Advance Notice: Briefs

Nessel, Whitmer, Benson push for disbarment of pro-Trump lawyers who brought ‘frivolous’ ‘Kraken’ lawsuit

By: - February 3, 2021 12:51 pm

Kevin Skinner of Stand Up Michigan addresses the crowd at a Trump Rally outside the Michigan State Capitol Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020 | Anna Liz Nichols

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, all Democrats and licensed attorneys, have teamed up to pursue the disbarment of four lawyers who brought frivolous claims before Michigan courts that spread misinformation about the 2020 election.

Nessel, Whitmer and Benson all filed complaints Monday with disciplinary authorities in Michigan and Texas to disbar Michigan attorneys Greg Rohl, Scott Hagerstrom and Stefanie Junttila and Texas attorney Sidney Powell and revoke their ability to practice law in the two states.

Powell, a QAnon conspiracy adherent, has been the public face of the “Kraken” lawsuits and was a former Trump campaign lawyer. Hagerstrom is the former head of Americans for Prosperity-Michigan and was the director of Trump’s 2016 Michigan campaign.

Nessel’s office also filed motions for sanctions against the lawyers on Thursday in federal court.

“These attorneys filed a complaint based on falsehoods, used their law license in an attempt to disenfranchise Michigan voters and undermine the faith of the public in the legitimacy of the recent presidential election, and lent credence to untruths that led to violence and unrest,” Nessel said in a statement Monday.

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

“In doing so, they violated their oath and the ethical rules to which they are bound, abused the court system, and compromised the administration of justice — an important foundation of our civil society and the very bulwark of our democratic institutions. Anything short of disbarment would be an injustice to the American people,” she added.

The failed lawsuit in question, King v Whitmer, had cited baseless allegations of voter fraud and other alleged widespread misconduct without evidence in an effort to overturn President Joe Biden’s victory in Michigan. Similar lawsuits were filed, and subsequently failed, in other key electoral states including Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona and Wisconsin.

Nessel first signaled her plans to pursue legal sanctions against the attorneys in late December, telling reporters that she has found the undermining of the profession of attorneys during the Trump administration to be particularly troubling.

The city of Detroit also filed a motion in federal court last month seeking disciplinary actions against Powell, Rohl, Hagerstrom and five other lawyers. The recommended disciplinary proceedings included barring the attorneys from practicing law in the Eastern District of Michigan, referring them for disbarment proceedings and referring all lawyers to the disciplinary authorities of their home jurisdictions.

“The 2020 general election was the most secure in our nation’s history, and these lawyers abused their authority by filing meritless, frivolous lawsuits for the sole purpose of undermining public faith in the election,” Benson said Monday. “They must be held accountable for this unprecedented attack on our democracy and prevented from replicating such harm in the future.” 

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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).

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