Giuliani Argues for Avoiding Disbarment as a DC Attorney
WASHINGTON — Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is awaiting a decision from a legal ethics panel on whether he will retain his license as a lawyer in Washington, D.C.
Giuliani’s attorneys argued during a hearing Thursday that he did nothing wrong when he filed a lawsuit in Pennsylvania trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election results. President Joe Biden won the state by more than 80,000 votes.
They said he was acting within his authority as an attorney to represent the interests of his client, former President Donald Trump.
Giuliani’s career as an attorney is in deep trouble after a District of Columbia Bar committee released a report this summer accusing him of misconduct for knowingly filing a “frivolous” lawsuit. All 26 of Giuliani’s allegations of voter fraud were shown to be false before a judge dismissed the lawsuit.
D.C. Bar disciplinary lawyers said Giuliani’s lawsuit had “no factual or legal basis” but more importantly was an attempt to undermine U.S. democracy.
“He’s utterly unrepentant,” said Hamilton Fox, the lead disciplinary counsel. “We’ve got another election coming up. Lawyers need to be deterred from engaging in” similar conduct.
Any punishment less than disbarment would be “virtually meaningless,” Fox said.
The nine-person D.C. Board on Professional Responsibility, which presided over the hearing, initiated the suspension of Giuliani’s license in 2021. He also is suspended in New York.
When one board member asked Fox whether he wanted disciplinary action against Giuliani to serve as an example that might deter other lawyers from taking on controversial cases, he replied, “Of course not.”
He added, “What we’re dealing with here is a situation that is utterly devoid of a factual basis.”
During a court hearing in the Pennsylvania lawsuit, Giuliani said Democrats stole the election, largely through a miscount of mail-in ballots.
He submitted as evidence 300 affidavits that he said proved the fraud. Other evidence showed the declarations in the affidavits were unsupported by facts.
“Well, they stole, they stole an election, at least in this commonwealth,” Giuliani said during oral arguments in the Pennsylvania lawsuit. “The conduct was egregious. The conduct was premeditated.”
The Pennsylvania judge who threw out Giuliani’s lawsuit in November 2020 described it as “strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations.”
Giuliani is one of 11 lawyers who face either disciplinary or criminal charges after trying to overturn the election. He also is charged along with Trump in Georgia with election racketeering. Both have pleaded not guilty.
Giuliani already has lost a civil lawsuit filed by two Georgia election workers who accused him of defaming them. He had accused them of submitting forged ballots that skewed the state’s vote count toward Biden.
Giuliani’s attorneys acknowledged he might have made mistakes in filing the Pennsylvania lawsuit in his rush to defend his client but his actions fell short of misconduct that should lead to disbarment. They also said his strong record of public service shows only a lesser punishment could be justified.
Giuliani put part of the blame on local lawyers he hired to assist him.
In a legal filing before the hearing Thursday, his lawyers wrote, “Although the arguments were ultimately rejected, is [Giuliani] to be disbarred for making what he believed, at the time, to be valid arguments on behalf of a client who is despised by a substantial portion of the country? While the arguments failed, [Giuliani] did the best he could under difficult circumstances.”
During the hearing, attorney Barry Kamins said on behalf of his client, “Just as 9/11 can never be relegated to the dustbin of history, Mr. Giuliani’s achievements can never be forgotten, and they should be given due consideration.”
Giuliani did not attend the hearing. The Board on Professional Responsibility has not said when it would make a decision.