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Federal Court Will Not Sanction Trump Campaign for Lying in Michigan Voting Lawsuit


A federal court in Michigan declined to sanction President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign over a previous court filing which contained an obvious lie about the election certification process in the Wolverine State’s largest county.

“Pending before the court in this closed case is Intervenor-Defendant City of Detroit’s Motion to Strike to which [the Trump campaign] filed a response in opposition,” U.S. District Judge Janet T. Neff wrote on Tuesday. “[T]he motion is denied.”

Recall: Attorney Mark F. “Thor” Hearne II submitted a motion on November 19 in order to put the kibosh on the campaign’s efforts at blocking the certification of the 2020 presidential election results in Wayne County specifically and across Michigan generally based on the idea that the campaign had already received the remedy they hoped for. But in reality, no such remedy ever occurred.

“Plaintiffs voluntarily dismiss this action,” Hearne’s motion notes. “The Wayne County board of county canvassers met and declined to certify the results of the presidential election.”

In fact, the Wayne County board met and decided to certify the results of the presidential election. After receiving an earful from Trump himself during a series of phone calls after that pro-certification vote, two GOP members of the board worked with the Trump campaign to produce affidavits saying they wanted to revoke their votes. Under Michigan law, however, there is no legal way for a county election canvassing board member to do a take-back. So, in plain terms, Hearne’s motion simply contained a bald-faced lie.

Later that same day, Detroit filed their own motion which called out the campaign’s dishonest filing as a gross public relations tactic.

“The City of Detroit respectfully submits this motion to strike from the record the affidavits submitted with [the Trump campaign’s] notice of voluntary dismissal filed by plaintiffs on November 19, 2020, as well as the immaterial, impertinent and false language in the notice itself,” the Motor City’s motion says. “[The relevant federal rules of civil procedure] allows Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. and the other plaintiffs to voluntarily dismiss their claims, but it does not allow them to use a notice of dismissal to spread disinformation.”

Specifically, Detroit wanted the two affidavits filed by GOP Wayne County board members William C. Hartmann and Monica S. Palmer stricken from the record. Additionally, the city asked that Hearne’s “immaterial, impertinent and false language” in the notice of dismissal be given the boot as well.

On Tuesday, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan denied that request.

Notably, the court did not credit any of the arguments that Trump’s campaign made in response to Detroit’s failed sanctions effort:

Contrary to Plaintiffs’ argument, their Notice of Dismissal does not divest this Court of jurisdiction to consider the City of Detroit’s Motion to Strike. Rather, “[i]t is well established that a federal court may consider collateral issues after an action is no longer pending.”

Further, Plaintiffs’ argument that a notice of dismissal is not a “pleading” subject to being stricken under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f) is misplaced. The City of Detroit did not file its motion to strike under Rule 12(f) but under the sanctions provision of Rule 11. Rule 11 governs “Representations to the Court” made in not only a “pleading” but also a written motion or “other paper.” The United States Supreme Court has specifically held that “a litigant who violates Rule 11 merits sanctions even after a dismissal.”

Instead, and without really explaining itself, the court essentially ruled that it was its discretionary right to preserve the record as it stands.

“This unique case, while dismissed only eight days after it started, arises from a national election of great public interest and has been rife with ‘public statements’ since its inception, both gratuitous and otherwise,” Judge Neff observed. “With the filing of its motion, the City of Detroit’s factual position is part of the court record, and the Court, in its discretion, declines to impose the requested sanction.”

“IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the City of Detroit’s Motion to Strike is DENIED.”

[image via Stephen Lam/Getty Images]

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