DC Panel Says Trump Attorney Giuliani Breached Ethics With Election Lawsuits

December 16, 2022 by Tom Ramstack
DC Panel Says Trump Attorney Giuliani Breached Ethics With Election Lawsuits
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani arrives to the ceremonies to commemorate the 21st anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022, at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

WASHINGTON — Former New York Mayor and presidential lawyer Rudy Giuliani should be disciplined for violating ethics responsibilities of attorneys after he challenged the 2020 election results, a hearing panel of the District of Columbia Bar concluded Thursday.

The three-person panel plans to recommend disciplinary measures to the D.C. Board on Professional Responsibility early next year. It could include disbarment.

Giuliani filed lawsuits on behalf of former President Donald Trump that said the election should be overturned by a federal court because of voter fraud.

The D.C. Bar’s hearing panel reported on Thursday that the lawsuits were “frivolous” and interfered with the administration of justice.

Much of their concern focused on a lawsuit Giuliani filed in Pennsylvania that contested hundreds of thousands of mail-in ballots. A later audit found none of the fraud Giuliani alleged.

Joe Biden won the election in Pennsylvania by a thin margin. Trump then appointed Giuliani to oversee his legal strategy to overturn the election.

Hamilton “Phil” Fox, an attorney for the D.C. Office of Disciplinary Counsel, argued during an ethics hearing this month that Giuliani’s allegations helped incite the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol.

Fox said Giuliani should be disbarred. 

“Mr. Giuliani has testified on several occasions that he believes there was a conspiracy,” Fox said. “There was a conspiracy, and he was the head of it.”

John Leventhal, the attorney for the former New York mayor, urged the ethics panel instead to issue a letter of reprimand or a private admonition. He said the panel should set aside politics to consider Giuliani’s long government service, including the way he rallied his city after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack.

“Why not treat Mr. Giuliani like any other lawyer,” Leventhal said.

Giuliani accused the D.C. Bar counsel of a “personal attack” that should not have been allowed when the core issue was a dispute over a political matter.

“It is a typical, unethical, cheap attack,” Giuliani said. He continues to say he had reasonable grounds for filing his lawsuits.

He admitted that he rushed into filing the Pennsylvania lawsuit but said the time limit for challenging elections left him no other option. He told the hearing panel about how he tried to gather evidence quickly.

As a result, he said he should not be faulted for any lapses in his litigation.

“I don’t know what has happened to the defense of lawyers who take on unpopular causes,” Giuliani said, even as his own attorney advised him not to continue with his impassioned protest.

The New York Bar already suspended Giuliani’s law license. A state appeals court ruled last year that he made “demonstrably false and misleading” statements about voter fraud.

The District of Columbia temporarily suspended Giuliani’s license after the New York court’s ruling.

After the hearing panel reports to the Board on Professional Responsibility, the board makes a recommendation for discipline or dismissal to the D.C. Court of Appeals. The final decision rests with the appeals court.

The hearing panel described its determination on Thursday as preliminary and nonbinding.

Tom can be reached at [email protected] and @TomRamstack

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  • 2020 Election
  • District of Columbia Bar
  • Donald Trump
  • Rudy Giuliani
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