An offshoot of the District of Columbia Bar (D.C. Bar) on Thursday determined that Rudy Giuliani, the former lawyer and lapdog to former President Donald Trump, likely violated at least one ethics rule as he pushed to overturn the 2020 election results in Pennsylvania.
The D.C. Bar’s Board of Professional Responsibility reached this conclusion “tentatively” during a meeting on Thursday. It follows an already days-long disciplinary hearing where Giuliani has faced questioning by the board and offered his own testimony about his work in the 2020 election battleground state.
Hamilton “Phil” Fox, counsel for the disciplinary board, said Giuliani weaponized and politicized his law license in ways that undermined democracy and the U.S. Constitution. On Thursday, Fox called for Giuliani’s disbarment as the board weighs what sanctions it may apply to the former New York City mayor.
Fox urged the panel to disbar Giuliani and said any sanction short of that would be insufficient given the serious impact of his conduct on the nation as a whole. Those efforts included—among others—Giuliani’s request that a federal judge throw out thousands of mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania due to rampant “voter fraud.”
“The basic problem, I think, with what Mr. Giuliani did was this notion that politics means anything goes… Lawsuits asking courts to deprive voters of the right to vote are not common politics in this country. This is not politics. They tried to ignore the will of the voters and tried, openly, to ask a judge to disqualify, at minimum, 685,000 voters. The notion that ‘anything goes,’ or ‘its just politics, anything goes, you just gotta win;’ that is something that somebody has to put a stop to,” Fox said.
Giuliani, who spearheaded Trump’s failed voter fraud claims in courts around the country, was never able to prove rampant fraud existed. Giuliani’s attorney, John Leventhal, said Giuliani’s lawsuits weren’t frivolous, and according to Reuters, were mostly spurred by his client’s concerns over restrictions on voters that were put in place during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Yet at the close of Thursday’s board hearing, Giuliani urged the panel to believe him.
His claims of voter fraud were not “made up,” he said.
They were made in “good faith,” he urged.
“What I allege is supported by documents in the record. I didn’t make them up. [Hamilton Fox’s] arguments presume that I didn’t have a good faith belief that there were irregularities in the election and the election may have very well been stolen. That was based on thousands of affidavits and movies like 2000 Mules….” Giuliani said.
The film (and book of the same name) by right-wing conspiracy theorist and Trump ally Dinesh D’Souza has been thoroughly discredited and debunked. The book was recalled and republished with language in several passages adjusted after threats of libel surfaced.
The panel did not specify what ethics rule Giuliani violated. That will emerge along with a final report that is expected in the days ahead once recommendations for sanctions are proposed from Giuliani’s legal team as well as the board.
Fox, while recommending disbarment, also bristled at the suggestion from Giuliani’s lawyer that penalizing Giuliani would ultimately chill lawyers in the future from zealously advocating for their clients.
“We’re not trying to chill advocacy,” Fox said. “But we are trying to deter people from engaging in this kind of misconduct and this misconduct was so serious it should never be allowed to happen again. I don’t know if we can prevent it but one thing to do to deter it is to impose the most serious sanctions. It is not politics. It is part of our duty as lawyers to make sure that people don’t use their law licenses to undermine the Constitution of the United States. Disbarment is the only sanction for that.”
At the close of the hearing, Giuliani called Fox’s remarks “typical unethical cheap attacks not supported by anything in the record.”
Giuliani’s law license has been suspended since last year after an appellate court in New York found that he made “misleading” and “false” statements about the 2020 election while serving as an attorney to Trump. He has been suspended from practicing law in D.C. while his conduct is under review by the board.
Now that the hearings are over, a final report will be drawn up by the D.C. Bar Board of Professional Responsibility. It will be the D.C. Court of Appeals that has the final say in Giuliani’s fate, however.
Though counsel for the disciplinary board has called outright for disbarment, Giuliani’s attorney has asked that his client receive a sternly-worded letter publicly admonishing him or receive a private scolding.
As the hearing came to a close, an incredulous Giuliani remarked: “I don't know what has happened to the defense of lawyers who take on unpopular causes.”
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