Judge who described pro-Trump lawyer as ‘mendacious or incompetent’ ruled too quickly, top state court says
L. Lin Wood Jr. in March 2020. Photos by Joyce N. Boghosian via Wikimedia Commons and Ben Margot/The Associated Press.
A Delaware judge abused his discretion when he tossed a pro-Trump lawyer from a case without giving him an opportunity to respond to a show-cause order, the Delaware Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.
The Delaware Supreme Court ruled for lawyer L. Lin Wood of Atlanta, holding that Delaware Superior Court Judge Craig A. Karsnitz was wrong to rule two days before a scheduled hearing to consider two issues: Wood’s response to an order asking him to show cause why he shouldn’t be removed from the case and Wood’s request to voluntarily withdraw from the case.
Karsnitz revoked Wood’s pro hac vice permission to participate in the Delaware case in a January 2021 decision that cited the lawyer’s conduct in election litigation outside the state. Karsnitz said Wood “exhibited a toxic stew of mendacity, prevarication and surprising incompetence” in the election cases.
In a Georgia case, Karsnitz said, Wood was a party to a suit found to have no basis in law or fact. The Georgia case “was textbook frivolous litigation,” Karsnitz said. And Wood had worked on a Wisconsin case in which the pleadings were “riddled with errors,” Karsnitz said.
But Wood was the plaintiff in the Georgia litigation, and he denied intending to mislead the court with an expert affidavit that contained false information, the Delaware Supreme Court said in its Jan. 19 order vacating Karsnitz’s decision. Nor were there any findings that the Georgia case was frivolous or filed in bad faith.
And Wood had not signed the Wisconsin pleadings, although he was named as an “attorney to be noticed,” the Delaware Supreme Court said.
Karsnitz did not explain why Wood’s request to withdraw his pro hac vice application did not adequately address his concerns, the Delaware Supreme Court said.
“Instead, without affording Wood the opportunity to appear at the hearing that was scheduled two days hence, the stated purpose of which was to hear his response to the rule to show cause, the court made factual findings adverse to Wood,” the Delaware Supreme Court said.
The state supreme court said Karsnitz’s decision can’t be read “without concluding that the court intended to cast aspersions on Wood’s character, referring to him as ‘either mendacious or incompetent’ and determining that he was not ‘of sufficient character’ to practice in the courts of our state. We offer no opinion on the accuracy of these characterizations, but we see no evidence in the superior court’s record that supports them.”
“When, as here, the allegations of misconduct in another state have not yet been adjudicated, there is no assertion that the alleged misconduct has disrupted or adversely affected the proceedings in this state, and the lawyer agrees to withdraw his appearance and pro hac vice admission, it is an abuse of discretion to preclude the lawyer’s motion to withdraw in favor of an involuntary revocation of the lawyer’s admission,” the state supreme court concluded.
Wood had sought to represent former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page in a Delaware defamation case against Oath Inc., then the parent company of Yahoo! News and HuffPost. In a decision also issued Wednesday, the Delaware Supreme Court upheld dismissal of the case.
Hat tip to Law360, which had coverage of the decisions.
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