Congressman Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-N.J.) filed bar complaints on Friday against Rudy Giuliani and several other attorneys representing the Trump campaign, asking that their law licenses be revoked for having “participated in frivolous lawsuits” and using the courts to “assault public confidence in the United States electoral system.” That may sound good to a lot of people, but legal ethics experts say Pascrell’s complaints won’t go anywhere.
According to Pascrell, the complaints, which seek “the disbarment of Rudolph Giuliani and 22 other lawyers representing Donald Trump in his attempts to overturn the election” were filed with bar authorities in Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, New York, and Pennsylvania.
🚨 I’ve just filed legal complaints with the AZ, MI, NV, NY, and PA bars against Rudy Giuliani and 22 other lawyers seeking their disbarments for filing frivolous lawsuits and trying to help Trump steal the election and dismantle democracy. pic.twitter.com/0kd3PN6q1h
— Bill Pascrell, Jr. (@PascrellforNJ) November 20, 2020
“Mr. Giuliani has participated in filing a series of absurd lawsuits seeking to overturn the will of the voters in these states and has caused irreversible damage to public trust in the fair administration of our elections,” the complaint stated. “The egregious pattern of behavior by Mr. Giuliani to effectuate Mr. Trump’s sinister arson is a danger not just to our legal system but is also unprecedented in our national like. In carrying out that perversion, Mr. Giuliani has clearly violated the New York Rules of Professional Conduct he swore to uphold and should face the severest sanction your body can mete out: revocation of his law license.”
Following Giuliani’s embarrassing federal court appearance on Tuesday and the Trump campaign legal team’s completely off-the-rails Thursday press conference, public sentiment may be on Pascrell’s side. Attorneys representing Delaware County, Pennsylvania on Friday also filed court documents accusing the former New York City mayor of making the “demonstrably false” claim that election officials “improperly commingled” ballots received before and after Election Day.
But legal ethics experts say Pascrell’s complaint will have little, if any, effect with the bar associations in the aforementioned states.
New York University School of Law professor Stephen Gillers, one of the nation’s foremost experts in regulation of the legal profession, said the disciplinary committees won’t even consider the complaint.
“If a judge were to find that Rudy Giuliani engaged in frivolous conduct in court, the committee might rely on that finding but it will not conduct its own evaluation. Nor will the committee recognize the second allegation as within its jurisdiction. Disciplinary committees nationwide are much more anemic bodies than most people realize,” Gillers told Law&Crime. “This is not to excuse Giuliani’s conduct, which demeans not only him but also the bar, the administration of justice, and our democracy.”
Leslie C. Levin, a law professor and associate dean at the University of Connecticut School of Law, had a similar take. She said these matters are dealt with in court, not by disciplinary committees. Levin said things could get a little dicier for Giuliani, however, if the presiding judge finds that the lawsuits were frivolous.
“But if any of the courts in which Mr. Giuliani appears conclude that the actions were frivolous or that he made knowingly false representations, he could be disciplined,” she wrote in an email to Law&Crime. “In all likelihood, he would face a reprimand. New York disciplinary authorities are pretty lenient. And they would probably be worried about being viewed as imposing discipline for political reasons.”
Levin also said that Pascrell incorrectly filed the complaint against Giuliani in New York’s Second Department, where Giuliani was admitted, when it should have been filed in the First Department, where his offices are located.
Other lawyers were very clear that there is zero chance Rudy Giuliani or Sidney Powell are going to be disbarred for the behavior on Thursday. That kind of punishment, Gabriel Malor noted, is reserved for criminal behavior.
Disbarment is the death penalty of disciplinary punishments. It only happens when you’ve done the worst of the worst, and even then usually only if you’ve done something terrifically bad AFTER you’ve been warned to stop.
We’re talking the commission of actual crimes.
— Gabriel Malor (@gabrielmalor) November 20, 2020
You’re allowed to be an asshat at a press conference, although there are some limits related to prejudicing clients or prosecutions.
But this is why we’ve been noting the actual claims being made in court look nothing like the wild fantasies offered at the presser.
— Gabriel Malor (@gabrielmalor) November 20, 2020
Read Pascrell’s complaint below:
[Image via Drew Angerer/Getty Images]
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