Politics

Pro-Trump lawyers in Michigan election case should be disbarred in the state, attorney tells judge

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Key Points
  • The lawyers who filed an unsuccessful lawsuit in Michigan to reverse President Joe Biden's election win over Donald Trump should never again be allowed to practice law in the state, an attorney told a federal judge.
  • Pro-Trump attorney Lin Wood said he had virtually nothing to do with the lawsuit in Michigan, even though he is listed as counsel on the complaint.
  • The remarks came in a hearing on whether to impose sanctions or financial penalties on the plaintiffs and their attorneys, including Sidney Powell, who filed the legal complaint.
Attorney L. Lin Wood holds up a Bible while speaking during a press conference on election results in Alpharetta, Georgia, U.S., December 2, 2020.
Elijah Nouvelage | Reuters

The lawyers who filed an unsuccessful lawsuit in Michigan to reverse President Joe Biden's election win over Donald Trump should never again be allowed to practice law in the state, an attorney told a federal judge Monday.

The request for the pro-Trump attorneys to be disbarred in Michigan came during a lengthy, highly contentious virtual court hearing about whether to impose sanctions on the plaintiffs and their attorneys, including pro-Trump "Kraken" lawyer Sidney Powell, who filed the legal complaint in November.

Judge Linda Parker did not make a ruling on the possibility of sanctions. But she spent much of the hearing grilling the lawyers about the extent to which they had vetted their claims of voter fraud before they shared in a series of affidavits with the court.

The U.S. District Court in Detroit should issue the "strongest possible sanctions" against the attorneys who brought the case, said David Fink, a lawyer for the city.

"These attorneys should never again be allowed to appear in a court in our jurisdiction, or frankly anywhere else," Fink said.

Disbarment proceedings are the "most important sanction" the court could issue, according to Fink. He asked Parker to recommend to the district's chief judge that the attorneys "be barred from practicing in this district ever again."

"And that applies to all of the attorneys here," Fink added.

He also said that the lawyers should be referred to their own state bar associations, and that Michigan taxpayers should be reimbursed for the expenses of the lawsuit.

"These lawyers should be punished for their behavior," and that punishment should be strong enough to "deter future misconduct," Fink said.

"These attorneys wielded the weapons afforded to them by the privilege of being admitted to the bar, and they wielded these weapons in this case to abuse the processes of this court in a devastating way," he said.

Powell, at the end of the hearing, replied, "We object to virtually everything Mr. Fink has said."

"We have practiced law to the highest standards," she said.

Attorney Sidney Powell looks at attorney L. Lin Wood as he speaks during a press conference on election results in Alpharetta, Georgia, December 2, 2020.
Elijah Nouvelage | Reuters

Fink drew a direct line between the baseless election-fraud claims in the lawsuit and the deadly invasion of the Capitol on Jan. 6 by a mob of Trump's supporters.

"Because of the lies spread in this courtroom, not only did people die on January 6," Fink said, but many people around the world "came to doubt the strength of our democratic institutions in this country."

Fink specifically called out Lin Wood, the pro-Trump attorney who had led legal efforts to challenge the election in other states and was listed as counsel in the Michigan lawsuit.

But Wood said that he had virtually nothing to do with the case in Michigan.

"I did not review any of the documents with respect to the complaint. My name was placed on there, but I had no involvement," Wood told Parker in the virtual hearing.

"I just had no involvement whatsoever with it," Wood said, adding that he had not been following the litigation and found out about the motion for sanctions through newspaper articles.

Fink shot back that Wood had been notified by email and first-class mail, and that he had been given an opportunity to withdraw from the proceedings in mid-December.

"Any other representation by him is blatantly false," Fink said.

Asked about his relationship to the case, Wood told the judge that he did "not specifically recall being asked about the Michigan complaint, but I had generally indicated to Sidney Powell that if she needed a quote-unquote trial lawyer, I would certainly be willing or available to help her."

Powell said she "can't imagine" she would have added Wood to the lawsuit without his express knowledge.

But she added: "Might there have been a misunderstanding? That's certainly possible."

At another point in the hearing, Wood noted that he did not sign the legal complaint where his name appears. "I feel like I've been kind of lumped in with counsel to the plaintiffs," Wood said.

"I had no involvement in any of this," Wood added. He told the judge he felt he was entitled to "an evidentiary hearing" to show he had not been contacted by the defendants.

Attorney Sidney Powell speaks at a press conference on election results in Alpharetta, Georgia, U.S., December 2, 2020.
Elijah Nouvelage | Reuters

The hourslong hearing on Zoom, which included as many as 20 participants, saw Parker repeatedly press the plaintiffs about the evidence they had presented in the case.

She often appeared incredulous as she questioned the extent to which the lawyers had vetted the fraud claims that they provided to the court.

"If you have not asked even the minimal questions, I find that problematic," the judge said.

In one particularly tense exchange, attorney Donald Campbell pushed back on Parker, prompting her to reply, "I caution you not to question my procedure."

"And I am not a potted plant," Campbell retorted.

Fink chimed in to say he was "concerned by the disrespect that Mr. Campbell is showing."

The hearing, which began at 8:30 a.m. ET and lasted until about 2:30 p.m. ET, frequently devolved into bouts of chaotic cross-talk between parties.

The proceedings grew so unintelligible at one point that a court reporter jumped in to ask participants to "please stop interrupting."

Parker eventually instructed participants to raise their hands if they wished to speak.

The lawsuit was dropped voluntarily in January, a month after the judge said there was "nothing but speculation and conjecture" to support the allegation that votes for then-President Trump had been switched to Biden in the Great Lakes State.

"Rather than withdraw or amend their Complaint, they chose to stand firm with their objectively false claims, ridiculously incompetent expert reports and patently unsupportable arguments," the city argued in January in its request for sanctions.

The lawsuit in Michigan was one of dozens of bids by Trump's legal team and his allies to reverse his loss to Biden in 2020.

Trump, who left office on Jan. 20, has never conceded the race to the Democratic president and continues to falsely claim the contest was rigged.

Powell had briefly looked to be a part of Trump's legal team, appearing alongside the then-president's onetime personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani at a bizarre press conference in mid-November. At that presser, Powell spuriously claimed voting software used in the election was linked to Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan leader who died in 2013.

Dominion Voting Systems, whose machines were used in numerous states in 2020, is currently suing Powell and Giuliani for defamation.

Last month, a New York court suspended Giuliani from practicing law, citing his numerous "false and misleading statements" about Trump's election loss.