Trump campaign's legal strategy has faltered partly because of legal ethics, law prof says

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The Trump campaign's legal strategy is faltering partly because of ethics rules requiring lawyers to be candid with courts and avoid frivolous claims, according to a law professor who teaches legal ethics.

“The president can spew all the theories he wants, and his advocates can say whatever they like on television, but because of these two ethical duties, Trump’s lawyers can make claims before courts only if they can back them up with actual evidence,” wrote Adam Winkler, a professor at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law, in an op-ed for the Washington Post.

In one instance, a lawyer argued that Trump campaign legal observers weren’t allowed to watch the ballot count in Philadelphia. When U.S. District Judge Paul Diamond of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania pressed the lawyer about whether GOP observers were present, the lawyer said there were “a nonzero number of people in the room.”

When Diamond responded that he was “asking you as a member of the bar of this court” whether observers were present, the lawyer had to acknowledge that the observers were there because of the duty of candor, Winkler said.

In Arizona, legal ethics rules required a lawyer for the Trump campaign to admit that some voter allegations collected online were probably untrustworthy, Winkler said. The lawyer also admitted that he wasn’t alleging that anyone was stealing the election.

“So far,” Winkler wrote, “Trump’s lawyers haven’t been sanctioned, perhaps because they are rapidly dropping their lawsuits to avoid it. More than two dozen suits filed by the president or his supporters have been withdrawn or thrown out. On one day, Nov. 13, Trump’s campaign lost or dropped nine cases.”

Concerns about violating legal ethics rules could be one reason why several lawyers involved in election lawsuits have withdrawn. Now, lawyer Rudy Giuliani is overseeing the litigation. In press conferences, he claimed massive fraud and made wild accusations, but those aren’t part of his case filings, Winkler wrote.

“Trump has thrived by bending the world to his own version of reality,” Winkler wrote. “But in court, his lawyers are ethically obligated to be honest and pursue only meritorious claims. The president’s undemocratic effort to overturn a free and fair election is being turned aside, and we have the ethics of lawyers to thank.”

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