WASHINGTON, D.C. December 7, 2020 – More than 1500 attorneys – including former ABA and state Bar presidents, retired federal judges and state Supreme Court justices, and former leaders of lawyer disciplinary bodies – have signed an Open Letter urging Bar Associations to condemn President Trump’s campaign attorneys and urging Bar disciplinary authorities to investigate the attorneys’ conduct.
The conduct relates to unfounded lawsuits seeking to overturn the presidential election and to false and deceitful public statements asserting election fraud – statements the lawyers have made to the public, but that they have not dared to make in court.
Lawyers Defending American Democracy (LDAD), a nonpartisan nationally-recognized organization of lawyers issued the letter, which reads in part:
“President Trump’s barrage of litigation is a pretext for a campaign to undermine public confidence in the outcome of the 2020 election, which inevitably will subvert constitutional democracy. Sadly, the President’s primary agents and enablers in this effort are lawyers, obligated by their oath and ethical rules to uphold the rule of law.”
The open letter calls out conduct by Rudolph Giuliani, Joseph DiGenova, Jenna Ellis, Victoria Toensing and Sidney Powell as violative of the ABA’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct that prohibits lawyers from making frivolous claims in court and engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, deceit and misrepresentation in or out of court.
Stephen Gillers, Professor of Legal Ethics at New York University’s School of Law, said:
“It was predictable that Trump would attack the courts and other public institutions to sow distrust in the election results. Sadly, some lawyers are abusing their law licenses and positions as officers of the court to aid him. ‘President’s Lawyers Trash American Democracy’ is a headline we never expected to see. To mitigate the harm such tactics can inflict, the bar must forcefully repudiate their behavior.”
Laurel G. Bellows, former president of the American Bar Association, former head of the Chicago Bar Association and a signer of the letter states:
“Our justice system only works when lawyers tell the truth and adhere to their oath. Every attorney, including the organized bar and disciplinary authorities, should disavow lawyers who trample the truth and undermine democracy through their false statements.”
Marna S. Tucker, a past president of the DC Bar adds:
“The legal profession enjoys the privilege of self-regulation. That privilege demands that we assure the public that lawyers who press unfounded election fraud claims will be disciplined by appropriate disciplinary authorities. If the public does not see us discipline our own for their misconduct, that privilege is imperiled.”
Cheryl Niro, former president of the Illinois State Bar and a Steering Committee member of LDAD concludes:
“The facts are clear: the election was secure and the results have been consistently confirmed. Giuliani and certain Trump campaign lawyers have either been lying to the public or believe frivolous and unfounded claims, calling into question their fitness to practice law.”
On Thursday, December 3, Harvard Law School Professor Laurence Tribe tweeted:
Giuliani, DiGenova, and Trump’s other lawyers have disgraced the Constitution, the legal profession and themselves. Join me in signing @LDADemocracy’s call for the Bar to investigate them for professional misconduct.
Founded in 2019, Lawyers Defending American Democracy (LDAD) is a 501(c)(4) organization dedicated to fostering adherence to the rule of law. LDAD has issued a variety of Open Letters and statements calling for adherence by public officials to the rule of law and encouraging fellow lawyers, the leaders of bar associations, and the legal academy to join in speaking out against threats to the rule of law.
In July, LDAD co-authored the ethics complaint against Attorney General William Barr filed with the DC Bar and endorsed by four former DC Bar presidents. Gary Ratner, LDAD’s co-founder, was the lead signer.
All letters, statements and briefs are available at lawyersdefendingdemocracy.org/statements/.