Advance Notice: Briefs

Detroit moves to sanction, disbar 8 ‘Kraken’ lawyers in pro-Trump cases

By: - January 12, 2021 12:08 pm

Trump Rally outside the Michigan State Capitol Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020 | Anna Liz Nichols

The city of Detroit last week requested that a federal court punish parties involved in a failed pro-President Donald Trump lawsuit that sought to overturn Michigan’s election results — including requests for sanctions, disciplinary actions and disbarment referrals for the team of eight attorneys involved.

The lawsuit at hand was originally filed on Nov. 25 before the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Michigan. The filing was riddled with spelling errors, formatting issues and cited numerous unfounded conspiracy theories as its legal basis. It was described as “the Kraken” by ex-Trump lawyer and conspiracy theorist Sidney Powell.

Now the city of Detroit is arguing that the lawyers involved should face serious consequences for knowingly bringing the “frivolous” claim.

“In this case, the Court is compelled to act by sanctioning the egregious conduct of the Plaintiffs and their attorneys for making clearly frivolous arguments and using the judicial system to obtain unprecedented relief, to satisfy Plaintiffs’ selfish and destructive political agendas,” the Jan. 5 filing reads.

The motion further argues that the plaintiffs and their attorneys not only abused the judicial process for political purposes, but their actions “jeopardized this country’s precious democracy.”

“In this case, the Plaintiffs used the Court’s process and its esteemed standing in a deliberate and mean-spirited effort to undermine the will of the more than 5.5 million people in Michigan who exercised their precious and fundamental right to vote in the November 3, 2020 general election,” it reads.

Here’s what’s in the latest error-filled, conspiracy-laden Michigan election lawsuit

Disciplinary proceedings recommended by Detroit include:

  • Barring the attorneys from practicing law in the Eastern District of Michigan
  • Referring the attorneys to the district’s Chief Judge for initiation of disbarment proceedings
  • Referring all involved lawyers to the Michigan Attorney Grievance commission, and to the disciplinary authorities of their home jurisdictions:
    • Sidney Powell to the Michigan Bar and Texas Bar
    • L. Lin Wood to the Michigan Bar and Georgia Bar
    • Greg Rohl to the Michigan Bar
    • Emily Newman to the Michigan Bar and Virginia Bar
    • Julia Haller to the Michigan Bar and Washington, D.C. Bar
    • Brandon Johnson to the Michigan Bar and Washington, D.C. Bar
    • Scott Hagerstrom to the Michigan Bar
    • Howard Kleinheldler to the Michigan Bar and New York Bar
  • Imposing monetary sanctions against plaintiffs and their counsel, with an amount “sufficient to deter future misconduct” and at least as much as the attorneys had collected in fundraising campaigns for the lawsuits
  • Requiring the pro-Trump parties to pay all costs and attorney fees incurred by the city and all other defendants
  • Requiring plaintiffs and/or their attorneys to post a bond of $100,000 before filing any appeal to this motion
  • Requiring the pro-Trump parties to post a bond of $100,000 before filing any related court action against the city of Detroit or any other governmental entity or their employees
  • Requiring plaintiffs to post a “substantial bond” before filing an action in Michigan’s Eastern U.S. District Court
  • Requiring plaintiffs and their attorneys to obtain certification from a magistrate judge that their proposed claims are “not frivolous or asserted for an improper purpose” before filing action in Michigan’s Eastern U.S. District Court
  • Requiring the pro-Trump parties to certify via sworn affadavit that they have paid all amounts to satisfy any non-appealable orders for sanctions before filing an action in Michigan’s Eastern U.S. District Court
  • Granting any other relief that the court deems appropriate

In the motion, it is also noted that the plaintiffs did not “withdraw or correct any of the false factual allegations and frivolous legal theories in their pleadings during the 21 day ‘safe harbor’ period,” which makes Tuesday’s legal action timely and appropriate.

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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins covers the environment, Native issues and criminal justice for the Advance. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service. When Laina is not writing or spending time with her cats, she loves art and design, listening to music, playing piano, enjoying good food and being out in nature (especially Up North).