November 19, 20, and 21. A federal district court judge threw the case out with prejudice (meaning it could not be refiled) on Nov. 21, 2022. Giuliani appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit on Nov. 22; the Third Circuit threw out the appeal on Nov. 27.
By then — on Nov. 23, to be precise — Pennsylvania had certified Biden’s win.
The D.C. professional conduct board said Giuliani’s legal sins included specific requests for relief that were tall orders for a federal court:
Respondent [and] Plaintiffs were asking that the district court invalidate between 680,000 and 1.5 million (out of approximately 2.6 million) mail-in ballots. These were all votes that had already been counted by Pennsylvania election officials.
The district court wrote that it was “unable to find any case in which a plaintiff has sought such a drastic remedy in the context of an election, in terms of the sheer volume of votes asked to be invalidated.”
The circuit court wrote that the “relief sought–throwing out millions of votes–is unprecedented” and noted that Plaintiffs “cite[d] no authority for this drastic remedy.”
The document then pointed to the assertions — and the walk-backs — by Giuliani as to whether or not he was (or wasn’t) asserting an actual “fraud” case:
After making these conclusory accusations, the district court asked Respondent if he was “alleging a fraud” by the Defendants, and Respondent replied “Yes, Your Honor.”
Following this exchange, the district court reminded Respondent that Rule 9(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires plaintiffs alleging fraud to state with particularity the circumstances constituting fraud, and Respondent acknowledged both that the Plaintiffs’ First Amended Complaint “doesn’t plead fraud” and that “this is not a fraud case.”
After citing other examples of Giuliani’s alleged legal blunders regarding the accusations of election “fraud,” the D.C. bar authorities put it this way: “Respondent had no non-frivolous basis in law and fact for asserting to the district court that the Defendants committed election fraud, much less a factual basis for setting forth fraud with particularity, as required by Rule 9(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.”
In other words, according to the bar authorities, Giuliani didn’t have a fraud case, even though he sometimes claimed he did.
Elsewhere, the D.C. document says Giuliani “misquoted” an “excerpt from the Baker-Carter Commission on Federal Election Reform 2006 report about the general potential for mail-in ballot fraud that made no reference to Pennsylvania.”
Plus, the document says Giuliani’s so-called “evidence” of election malfeasance was based on nothing more than “false or faulty statistics and analysis.”
The document also says some of Giuliani’s other claims were flatly wrong under the law:
Respondent also alleged that observation boundaries for candidate representatives, i.e., physical barriers to the movement of observers outside of designated areas, were evidence of fraud by the Defendant Counties based solely on their mere existence, despite the fact that (a) the Pennsylvania Supreme Court found the boundaries to be consistent with state election law; (b) Plaintiffs never alleged facts showing improper vote counting; (c) there was no evidence that these boundaries were not applied equally to the campaigns of both major candidates; and (d) one or more Republican-controlled counties also imposed such boundaries.
Additionally, according to the D.C. document:
Respondent told the district court that he had “300 either affidavits, declarations, or our own statements that we’ve written down” that could prove his allegations of fraud against the Defendant Counties. The affidavits, declarations, and statements that he provided to the district court and other bodies were (a) unsupported, (b) unrelated to Trump voters, (c) involve conduct outside the seven Defendant Counties, and (d) by their own terms were isolated incidents that could not have affected the presidential election’s results by offsetting the Biden majority of over 80,000 votes.
The core of Giuliani’s case, according to the D.C. bar document, was that the two plaintiffs, Roberts and Henry, submitted “incorrect ballots that were properly disregarded by their respective county election officials and were never counted as lawful votes.”
“Rather than ask that these two ballots be counted, Respondent sought to leverage the lawful rejection of two ballots by non-defendant counties into invalidating up to 1.5 million votes already counted,” the document points out while again raising questions about Giuliani’s legal tactics. “There was no factual or legal basis for the Equal Protection claims that Respondent made with respect to the Defendants or for the relief that Respondent sought, including the invalidation of up to 1.5 million ballots cast in the Defendant Counties.”
The document accuses Giuliani of violating Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct 3.1 (regarding frivolous lawsuits) and 8.4(d) (involving conduct “prejudicial to the administration of justice”).
Giuliani has been a member of the D.C. bar since 1976, the document points out. He changed his law license to “inactive” status (non-practicing) on Dec. 12, 2002. He has been suspended in Washington, D.C., since July 7, 2021, when a New York court also took action against his license.
Lawyers who appear pro hac vice must follow the professional conduct rules of the locations in which they practice on even a temporary basis. When lawyers are licensed in multiple jurisdictions, their licenses are, in essence, linked: a disciplinary matter in one jurisdiction will generally trigger a domino effect of disciplinary actions elsewhere.
The document filed this week is merely the first step in the process. A concomitant D.C. filing says Giuliani “must” answer a response within 20 days.
When asked for comment about the situation by Reuters, a lawyer for Giuliani declined to offer an immediate statement.
The full D.C. disciplinary document is here:
We’ve omitted some of the legal citations in the quotes listed above. The full citations are in the document.
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