Lawyer Discipline

DC law licensing board recommends Rudy Giuliani be disbarred

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Rudy Giuliani

The D.C. Board on Professional Responsibility has recommended Rudy Giuliani be disbarred. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

The District of Columbia board that oversees attorney discipline recommended Friday that Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor and personal attorney to former president Donald Trump, not be allowed to practice law in the nation’s capital.

The decision by the D.C. Board on Professional Responsibility followed lengthy hearings in 2022 and follow-up court filings last year in which a law licensing discipline committee determined that Giuliani violated the terms of his license to practice law in the nation’s capital when he filed a lawsuit in Pennsylvania trying to block certification of the results in the 2020 presidential election.

In announcing its recommendation, which will now head to the D.C. Court of Appeals, the board referenced arguments during the hearings that Giuliani had weaponized his law license to undermine the election—a contention Giuliani has characterized as “political” and lacking merit.

The board in its decision emphasized the degree to which the complaint advanced unfounded claims of fraud, stating that an attorney’s disbarment due to “frivolous litigation cases” is rare but that the Pennsylvania lawsuit was unprecedented.

“We conclude that disbarment is the only sanction that will protect the public, the courts and the integrity of the legal profession, and deter other lawyers from launching similarly baseless claims in the pursuit of such wide-ranging yet completely unjustified relief,” Bernadette C. Sargeant, the board’s chair, wrote in the 62-page decision.

The board in its decision highlighted several elements of the Pennsylvania lawsuit, including Giuliani’s allegations that election boards in seven Pennsylvania counties were engaged in a deliberate scheme to change the outcome of the election by counting mail-in ballots that should not have been counted. The board also noted that Giuliani urged a federal judge to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania voters even though he had no “objectively reliable evidence” that any such scheme existed or that any illegal mail-in ballots had been counted.

Giuliani’s lawsuit, filed on behalf of Trump, was rejected by a judge. A federal appeals court refused to let the campaign file a revised complaint. During his testimony before the Ad Hoc Hearing Committee for the board, Giuliani often minimized his role in the litigation while asserting that he had done nothing wrong.

The Republican former mayor said then that other attorneys were responsible for the language in the suit and that he had little time to thoroughly investigate the allegations himself before filing it. He claimed doing so is common practice, as allegations in lawsuits often are investigated after cases are filed.

In arguing the case against Giuliani, Hamilton P. Fox III rejected those claims and said that Giuliani had used his law license “to undermine the basic premise of the democratic system that we all live in, that has been in place since the 1800s in this country.”

A spokesperson for Giuliani, 80, did not immediately return a request for comment.

Giuliani has been licensed to practice in the District of Columbia since being admitted to the D.C. Bar in 1976. Giuliani’s license has been temporarily suspended in the District after the New York State Supreme Court Appellate Division in 2021 suspended his license in that state.

D.C. Court of Appeals judges will hear oral arguments before making the final decision. A date has not been scheduled.

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