Apparently You Can Lose Your Law License For Flagrantly Lying Who Knew
Rudy Giuliani's license to practice law has been suspended, specifically for his role in Trump's election fraud litigation.
The court opinion detailing the reasons is here, and I definitely recommend reading it in full because it’s really fucking funny.
Despite my low opinion of Rudy and the election fraud hypothesis, my initial reaction to this development was one of serious concern. I believe there are already too many hurdles and obstacles for individuals seeking redress through our justice system, and suspending the law license of an attorney when they are pursuing "controversial" political claims in court is bound to send a chilling effect. No matter how ridiculous a claim should be, attorneys should not be punished for advocating for their client's interests.
But I changed my mind after reading the opinion, because the suspension is based squarely on verifiably false and misleading statements that Giuliani made, both to courts and to the public at large. At best, Giuliani is displaying some insanely sloppy legal work. I have been following the election fraud saga fairly closely, but many of the issues raised in this opinion were very surprising and shocking to me.
1. Pennsylvania’s Absentee Ballots & Dead Boxers
One of the claims that Rudy made was that although Pennsylvania sent out only 1,823,148 absentee ballots before the election, 2,589,242 million absentee ballots were then counted in the election. The argument by Rudy was that 600k-700k mail-in ballots were somehow fabricated, presumably to benefit Biden. He made this claim repeatedly and on multiple occasions. But it's plainly not true, because the actual number of absentee ballots mailed out was 3.08 million. Rudy doesn't even bother contesting the factual basis of this statement:
His defense is that he did not make this misstatement knowingly. Respondent claims that he relied on some unidentified member of his “team” who “inadvertently” took the information from the Pennsylvania website, which had the information mistakenly listed. There is simply no proof to support this explanation. For instance, there is no affidavit from this supposed team member who is not identified by name or otherwise, nor is there any copy of the web page that purportedly listed the allegedly incorrect data.
Rudy repeatedly claimed that anywhere from 8k to 30k dead people "voted" in Pennsylvania's election. As illustration, he repeatedly claimed that the boxer Joe Frazier continued to "vote" years after he died in 2012. Public records confirmed that Joe Frazier was purged from the voter rolls 3 months after he died. When asked for evidence for this statement, Rudy doesn't provide any, and argues his statement was once again unknowingly false. He claims he read the Joe Frazier claim from a "blogger", and he also tries to argue that his statement was somewhat corroborated by the fact that Pennsylvania purged 21k dead voters from its rolls in 2021. But of course, a purge of dead voters happens every year, because people die every year. Rudy doesn't provide any evidence that any of the purged voters had voted when they were dead.
2. Georgia's Teenage & Dead Voters
Rudy repeatedly claimed that anywhere from 65k to 165k underage voters voted illegally in Georgia. An audit by the secretary of state checked every 2020 election voter's birthdays and found zero were underage. The best they could find were 4 people who requested a ballot before turning 18 by the time the election was held. Rudy says his claim came from an expert named Bryan Geels, who appears to be a random accountant, but he doesn't even bother providing an affidavit from this accountant to show either his methodology or his qualifications. Rudy also repeatedly claimed he had the names of 800 dead people who "voted" in Georgia's election. At a later point, he upped his claim to 6k dead people. Georgia's Republican secretary of state found potentially two dead people who "voted". Apparently Rudy got this information from Geels also, but doesn't bother providing the methodology for this (because again, he didn't bother including affidavits or reports). Rudy also claims that 2,500 felons actually voted in 2020, but his source is again Geels who actually only said "there could have been" 2,500 voting felons. (The actually number potentially identified by the GA SoS was maybe 74.)
3. "Dude, trust me"
This one is mostly just funny, but in addition to not including affidavits from the experts he relied on, he also claims that his source for many of his claims is a "confidential informant":
In opposition to this motion, respondent refers to affidavits he has not provided. He also relies on a “confidential informant”. We do not understand, nor does respondent explain why, as a private attorney seemingly unconnected to law enforcement he would have access to a “confidential informant” that we cannot also have access to. At yet another point respondent claims he relies on a Trump attorney who chooses not to be identified. Respondent also refers to hundreds of witnesses, experts, and investigative reports, none of which have been provided or identified and an Excel spreadsheet, also not provided, purportedly listing the names of thousands of deceased voters who allegedly cast ballots in Michigan.
There's a lot more.
What Rudy got hit with was violating RPC 4.1 of the ethical guidelines:
In the course of representing a client a lawyer shall not knowingly make a false statement of material fact or law to a third person
There's obvious reasons why lying is bad, but the opinion also argues that lying is especially pernicious when it comes from a licensed attorney since their statements are often given greater weight. Rudy made statements to the public, in his capacity of representing Trump, so the only question was whether it was "false" and whether it was made "knowingly". Rudy didn't even bother arguing the truthfulness of his statements (which is showcasing a very concerning preview of how the Dominion defamation lawsuit against him is going to play out…), and instead argued it wasn't "knowingly" made. It's really not that hard to establish that you didn't make a false statement knowingly, all Rudy had to do was try and show his work and explain how he was potentially mislead. In the Pennsylvania absentee ballot example, all he had to do was submit an affidavit from this alleged member of his "team" explaining in detail how this very specific "1,823,148 absentee ballots" number came from, but he didn't.
To me, the evidence makes it seems fairly clear that Rudy was blatantly just making shit up (see for example pg 23, how he turns a speculation about illegal immigrants voting into an assertion). I don't know enough about him to know what exactly his motive was. Certainly, at least some of it was financial gain, since he was reportedly charging Trump $20k a day for his claims, and also apparently earning robust income from his election fraud podcast. If we assume he genuinely believed the claims he was making, the fact that he can't or is unwilling to show his work for why he adopted those beliefs showcases some seriously deficient reasoning capacity.
I find myself repeating the same questions on the topic of election fraud. Rudy's stories illustrates another common trope: If the evidence of electoral fraud is so blindingly obvious, why do so many of the most prominent advocates shy away from showcasing it when pressed? The simplest theory is that Trump was unhappy he lost the election, and instead of conceding a loss, wanted his supporters to believe he only lost because of fraud. It may have involved either lying or misleading the public about the facts and evidence, but it was also lucrative enough to garner enthusiastic participants (see Giuliani, Powell, Wood, etc etc etc). Simultaneously however, this is by no means the best mechanism to select for competence. This is especially so given the legendary accolades awaiting anyone (lawyer, judge, journalist, investigator, official, whoever, etc) who establishes themselves as the people responsible for exposing the greatest and most elaborate government fraud this country has ever seen.
Within that scenario, it's not at all surprising that so many of the election fraud advocates retreated when pressed for proof or specifics. If there was never anything 'there' there, that's exactly what you expect. In contrast, an actual 'there' there would involve a zealous sprint with people elbowing each other in a rush to be the first to reach the prestige of the scoop.
Some questions for discussion:
Given the intense interest in the topic, I've tried to limit my focus on what I consider prominent advocates of the election fraud hypothesis to avoid nutpicking. I narrow that to either someone pursuing somewhat-serious legal action, or handpicked by Trump. Do you believe that's an unfair or inadequate heuristic?
Focusing only on the most prominent advocates, do you believe they represent the best possible and most competent vehicle for uncovering and proving the election fraud hypothesis? If not, why not?
Do you believe Rudy Giuliani lied about the election claims highlighted in the opinion? What's your best explanation for his behavior? Why do you think he (and others) failed to gravitate and direct their focus on the most salient and credible claims of fraud?
What should the proper procedure and standard be for disciplinary hearings, when an attorney is accused of lying?