from the these-assholes-deserve-everything-coming-to-them dept
Former Trump lawyer/current conspiracy theorist/lawsuit defendant Sidney Powell has one more thing to add to her extremely dubious CV: sanctions.
The attorney general for the state of Michigan — one of the states alleged to be the home of election fraud by Sidney Powell and her like-minded associates — pressed for sanctions, using Powell’s own statements against her. Powell claimed her statements about election fraud were nothing more than heated hyperbole that no reasonable person would have believed were facts when seeking to have Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation lawsuit dismissed. Michigan’s AG noted this same “hyperbole” formed the basis of the election fraud lawsuit she had filed in Michigan, which basically meant Powell expected the court to take her wild speculation as credible and potentially provable facts.
You can’t have it both ways. Powell is now being sanctioned, along with several other lawyers (including L. Lin Wood) who participated in this harmful waste of government resources. The sanctions order [PDF] is a brutal masterpiece. It runs 110 pages and it details everything wrong about Powell’s actions and allegations. Someone give Judge Linda Parker a raise.
This is the opening paragraph, which gives the reader a pretty good idea how the rest of the order is going to run. If that reader is one of the lawyers being sanctioned, this paragraph is a swift punch to the solar plexus. Unfortunately for those particular readers, it’s only the first blow in a sustained, impeccably delivered beating.
This lawsuit represents a historic and profound abuse of the judicial process. It is one thing to take on the charge of vindicating rights associated with an allegedly fraudulent election. It is another to take on the charge of deceiving a federal court and the American people into believing that rights were infringed, without regard to whether any laws or rights were in fact violated. This is what happened here.
Don’t even bother getting up, Powell and co. [Emphasis in the original.]
The attorneys who filed the instant lawsuit abused the well-established rules applicable to the litigation process by proffering claims not backed by law; proffering claims not backed by evidence (but instead, speculation, conjecture, and unwarranted suspicion); proffering factual allegations and claims without engaging in the required pre-filing inquiry; and dragging out these proceedings even after they acknowledged that it was too late to attain the relief sought.
And this case was never about fraud—it was about undermining the People’s faith in our democracy and debasing the judicial process to do so.
Blow after blow.
The sanctity of both the courtroom and the litigation process are preserved only when attorneys adhere to this oath and follow the rules, and only when courts impose sanctions when attorneys do not. And despite the haze of confusion, commotion, and chaos counsel intentionally attempted to create by filing this lawsuit, one thing is perfectly clear: Plaintiffs’ attorneys have scorned their oath, flouted the rules, and attempted to undermine the integrity of the judiciary along the way.
The multiple lawyers being sanctioned raise a variety of terrible arguments as to why they shouldn’t be held accountable for their blatant abuse of the judicial system. The judge doesn’t like any of them.
Plaintiffs’ lawyers argue that no attorney can be sanctioned whose name appeared only in typewritten form; that no attorney besides Plaintiffs’ local counsel has appeared or signed a document filed in this matter; and that the Court lacks jurisdiction to sanction any attorney who did not personally appear or sign a document filed in this matter. Yet, the local attorneys assert that, although they signed the filings, they did not prepare them and thus should not be responsible for them. As such, no attorney wants to take responsibility now that sanctions are sought for filing this lawsuit.
In this age of electronic filing, it is frivolous to argue that an electronic signature on a pleading or motion is insufficient to subject the attorney to the court’s jurisdiction if the attorney violates the jurisdiction’s rules of professional conduct or a federal rule or statute establishing the standards of practice. As set forth earlier, Sidney Powell, Scott Hagerstrom, and Gregory Rohl electronically signed—at least—the Complaint, Amended Complaint, and Motion for Injunctive Relief. The remaining attorneys, except Junttila, were listed as “Of Counsel” on one or more of the pleadings.
This is directed at Powell and her defamation lawsuit defense:
It is not acceptable to support a lawsuit with opinions, which counsel herself claims no reasonable person would accept as fact and which were “inexact,” “exaggerate[ed],” and “hyperbole.” Nor is it acceptable to use the federal judiciary as a political forum to satisfy one’s political agenda. Such behavior by an attorney in a court of law has consequences. Although the First Amendment may allow Plaintiffs’ counsel to say what they desire on social media, in press conferences, or on television, federal courts are reserved for hearing genuine legal disputes which are well-grounded in fact and law.
