Sidney Powell sanctioned by judge over false election claims

Sidney Powell speaks on Nov. 19, 2020 during a press conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington, D.C. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)
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Erik Larson Bloomberg News (TNS)

Former Trump campaign attorney Sidney Powell and other lawyers for the Republican Party were ordered to pay legal fees and take additional training for filing a lawsuit to overturn the 2020 election results that a Michigan judge ruled was “a historic and profound abuse of the judicial process.”

U.S. District Judge Linda V. Parker in Detroit late Wednesday issued a 110-page ruling that rejected dozens of speculative and fact-deficient affidavits the lawyers had submitted as evidence of a conspiracy to steal the election from former President Donald Trump. She accused the lawyers of trying to deceive the court and the American people and said “sanctions are required to deter the filing of future frivolous lawsuits designed primarily to spread the narrative that our election processes are rigged and our democratic institutions cannot be trusted.”

Powell and other lawyers filed lawsuits in several states seeking to overturn the election results of November 2020, alleging widespread voter fraud that resulted in Joe Biden becoming president. Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the city of Detroit had asked the court to issue sanctions and start disciplinary proceedings against the lawyers, saying they improperly used the court as a weapon to undermine faith in the election result.

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In addition to ordering the lawyers to pay the city and state’s legal fees for the case, the judge referred the matter for investigation by licensing authorities in states where the lawyers practice, for possible suspension or disbarment. She ordered the attorneys to take at least 12 hours of additional legal training, including at least six hours focused on election law, within six months.

“We disagree with the decision and will appeal,” Powell’s attorney, Howard Kleinhendler, said in an email. In a July hearing over the sanctions matter, pro-Trump trial lawyer Lin Wood suggested Powell had attached his name to the complaint without asking him. Wood didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

The judge’s ruling blasted the lawyers for “brazenly” claiming in court that they would file the same complaints again if given the chance.

“They make this assertion even after witnessing the events of January 6 and the dangers posed by narratives like the one counsel crafted here,” wrote Parker, a Barack Obama appointee. “An attorney who willingly continues to assert claims doomed to fail, and which have incited violence before, must be deemed to be acting with an improper motive.”

Parker also said she was troubled that Powell “is profiting” from frivolous election-fraud suits through the solicitation of donations on the website of a company run by the attorney.

“What is concerning is that the sanctions imposed here will not deter counsel from pursuing future baseless lawsuits because those sanctions will be paid with donor funds rather than counsel’s,” the judge wrote in a footnote. “In this court’s view, that should be reviewed by any disciplinary authority reviewing counsel’s behavior.”

Powell has previously said she had a duty to the country to bring the lawsuit, comparing it to the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education, which ended racial segregation in schools in 1954.

Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani was temporarily barred from practicing law in Washington in July while New York considers whether to permanently revoke his law license. A state appeals court in Manhattan suspended Giuliani’s license in June saying the former New York City mayor put the public at risk by spreading lies about the 2020 presidential election.

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