June 28, 2021
June 28, 2021
Editorial credit: Dominick Jr / Shutterstock.com
The court concluded that there was “uncontroverted evidence that [Giuliani] communicated demonstrably false and misleading statements to courts, lawmakers and the public at large in his capacity as lawyer for former President Donald J. Trump and the Trump campaign in connection with Trump’s failed effort at reelection in 2020.”
This decision is a stunning rebuke to Giuliani’s pattern of continuing misrepresentations and deceptions concerning the 2020 presidential election. The unanimous decision by the court detailed the many specific false statements that were repeated by Giuliani, notwithstanding a complete lack of evidence or foundational basis for their truth. In fact, even when these statements had been proven false, Giuliani continued his false and deceptive narrative.
In the substantial coverage of this suspension, too little attention has been paid to the words of the court which should resonate with every lawyer who works each day to faithfully act within the bounds of ethical rules and to uphold their oath to the constitution. Specifically, the court stated:
This is not a situation where the uncontroverted misconduct consisted of only a few isolated incidents. Rather, each of the false statements identified and analyzed herein were made multiple times on multiple platforms, reaching countless members of the public. …
The seriousness of respondent’s uncontroverted misconduct cannot be overstated. This country is being torn apart by continued attacks on the legitimacy of the 2020 election and of our current president, Joseph R. Biden. The hallmark of our democracy is predicated on free and fair elections. False statements intended to foment a loss of confidence in our elections and resulting loss of confidence in government generally damage the proper functioning of a free society. When those false statements are made by an attorney, it also erodes the public’s confidence in the integrity of attorneys admitted to our bar and damages the profession’s role as a crucial source of reliable information. … This event only emphasizes the larger point that the broad dissemination of false statements, casting doubt on the legitimacy of thousands of validly cast votes, is corrosive to the public’s trust in our most important democratic institutions.
Critically, the court also stated that an interim suspension pending completion of disciplinary proceedings is “a serious remedy, available only in situations where it is immediately necessary to protect the public from the respondent’s violations of the [Rules of Professional Conduct].”
The decision is an affirmation that under our ethical rules, lawyers have a special obligation to tell the truth both in and outside of the courtroom. The court correctly determined that Giuliani’s false narrative of election fraud, in support of the Big Lie, represented a serious and continuing risk to the public interest that justified immediate suspension while disciplinary hearings are pending.
LDAD is gratified that its complaint filed in January played a role in this important outcome.
Moreover, it was the only complaint to call for his immediate suspension under the special and rarely used statutory procedure invoked by the court in its decision.
The decision should also serve as an example to disciplinary authorities in other jurisdictions that the application of the ethical standards of our profession apply to even the most prominent lawyers. The decision stands in stark contrast to the rejection by the District of Columbia Office of Disciplinary Counsel of the complaint filed last year against then Attorney General William Barr by LDAD and many prominent lawyers in DC. That complaint was rejected by disciplinary counsel who alleged that the signers lacked “personal knowledge” of the facts, and that, as a matter of policy disciplinary counsel does “not intervene in matters that are currently and publicly being discussed in the national political arena.”
With the Giuliani suspension, the New York appellate court has rightly rejected a policy of effective immunity that seems to be granted to prominent lawyers in DC. Moreover, the legal efforts in DC are continuing. Last week, LDAD and the signers in DC asked the D.C. Board of Professional Responsibility to exercise its oversight responsibility and to reverse this misguided and offensive policy.
LDAD remains fully committed to ensuring that lawyers are help accountable for violating their oath and actions that undercut the core of our democratic institutions.
The Giuliani decision can be seen here.