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'Fact Check' Parses Possible Sanctions for Trump Lawyers Filing Election Lawsuits

The fallout from the 2020 presidential election will likely span time, political affiliation and legal field. There is certainly no shortage of controversy surrounding the election and subsequent fight over its validity.

donald trump 2333743 640.jpegSome have called out President Donald Trump’s legal team for making claims of fraud and malfeasance without having credible evidence to back it up. Others, like the president himself, insist there was clear wrongdoing during the Tuesday, Nov. 3, contest. To that end, the American Bar Association (ABA) has published a new legal fact check focused on the ramifications Trump’s legal team could face, if any, should the courts continue to toss his legal challenges contesting the outcome of the election.

“In the wake of last month’s presidential election, the campaign and allies of President Donald J. Trump have filed several dozen lawsuits, alleging unsubstantiated widespread irregularities and fraud. In the ensuing weeks, the lawsuits have been widely ridiculed,” reads information from the ABA fact check.

The ABA notes two Republican lawyers who fought for President George W. Bush’s reelection effort in Florida during the 2000 election have even chastised Trump’s efforts.

In many cases, the President’s lawyers have been “chided” by both state and federal judges for repeated mistakes, according to the ABA. So, the legal trade association asks: will they be punished?

Filing frivolous lawsuits does come with tangible penalties. Law & Crime notes one of Trump’s campaign lawyers has already once been penalized for such actions in a bizarre case involving an Arizona town called Snowflake and medical marijuana cultivation. In 2018, attorney Kory Langhofer, who is working on behalf of Trump in Arizona, was fined close to $150,000 for filing “frivolous litigation” in that instance, reads Law and Crime.

“Lawyers are officers of the court and must follow certain court rules when they file lawsuits. If a lawyer violates these rules, the client’s lawsuit can be dismissed, and the court may sanction the lawyer or client,” notes the ABA. “Also, in distinct proceedings, a lawyer can be disciplined if she violates a jurisdiction’s ethics rules relating to the filing of those lawsuits.”

FROM TWITTER

Lee Zeldin @RepLeeZeldin

"The lawsuit filed by TX to the Supreme Court & supported by MANY others throughout the US is a very strong, compelling argument in favor of & defending the constitution, law, & LEGAL voters of GA, PA, MI & WI, etc. It's a must read detailing eye-popping, confirmed wrongdoing."

According to information from the ABA, ethics rules and court procedures vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but they all prohibit lawyers from filing lawsuits that “lack merit” or are “frivolous.”

“But lawyers are permitted to file lawsuits where they know enough facts to believe that the eventual proof will support the allegations of the complaint, without knowing all the facts at the time the lawsuit is filed,” according to the ABA.

Lawyers are also required to cite “settled legal theory” or state a new one they believe should be accepted. So, lawyers who file complaints based on a legal theory that no reasonable court would accept are, as such, in violation of that requirement.

Further, in instances where the president’s legal team has asked for emergency relief, it is incumbent upon those attorneys to find evidence to back their claims with the same speed and urgency they are seeking from the court, according to the ABA. In most instances, the President’s lawyers failed to do so.

“Legal experts say a fine line separates a ‘frivolous’ suit from one that might be ‘meritless’ but advocates a new legal theory. So far, state and federal judges, many of whom have harshly criticized claims by Trump-allied lawyers, have yet to sanction the lawyers under state judicial rules or federal Rule 11. The standard is high for imposing such sanctions,” according to the ABA.

Any lawyers accused of such violations will be vetted during professional conduct and disciplinary hearings within their respective states, notes the ABA. The standard of proof in these matters will most always be “clear and convincing evidence” of wrongdoing.

 

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