Giuliani sanctioned for providing 'blobs of indecipherable data,' few documents in discovery

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Lawyer Rudy Giuliani, pictured here in September 2022, has been ordered by a judge to pay more than $43,000 for discovery violations in a lawsuit. That judge had previously ordered Giuliani to pay more than $89,000 as a discovery sanction, for a total of more than $132,000 in sanctions. Photo by John Nacion/Star Max/IPx via the Associated Press.

A federal judge in Washington, D.C., entered a default judgment Wednesday against lawyer Rudy Giuliani for failing to provide meaningful discovery to two Georgia poll workers who sued him for defamation after he falsely accused them of election fraud.

U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell of the District of Columbia imposed that sanction and ordered Giuliani’s businesses to pay more than $43,000 for discovery violations in the lawsuit. Howell had previously ordered Giuliani to pay more than $89,000 as a discovery sanction, for a total of more than $132,000 in sanctions.

The default judgment found liability for defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, civil conspiracy and punitive damages. A trial will take place to determine the amount of damages, according to Howell’s Aug. 30 order and opinion.

Howell said Giuliani had indicated that he understood the need to preserve electronically stored evidence in anticipation of litigation, but he “has given only lip service to compliance.”

“Rather than simply play by the rules,” Howell said, “Giuliani has bemoaned plaintiffs’ efforts to secure his compliance as ‘punishment by process.’ … Donning a cloak of victimization may play well on a public stage to certain audiences, but in a court of law this performance has served only to subvert the normal process of discovery.”

Giuliani didn’t pay the first $89,000-plus sanction by the deadline, leading Howell to require an instruction at trial that jurors should infer that Giuliani is intentionally trying to hide assets when they determine punitive damages.

If the businesses don’t pay the sanction by the deadline, Giuliani will be personally responsible for that amount, Howell said.

Giuliani initially produced only 193 documents in the defamation suit. After that, Howell said, his discovery disclosures consisted largely of “a single page of communications, blobs of indecipherable data, a sliver of the financial documents required to be produced, and a declaration and two stipulations.”

In the stipulations, Giuliani said he preferred to concede the plaintiffs’ claims, rather than produce discovery. That preference “may be due to the fact, about which he has made no secret, that he faces liability, both civil and criminal, in other investigations and civil lawsuits,” Howell said.

Giuliani’s stipulations “hold more holes than Swiss cheese,” Howell said. In his latest stipulation, Giuliani reserves for appeal his arguments that his alleged defamatory statements are protected.

“The reservations in Giuliani’s stipulations make clear his goal to bypass the discovery process and a merits trial—at which his defenses may be fully scrutinized and tested in our judicial system’s time-honored adversarial process—and to delay such a fair reckoning by taking his chances on appeal, based on the abbreviated record he forced on plaintiffs,” Howell said.

“Just as taking shortcuts to win an election carries risks—even potential criminal liability—bypassing the discovery process carries serious sanctions,” Howell said.

Law360, the New York Times and CNBC are among the publications with coverage of Howell’s decision.

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