Then there’s L. Lin Wood. He claims he shouldn’t even be facing sanctions because he was not officially part of this lawsuit. The court points out Wood never made any mention about being improperly included in Powell’s suit until he was facing sanctions. He also claimed he was never served by the state, but the state offered affidavits showing none of its electronic or physical mail sent to Wood was ever returned as undeliverable. Judge Parker serves up this succinct summation of Wood’s claims, which could also serve as an epitaph for his Trump-era lawyering.
[W]ood is not credible.
This comes with a footnote attached that points out Wood’s own brief in this case suggests he was made aware of the court order to appear in mid-June via phone call, contradicting his claim before the judge that he didn’t know anything about it until reading about the sanctions effort in the newspaper.
But the most damning evidence that Wood is lying about his lack of awareness are his own tweets.
On January 5, 2021, the day the City filed the motion, Wood tweeted a link to an article with the motion, stating that it was “unfair” for the City to seek sanctions against him.
He also took credit for filing this lawsuit — the one he now claims he was added to without his explicit permission — in a filing before the Delaware Supreme Court.
Other attorneys trying desperately to distance themselves from this lawsuit now that it’s sanctionable fare no better. Emily Newman claimed she only spent about “five hours” on the lawsuit and performed that work at home. So what? asks the court.
By placing her name on the initial and amended complaints, Newman presented pleadings to the Court asserting that Defendants committed constitutional and state law violations. Newman does not suggest that her name was included without her permission. In addition, Newman does not cite case law suggesting that an attorney may not be sanctioned under Rule 11 or any other source of sanctions authority if the time spent on the relevant lawsuit does not surpass an unidentified threshold. And Newman’s responsibility for any Rule 11 violation is not diminished based on where those working hours were spent (particularly during a global pandemic when many individuals were working remotely from home).
The same goes for Gregory Rohl, whose argument that he didn’t spend much time on the lawsuit completely backfires.
To the extent Rohl asserts he should not be sanctioned because he read the pleading only on the day of its filing, the argument does not fly. Rule 11(b) “obviously require[s] that a pleading, written motion, or other paper be read before it is filed or submitted to the court,” and the Court finds it exceedingly difficult to believe that Rohl read an 830-page complaint in just “well over an hour” on the day he filed it. So, Rohl’s argument in and of itself reveals sanctionable conduct. Rule 11(b) also explains that, by presenting a pleading to the court, an attorney certifies that “to the best of the person’s knowledge, information, and belief, formed after a reasonable inquiry under the circumstances,” the complaint is not being filed for an improper purpose and is well-grounded in law and fact. The Court finds it even more difficult to believe that any inquiry Rohl may have conducted between the time he finished reading the Complaint and 11:48 p.m. could be described as a “reasonable” one.
Also sanctionable was the lawyers’ refusal to dismiss the lawsuit once it had become moot. The legal theory cited isn’t actually legal.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys maintain that this lawsuit was no longer moot after December 14 because three Plaintiffs subjectively believed that they had become electors. The attorneys cite no authority supporting the notion that an individual’s “[personal] opinion” that he or she is an elector is sufficient to support the legal position that the individual is in fact an elector. Of course, such a belief is contrary to how electors are appointed in Michigan.
This refusal resulted in more filings by those being sued, forcing them to expend time and money to address claims based on nothing more than speculation and a strong desire to return Trump to office. Very sanctionable.
The Court finds that Plaintiffs’ counsel unreasonably and vexatiously multiplied the proceedings in this case and their arguments to the contrary are unavailing.
And at this point, we’re only halfway through the decision. I suggest you read the whole thing, but here are a few more highlights:
Apparently Throckmorton’s quotation of the maxim “fraud vitiates everything” is a refrain that has been oft-repeated on social media by those who question the results of the 2020 presidential election and believe Former President Trump should be declared the winner. The City is correct that Plaintiffs’ counsel’s citation to Throckmorton is puzzling, both because the case relates to a nineteenth-century land grant and has nothing to do with election law and because the Supreme Court held that the grant could not be collaterally attacked on the basis that the judgment was procured by fraud. Simply put, the case does not support Plaintiffs’ legal contentions directly or even by extension.
This is brief but brutal:
Plaintiffs alleged that certain acts or events violated the Michigan Election Code when, in fact, they did not.
The affidavits presented as evidence were just as garbage as the allegations:
To support the allegation that “unsecured ballots arrived at the TCF Center loading garage, not in sealed ballot boxes, without any chain of custody, and without envelopes, after the 8:00 PM Election Day deadline,” Plaintiffs quote the affidavit of Matt Ciantar (“Ciantar Affidavit”), which is a masterclass on making conjectural leaps and bounds.
