Trials & Litigation

Federal magistrate judge sanctions lawyers for election suit that was 'one enormous conspiracy theory'

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A federal magistrate judge has imposed sanctions on lawyers who challenged 2020 election methods in an opinion that criticized their “woeful lack of investigation” into the law and the facts.

U.S. Magistrate Judge N. Reid Neureiter of the District of Colorado ordered lawyers Gary Fielder and Ernest Walker to pay attorney fees to cover the cost of their opponents’ motions to dismiss the lawsuit and to oppose an amended complaint, reports.

In an Aug. 3 order, Neureiter said the lawsuit “is one enormous conspiracy theory.” The suit purported to be a class action on behalf of all U.S. registered voters alleging a coordinated effort to change voting laws and use unreliable voting machines to interfere with the presidential election.

The alleged conspirators included governors and election officials in four states, a voting technology company, Facebook and a nonprofit seeking more secure and inclusive elections. The suit sought $160 billion in damages, which “is greater than the annual GDP of Hungary,” Neureiter said.

“In short, this was no slip-and-fall at the local grocery store,” Neureiter wrote in the order. “Albeit disorganized and fantastical, the complaint’s allegations are extraordinarily serious and, if accepted as true by large numbers of people, are the stuff of which violent insurrections are made.”

Affidavits filed with the suit repeat a generalized fear and suspicion that the system is rigged, and democracy no longer works, Neureiter said. Those affidavits demonstrate that plaintiffs had no firsthand knowledge of election fraud, he said.

Neureiter said the plaintiffs did not have standing, and the suit failed to address “the conspicuous personal jurisdictional problems raised by suing, in federal court in Colorado, state government officials from Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Georgia and Michigan.” The proposed amended complaint did not eliminate the problems, which would be obvious to any “first-year civil procedure student,” Neureiter said.

The plaintiffs’ lawyers relied on information in prior failed lawsuits, and none of them were accepted as true by any government agency or court, Neureiter said. This should have put the plaintiffs’ lawyers “on high alert about the need to do significant independent due diligence.”

But that wasn’t what the lawyers did, according to Neureiter.

“It appears that plaintiffs’ counsel’s process for formulating the factual allegations in this lawsuit was to compile all the allegations from all the lawsuits and media reports relating to alleged election fraud (and only the ones asserting fraud, not the ones refuting fraud), put it in one massive complaint, then file it and ‘see what happens,’” he said.

“The lawsuit put into or repeated into the public record highly inflammatory and damaging allegations that could have put individuals’ safety in danger. Doing so without a valid legal basis or serious independent personal investigation into the facts was the height of recklessness,” Neureiter wrote.

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