Lawyer Discipline

Giuliani should be disbarred for basing election suit on 'speculation' and 'suspicion,' ethics committee says

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Rudy Giuliani

A review panel says Rudy Giuliani should be disbarred in the District of Columbia for how he handled litigation challenging the 2020 election on behalf of then-President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

Lawyer Rudy Giuliani should be disbarred for making “malicious and meritless” claims of election fraud in a lawsuit that challenged the results of the 2020 presidential election in Pennsylvania, according to a hearing committee in Washington, D.C.

Giuliani worked on an initial complaint and a second amended complaint in the Pennsylvania lawsuit. Both challenged the locations of barriers for poll watchers observing the canvassing of mail-in ballots and the procedures used to cure defective mail-in ballots.

But neither complaint linked those processes to widespread improper voting, according to a July 7 report and recommendation by the Ad Hoc Hearing Committee of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals Board on Professional Responsibility.

The complaints “contained only vague and speculative allegations about random and isolated electoral irregularities which did not and could not support [Giuliani’s] inflated legal claims,” the hearing committee said.

Giuliani “based the Pennsylvania litigation only on speculation, mistrust and suspicion,” the hearing committee concluded.

A federal judge had tossed the Pennsylvania election challenge in a decision that was upheld by the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Giuliani had asserted that Democrats stole the election in Pennsylvania and that he had “hundreds of affidavits” supporting the allegation.

“These claims were simply not true,” the hearing committee said.

Giuliani had sought injunctive relief ranging from a ban on certifying the election results to an order for the Pennsylvania General Assembly to choose the presidential electors.

The hearing committee said a reasonable attorney would have concluded “there was not even a faint hope of success” for Giuliani’s observational barriers claim. But Giuliani’s complaint that counties used different methods for allowing voters to cure defective ballots “had at least a faint hope of success on the merits.”

Even so, Giuliani’s proposal for a “draconian injunction” was “unhinged,” the hearing board said, citing the wording of another judge.

The hearing committee concluded that Giuliani violated Pennsylvania ethics rules that bar frivolous claims and bar conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice.

Giuliani’s “hyperbolic claims of election fraud and the core thesis of the Pennsylvania litigation were utterly false, and recklessly so,” the hearing committee said. Giuliani’s “rash overstatement claiming that the election was stolen had no evidence to support it. … His utter disregard for facts denigrates the legal profession.”

Giuliani has refused to acknowledge or accept responsibility for his conduct, the committee said. In addition, his “effort to undermine the integrity of the 2020 presidential election has helped destabilize our democracy. His malicious and meritless claims have done lasting damage.”

The hearing committee said it considered in mitigation Giuliani’s service in the Justice Department and as mayor of New York. It also cited in mitigation his conduct following the Sept. 11 attacks.

“But all of that happened long ago,” the hearing committee said. “The misconduct here sadly transcends all his past accomplishments.”

Giuliani’s lawyer, Barry Kamins, vowed a “vigorous appeal” of the committee recommendation in a statement to

Giuliani’s stolen election claims have led to his interim suspension in New York.

Other publications with coverage of the disbarment recommendation include Reuters, Law360, Politico and the Legal Profession Blog.

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