Jones Day and Porter Wright file election suits for Trump to the dismay of some of their lawyers
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Updated: The law firm Porter Wright Morris & Arthur has withdrawn from its representation of the Trump campaign in a federal lawsuit filed Monday evening that alleged voting irregularities across the state of Pennsylvania.
The withdrawal follows a New York Times report that Republicans and the campaign are represented by either Porter Wright or Jones Day in at least four election lawsuits in Pennsylvania. It’s unclear if Porter Wright is withdrawing from other lawsuits, the New York Times reports.
Several lawyers at both law firms have voiced concerns about involvement in election litigation, according to the prior New York Times story. Jones Day isn’t representing Trump or the GOP in any election fraud litigation, but it is contesting an extended ballot deadline in Pennsylvania in a cert petition pending with the U.S. Supreme Court.
The firms’ representation of President Donald Trump and GOP groups in those cases and others has been lucrative.
Jones Day has received more than $4 million in fees from Trump, the Republican National Committee and pro-Trump groups, the New York Times said, citing Federal Election Commission records. Porter Wright has received at least $727,000 in fees from the Trump campaign and the RNC, according to the records.
At Jones Day, lawyers worry that the firm is advancing claims that lack evidence and helping undermine election integrity, according to the New York Times, which cited information from nine partners and associates. The lawyers spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect their jobs.
Similarly, at Porter Wright, lawyers have expressed concerns about the election work at internal meetings. At least one lawyer resigned because of objections. The New York Times relied on three current and former employees who, like the Jones Day lawyers, did not want to be identified.
The New York Times described one of the main concerns by some lawyers at Porter Wright this way: “How could lawyers, whose profession is based on the rule of law, represent someone who they felt had frequently tried to flout it?”
The Lincoln Project, a group founded by Republicans opposed to Trump and “Trumpism,” plans to target Porter Wright and Jones Day for their role in the lawsuits in a $500,000 advertising blitz, Law.com reports.
“Employees of @JonesDay & @PorterWright , do you believe your law firms should be attempting to overturn the will of the American people?” the Lincoln Project tweeted. In another tweet, the Lincoln Project said the law firms’ employees should resign in protest.
The new Pennsylvania lawsuit, filed in federal court in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, contends that mail-in ballots were not subjected to the same kind of transparency and verifiability as ballots cast in person. Nearly 2.65 million Pennsylvania votes were cast by mail-in ballots, the suit said.
The suit seeks an order preventing certification of the Pennsylvania results. In the alternative, the suit seeks an order preventing tabulation of absentee and mail-in ballots that weren’t subject to close observation or for which voters were allowed to correct flaws.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has allowed three extra days after the election to count ballots postmarked by Election Day in a decision that cited the state constitution. A pending cert petition before the U.S. Supreme Court contends that only Pennsylvania lawmakers can set the rules. Jones Day and Porter Wright asked the Supreme Court to segregate the late-arriving ballots, a request granted by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, meanwhile, has agreed to hear a case in which the Trump campaign contended that its observers weren’t given close enough access to the ballot count in Philadelphia, Courthouse News Service reports. A Pennsylvania appeals court issued a Nov. 5 order allowing closer observation.
Porter Wright was listed as a law firm representing the Trump campaign in the case before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
Jones Day’s involvement in Trump’s and the GOP’s litigation has been long-standing. Partner Don McGahn was an outside lawyer for Trump during the 2016 campaign in recount fights. He later left the firm to become White House counsel, then returned to the firm when he left that post.
During the Trump presidency, Jones Day was also involved in about 20 lawsuits involving Trump, his campaign and the GOP. Other Jones Day partners left for administration jobs, including Noel Francisco, who was the solicitor general from 2017 to this past summer.
Some Jones Day partners told the New York Times that the law firm was obligated to represent long-term clients, even when there were differences over politics or tactics.
Robert Tannous, managing partner at Porter Wright, gave this statement to the New York Times before its withdrawal: “Porter Wright has a long history of representing candidates, political parties, interest groups and individuals at the local, state and federal levels on both sides of the aisle, and as a law firm will continue to do so.”
In a statement, Jones Day acknowledged its representation of the Pennsylvania GOP in the suit seeking review by the Supreme Court. The suit poses an important constitutional question, and Jones Day will not withdraw, according to the statement.
But Jones Day said it “is not representing President Trump, his campaign or any affiliated party in any litigation alleging voter fraud. Jones Day also is not representing any entity in any litigation challenging or contesting the results of the 2020 general election. Media reports to the contrary are false.”
Another law firm, Snell & Wilmer, has withdrawn as counsel for the Republican National Committee in an election lawsuit in Maricopa County, Arizona, Thomson Reuters Legal reports. The suit alleges the county incorrectly rejected some ballots.
Snell & Wilmer still represents the Arizona Republican Party in a ballot case filed in 2016. The GOP is defending a state law that bars third parties from collecting ballots and requires ballots to be cast at the correct polling place. The law firm’s co-counsel in the case is Jones Day, according to Thomson Reuters Legal.
Updated Nov. 10 at 1:45 p.m. to add information from the Lincoln Project. Updated Nov. 12 at 8:20 a.m. to add Jones Day’s statement, clarify the second paragraph and add information on Snell & Wilmer. Updated on Nov. 13 to report that Porter Wright withdrew from the federal lawsuit.