Pro-Trump lawyer's challenge to bar’s mental exam order can’t be heard by federal courts, 11th Circuit says
L. Lin Wood Jr. in March 2020. Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian/The White House via Wikimedia Commons.
A federal appeals court has upheld the dismissal of a pro-Trump lawyer’s lawsuit contending that the State Bar of Georgia violated his constitutional rights when it ordered him to take a mental health exam.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at Atlanta ruled against lawyer L. Lin Wood Jr. in a May 31 unpublished opinion.
Wood was previously in the news for his involvement in unsuccessful election challenges.
Wood had said in February 2021 the bar sought the mental health exam in connection with its investigation of his social media comments.
Wood’s tweets allegedly called for the execution of then-Vice President Mike Pence, said Hillary Clinton tried to orchestrate the murder of federal judges, and alleged that Chief Justice John Roberts had ties to pedophilia, according to past news coverage. Wood has said his public statements are “rhetorical hyperbole.”
The bar told the 11th Circuit that its ethics investigation of Wood was based on nearly 1,700 pages of evidence and information, according to a prior Law360 story. The bar said the evidence included lawsuit allegations that Wood:
• Engaged in erratic and abusive behavior, including “abusive, incoherent phone calls, voicemails, texts and emails” sent to colleagues in the middle of the night.
• Physically attacked one former colleague in an elevator and another colleague who came to Wood’s home out of concern for his well-being.
• Offered to fight his former colleagues to the death during a telephone conference.
• Voiced concerns that disclosure of his conduct would interfere with his appointment as chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
In his reply brief, Wood said the disciplinary board’s actions were politically motivated, and allegations cited by the bar were “false, vituperative and unfounded.”
A federal judge had tossed Wood’s suit against Georgia disciplinary board members based on the Younger abstention doctrine. It bars federal courts from interfering in ongoing state court proceedings that implicate important state interests if there is an opportunity to raise the constitutional challenge in the state proceedings.
The appeals court said the disciplinary proceeding was “ongoing,” even though the bar had not yet determined that there was probable cause that Wood violated any ethics rule. He will also have a chance to raise his constitutional arguments if the state bar recommends disciplinary action.
The 11th Circuit also rejected Wood’s argument that the Georgia bar had proceeded in bad faith.
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