In short, the affidavit describes Ciantar observing a vehicle delivering several bags to a post office. Everything else in it is the product of the affiant’s overactive imagination. Ciantar felt the whole thing was “odd” and that the bags could have contained votes. That’s it. The whole thing is included in the order, so feel free to vet the statement yourself (p. 71)
More on not doing due diligence:
When the Court asked whether Plaintiffs’ counsel inquired as to the affidavits copied and pasted from the other cases, Plaintiffs’ counsel dipped and dodged the question and did not disclaim the City’s counsel’s assertions that they did not.“[O]ther lawyers saw it” and “[t]hey believed it to be appropriate for submission to the Court in that circumstance,” Plaintiffs’ attorneys argued.
This is not okay. The Court remains baffled after trying to ascertain what convinced Plaintiffs’ counsel otherwise.
And then there’s this hysterical First Amendment argument, which is capably dismantled by the judge.
In response to the State Defendants’ supplemental brief, instead of explaining what efforts they undertook to investigate the veracity of the affidavits, Plaintiffs’ attorneys argue that they “never stated that lawyers cannot be held to account.” “Instead,” they argue, the motion to dismiss “justifies lawyers being afforded the same type of Constitutional protections as journalists,” “who . . . would lose the protection afforded to them by the Supreme Court . . . if they were ‘drawn into long court battles designed to deconstruct the accuracy of sources on which they rely.’”
Attorneys are not journalists. It therefore comes as no surprise that Plaintiffs’ attorneys fail to cite a single case suggesting that the two professions share comparable duties and responsibilities. Perhaps this confused understanding as to the job of an attorney, and what the law says about the attendant duties and obligations, is what led Plaintiffs’ counsel to simply copy and paste affidavits from prior lawsuits. Perhaps not. But what is certain is that Plaintiffs’ counsel will not escape accountability for their failure to conduct due diligence before recycling affidavits from other cases to support their pleadings here.
Apparently even doing a bit of Googling was beyond the capabilities of the many lawyers involved in this fiasco.
Even the most basic internet inquiry would have alerted Plaintiffs’ counsel to the wildly inaccurate assertions in Ramsland’s affidavit.
This isn’t the end of the order, but it pretty much sums everything up.
Counsel’s failure to “look beyond their prejudices and political beliefs” during this litigation and before filing this lawsuit strongly suggests improper motive. The evidence of bad faith and improper motive becomes undeniably clear when paired with the fact that Plaintiffs’ counsel violated Rule 11 in a multitude of ways. See supra. In other words, by failing to take the basic pre-filing steps that any reasonable attorney would have taken and by flouting well-established pleading standards—all while knowing the risk associated with failing to remain professionally skeptical, Plaintiffs’ counsel did everything in their power to ensure that their bias—that the election was fraudulent, as proclaimed by Former President Trump—was confirmed. Confirmation bias notwithstanding, Plaintiffs’ counsel advanced this lawsuit for an improper purpose and will be held to account for their actions.
Here’s everyone that’s affected by this sanction order, as listed on the Michigan attorney general’s website:
Sidney Powell – Texas;
L. Lin Wood – Georgia;
Emily Newman – Virginia;
Julia Z. Haller – the District of Columbia, Maryland, New York and New Jersey;
Brandon Johnson – the District of Columbia, New York, and Nevada;
Scott Hagerstrom – Michigan;
Howard Kleinhendler – New York and New Jersey;
Gregory Rohl – Michigan; and
Stefanie Lynn Junttila – Michigan.
On top of this, other lawyers engaged in similar “election fraud” lawsuits are being hit with sanctions in Colorado. And the Texas Office of the Chief Disciplinary counsel is now looking into stripping Powell of her license.
Good. Fuck these guys. They decided to turn a sore loser’s wild ass claims into legal proceedings, relying on a choir of the converted to provide supporting “evidence.” And they refused to back down, even when the Department of Justice itself (while still headed by Bill Barr) found no evidence of election fraud. They played to the base and lost. They catered to conspiracy theorists and Trump loyalists that coalesced in a raid of the Capitol building in hopes of preventing certification of election results — a raid that culminated in several deaths and several hundred criminal prosecutions.
Stunt lawyering has real consequences. These attorneys will now be paying the legal fees and costs incurred by the multiple Michigan government entities that were forced to defend themselves from this baseless lawsuit.