Trump lawyers defend false election claims in court: NPR
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Six months after the violent attack on the United States Capitol, lawyers who promoted former President Donald Trump’s false allegations of voter fraud are being forced to defend their actions in court.
But some experts say the abuses over the past four years are forcing the legal profession to do deeper soul-searching.
“I just think it’s important, if we’re going to reset, that our profession is ready to confront each other and make decisions about who we want to be, who we are and what it is going to demand, which can be uncomfortable. , to make sure we hold our character, ”said Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, at an event sponsored by the New York University School of Law.
Ifill, who was teaching aspiring lawyers about their roles and responsibilities as “officers of the court,” called for an independent commission to produce a full account of how the lawyers went astray.
So far, there are few public signs of interest in this kind of self-examination. Instead, judges and lawyers’ disciplinary boards conduct their own investigations, on a case-by-case basis, in a methodical manner.
This week in Michigan, U.S. District Judge Linda Parker questioned lawyers close to Trump about the steps they took before filing a complaint alleging irregularities in the 2020 election.
“What authority did this tribunal have to revoke the certification of election results?” Parker asked.
The city of Detroit wants these lawyers sanctioned. At the hearing, Detroit attorney David Fink called their lawsuit sloppy, reckless and “embarrassing to the legal profession.”
Preet Bharara, the former US attorney for the Southern District of New York, has followed the fallout from the election with interest.
“You are making a false statement in court – first of all, don’t do that,” Bharara said. “And if you do, correct it immediately. There is nothing worse.”
But at the hearing in Michigan, some of the lawyers coming under scrutiny took a different approach.
One of them, attorney Lin Wood, said he did not read the complaint until it was filed. Another lawyer linked to Trump, Sidney Powell, said she took “full responsibility” for the paperwork. Powell told the judge that she practiced law to the highest standards.
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Meanwhile, authorities in New York recently suspended the attorney license of Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s former personal attorney.
They said Giuliani had “communicated manifestly false and misleading statements to courts, lawmakers and the public” while trying to overturn the election results.
Giuliani wants a hearing, where his lawyers John Leventhal and Barry Kamins said they believe he will be reinstated “as a valued member of the legal profession that he has served so well in his many functions for so many years “.
George Conway, a lawyer who regularly criticizes Trump and the lawyers who worked for him, said the rules are pretty straightforward.
“When you say something, you have to be able to back it up,” Conway said. “You can’t make things up.”
Conway turned down a top job in Trump’s Justice Department, calling it “probably the best decision I’ve ever made.”
But Conway said many of those lawyers who served during the Trump years deserve thanks for refusing to advance false theories about voter fraud this year.
“The upper echelons of the Justice Department in the last few weeks of the administration basically refused to do what Trump wanted them to do and they essentially made a bureaucratic suicide pact,” in which they agreed to resign in protest if Trump tried to shoot the head of the Justice Department on election matters, Conway said.
Trump backed down.
Some lawyers believe the legal profession needs to do much more to address widespread violations of norms and rules – deceiving courts, legislators and the public.
For his part, Ifill said elite institutions, including the American Law Institute and the American Bar Association, have generally not stood up when this has happened in recent years.
“What happens when lawyers particularly in a position of responsibility, like government lawyers or I would even say associates of law firms, take positions … or come so close to the rules that they potentially reset the rules in a way that undermines the core of what the profession is meant to be? ” she asked.