Rudy Giuliani is having a rough week.
Yesterday, a three-member panel of the DC Bar’s Board on Professional Responsibility found that the former president’s pro bono lawyer violated at least one rule of professional conduct in his effort to get a federal judge to overturn Joe Biden’s electoral victory in Pennsylvania.
Giuliani’s conduct in that case was certainly memorable. In a case where no fraud was alleged, the former head of the US Attorney’s Office in Manhattan marched into court ranting about a nationwide campaign of election fraud by the Biden campaign and accusing officials in majority-Black cities of systemic cheating by “holding back” ballots to put Democratic candidates over the top. He demanded that the judge enjoin certification of Biden’s win in Pennsylvania, requested that the court give a haircut to the vote tally based on a statistical formula determining what portion “must” be fraudulent, and, when asked what level of scrutiny his claims merited, responded “the normal kind,” adding “maybe I don’t understand what you mean by strict scrutiny.”
“Plaintiffs ask this Court to disenfranchise almost seven million voters,” US District Judge Matthew Brann wrote in his dismissal order, adding later “This is simply not how the Constitution works.”
The trial court described Giuliani’s fantastical claims about fraudulent ballots and a nationwide conspiracy as “strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations, unpled in the operative complaint and unsupported by evidence.”
In its specification of charges, the Bar alleged that this amounted to a violation of the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct, which prohibit a lawyer filing a claim “without a non-frivolous basis in law and fact for doing so” and engaging in “conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.”
Giuliani’s defense has been essentially more Big Lie. He insists that the 2020 election was marred by widespread fraud which affected the outcome, and thus he had a non-frivolous basis for making the claim and seeking to disenfranchise millions of Pennsylvania voters. In support of this, he cites various inapposite sources, such as a 2005 report by James Baker and Jimmy Carter on potential fraud, as well as Dinesh D’Souza’s roundly debunked film 2000 Mules. But the lawsuit itself only took issue with a small subset of ballots which county registrars had allowed voters to cure based on administrative defects such as missing dates or signatures — a number which was smaller than Biden’s 85,000-vote margin of victory. Meanwhile, the sweeping allegations Giuliani hyped in prosecuting the case stoked the false narrative that the election had been stolen, with disastrous results.
“I think the harm that was done is unprecedented,” Bar counsel Hamilton Fox told the panel at the conclusion of several contentious days of hearings. “The only sanction that’s appropriate for this kind of misconduct is disbarment.”
“Mr. Chairman, I would like to personally object to Mr. Fox’s attack on me as having tried to undermine American democracy, when there’s not a single fact in the record for that argument,” Giuliani countered angrily. “He has raised no such argument to give us a chance to rebut it during this case. It is a typical or unethical cheap attack not supported by anything in the record, far more so than anything I alleged that you are questioning.”
Whether the Bar ultimately imposes the ultimate penalty remains to be seen. After further hearings and written submissions by the parties, the panel will make a recommendation to the wider Board. If the Board votes to impose a suspension or permanent disbarment, that recommendation will go to the DC Court of Appeals.
But whatever happens, this is not a great way to end a long career. Luckily, there’s a solution for that, at least temporarily, and it is … scotch. Allegedly.
Rudy Giuliani Under Threat of Disbarment After D.C. Bar Committee Finds His Failed 2020 Election Suit in Pa. Broke Ethics Rules [Law & Crime]
D.C. bar panel finds Giuliani violated attorney rules in bid to overturn 2020 election [Politico]
Elizabeth Dye lives in Baltimore where she writes about law and politics.